Job Description:

Musicians create or perform different types of music, from classical to pop and rock.

Job Category:
Culture, Media & Sport

What you will do:

In your day-to-day duties you may:

  • compose, learn and rehearse music pieces
  • take care of and set up your instrument for performances
  • prepare for and attend auditions
  • perform in front of a live audience
  • take part in recording sessions
  • create ‘demo’ recordings to promote your music
  • engage with your audience through social media and website content
  • arrange concerts and tours or deal with a manager or agent who does this for you


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • artistic and creativity skills, and have a very high level of musical ability
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • persistence and determination
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • ambition and a desire to succeed
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (organisational skills)
  • active listening skills
  • concentration skills
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure (leadership skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

Becoming a musician involves developing musical skills, creativity, and a deep understanding of music. While there aren’t specific subjects that are required, certain subjects can provide a strong foundation and skills that can be beneficial for a music career, such as:

  1. Music: This is perhaps the most obvious choice. Taking Music can provide you with a solid foundation in music theory, performance skills, composition, and an understanding of different musical styles and genres.
  2. English: Strong communication skills are important for writing lyrics, communicating with band members and collaborators, and expressing your artistic ideas.
  3. Mathematics: While not directly related to music, mathematics can be useful for understanding rhythm, timing, and musical patterns. It can also be helpful for managing finances if you plan to work as an independent musician.
  4. Art or Graphic Design (Optional): Visual aesthetics often play a role in a musician’s branding and promotional materials. Having some knowledge of design principles can be helpful for creating album covers, posters, and online graphics.
  5. Drama or Performing Arts: These subjects can help you build confidence on stage, develop stage presence, and understand performance techniques that can enhance your live shows.
  6. Languages (Optional): Learning other languages can be beneficial if you plan to write songs or perform in different languages, expanding your audience and musical horizons.
  7. Computer Science or IT (Optional): Many musicians use technology for recording, producing, and distributing their music. Some knowledge of digital audio workstations (DAWs) and software can be advantageous.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • applying directly
  • specialist courses run by private training organisations


Whatever your musical genre, you’ll need a high level of musical skill and talent. Though you do not need a degree for all forms of music, in some fields it is expected, for example classical music.

You could study for a degree or postgraduate award in:

  • classical music
  • music composition
  • music performance
  • popular music
  • popular and commercial music

You could do this at a university or a conservatoire. You’ll usually specialise in one main instrument and study a second instrument.

Some music degrees focus more on music theory than performance, so research the courses carefully to make sure they’re right for you.

At audition you’ll usually be asked to perform several pieces of music of different styles. You’ll also need to talk at your interview about your your artistic influences and your musical career aims.


You could take a college course to get professional training and the opportunity to perform. In the UK, for example, subjects available include:

  • Award for Music Practitioners
  • Diploma in Music for Practical Performance
  • Diploma in Music Technology
  • Extended Diploma in Music Performance and Production

You may need to pass an audition to get on to some courses.


Enter talent competitions, music festivals and events to get yourself known.

Direct Application

You may be lucky and get talent spotted. You could increase your chances by showcasing your music on:

  • networking websites
  • social media
  • music blogs
  • demo recordings to send to recording companies

Other Routes

Many musicians teach themselves. Some start learning an instrument from an early age. This might be with a private music teacher or training provider.

You can take graded music exams in lots of types of instruments including:

  • woodwind
  • strings
  • percussion
  • piano
  • vocals

Armed forces careers

There are opportunities to train as a musician in the armed forces.

Career tips

Get as much experience as you can of performing in public.

You could do this by:

  • joining a youth or community orchestra
  • staging your own events
  • entering competitions

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 34-36 hours of work. You could be required to work evenings/weekends/bank holidays away from home.

You could work in a theatre, at a music venue or at a recording studio. Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

Career Path & Progression:

Many musicians are self-employed freelancers and often have to do other jobs alongside their career as a musician.

With experience, you could:

  • progress in an orchestra to principal player or section leader
  • move into conducting
  • start your own ensemble
  • go into business roles like manager, producer, writer or work at a record company
  • become a singing teacher, vocal coach or teach your musical instrument
  • get into academic research