Job description

Composers write and transcribe original music for a variety of genres, including classical, jazz and opera. They arrange musical scores for orchestras, bands, singers and other various musical groups. Sometimes, composers help coordinate musical rehearsals and performances for opera, theatre or musicals, and they also create the music for commercial jingles, movies and television productions.

Duties

    • Write, arrange and transcribe original music
    • Coordinate rehearsals, performances and recordings
    • Improve existing compositions
    • Write lyrics for songs and musical productions
    • Collaborate with singers, bands, orchestras and musical groups
    • Work with singers, bands and musicians to record music
    • Play instruments to help compose songs and music
    • Use specialised software to help arrange songs and music
    • Experiment with different sounds and types of music
    • Promote compositions and recordings online and to companies

Skills, qualities and knowledge

Musical talent
Writing
Active listening
Interpersonal
Leadership
Perseverance
Promotional
Coordination
Time management
Problem-solving
Active learning

Working hours and environment

Average working hours

40hweek

Typical schedule

Flexible

Some nights and weekends

Composers spend most of their working day indoors. They are typically based in offices, music studios, theatres or in their own homes. These professionals may work long hours and through weekends and holidays when preparing for performances or meeting tight deadlines for songs.

Composers meet and work with various people in the music industry, including music directors, lyricists, orchestras, musical groups, singers and bands. They might use instruments and specialised software to help compose a score.

Music composition can be a highly competitive field, and it may come with a lot of setbacks. Aspiring composers, therefore, require determination.

As composing is usually achieved independently, some composers have the advantage of setting their own working hours.

Salary

Bottom 10%

$21k

Median

$51k

Top 10%

$110k

Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level

N/A

DVM / VMD degree

Study time

N/A

A Bachelor of Music (BM) or related degree in composition, songwriting or film scoring is generally required in order to become a composer, while a master’s degree in music theory, composition or conducting is a prerequisite for the position of classical composer.

Those interested in writing popular music, however, aren’t required to have any formal qualification.

Aspiring composers should have vast experience in musical training and must demonstrate skill and knowledge in playing an instrument and composing music. A background in music camps, fellowships, choirs or orchestras can also be beneficial.

Applicants generally submit their compositions to bands, singers, studios or production companies in hopes of getting hired.

Many composers find employment by promoting themselves and submitting their work online via social media, websites or video platforms.

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2016 to 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 7%.

6%

No of new jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2016 and 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.

4.3k

Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.

1.5%

Career progression

Composers can move on to different sectors in the music industry. For instance, you might be interested in progressing to composing for movies, television or advertisements, rather than theatre or stage productions.

With the right qualifications and experience, some composers take on teaching in music schools. There is also the opportunity to advance to music supervisor within a company, or become a music therapist, producer or conductor.