Can a music grad apply for a different kind of job?

November 13, 2012 at 05:58 PM · Hi. I've been always wondering if music graduates can apply for different jobs other than their chosen field, like going into corporate, or managing your own business? It's my 4th year in my violin performance degree and I want to know if I can widen my career choices, more likely if I can have a day job. I would still pursue performing and/or teaching. :)

Replies (29)

November 13, 2012 at 07:34 PM · Of course you can do other work. I'd say the vast majority of 'regular' musicians have non-music day jobs, or side jobs, etc..

Worst case is that you'd need some extra training in whatever you're applying to do...

November 13, 2012 at 07:56 PM · 9 times out of 10 a person does not work in the profession for which he has his degree.

November 13, 2012 at 09:06 PM · Run a cash register, stock shelves, bag groceries, retail clerk, janitor, etc. etc. ;)

November 13, 2012 at 09:06 PM · Did I forget flip burgers?

November 13, 2012 at 09:42 PM · "Do you want fries with that?"

Chances are excellent that you will have to do something other than music to fill in the gaps from time to time. The more skills you have, the better off you will be and the more options you will have. In college, take as many non-music classes as you can. Learn to write coherently. Heck, learn to THINK coherently! The world needs it.

November 13, 2012 at 09:49 PM · I would never be able to establish my exciting business if I would not have highest level of musical education (as a violinist) and many years of praxis on stage.

November 15, 2012 at 02:53 AM · Seriously I recommend that musicians that are inclined learn computer programming. There are many careers in information systems and computer programming skills are a good entry path. One of the best gig violinists in Houston is an IT executive. His first training was on the violin then information technology. He is a very good violinist, not an amateur who plays occasionally.

November 15, 2012 at 03:42 AM · Well Corwin, computer maybe...

I have looked for the professional sound recording training for media, record labels, films, computer games etc. as they said good ear and musical knowledge is an asset... but they say the people have very few jobs... I was sure they were so many jobs in this passionating thread : (

November 16, 2012 at 02:59 PM · The obvious answer is get your teaching certificate while you're still in college. No doubt someone has suggested this to you at some point, but I'm almost at the point of insisting on it from students who want to go into performance. Nothing about a music ed degree keeps you from developing into a performing artist, but a performance degree can keep you from a stable, reliable source of income down the line. Things that don't seem important at 20 feel a lot different at 40.

On the other hand, there are many jobs that just want a college degree, no matter what type. Financial adviser, insurance agent, pharma sales, really any sales-type position.

November 16, 2012 at 03:05 PM · The legal profession is full of Julliard-trained lawyers. I suspect we are not alone.

November 16, 2012 at 03:56 PM · I'm not sure why, but I've met an uncanny number of biochemist/cellists, lawyer/violinists, and baker/violists Weird.

November 16, 2012 at 04:12 PM · "9 times out of 10 a person does not work in the profession for which he has his degree."

Whoever said that -- source of this data? I'm kind of surprised the number is that high.

November 17, 2012 at 03:21 AM · ok so it was an exaggeration, but the number is pretty high in the place i work. They don't care what your degreee is in as long as you have one. I have a degree in animal science but I'm working as a designer/drafter in a large corporation.

November 19, 2012 at 08:36 PM · Don't aim low. You've shown you've got the maturity to set a difficult goal and reach it. You know how to study and learn. You have great attention to detail. You've demostrated you can stick with something no matter how boring. (how many scales have you practised in your lifetime?) These are the things you can bring to a job - don't sell them short.

November 19, 2012 at 10:48 PM · "9 times out of 10 a person does not work in the profession for which he has his degree."

I think it depends on the field of study. The number might be even higher for greek mythology majors. But for lawyers and doctors, I think a pretty high percentage do something related to their major.

It depends on the availability of jobs, and whether those jobs pay enough to sustain a decent standard of living. For music majors, I would guess the percentage of people who eventually switch careers might be high -- either for lack of a job or at least one that pays a decent wage. Sorry, I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble -- just telling it like I see it.

November 20, 2012 at 10:46 PM · I know several who went on to law school....

November 21, 2012 at 10:22 AM · I know a music major who is a physical therapist.

November 21, 2012 at 04:53 PM ·

November 21, 2012 at 08:23 PM · What a lot of music majors wonder is: "can I get a job after college just for having a college degree even though it's in music and I'm not applying for a job that has anything to do with my major?"

I don't know if that is exactly what you were wondering, but I've heard it before.

Honestly, college degrees are not that valuable. Most people have them and finding someone who has a college degree in the field for which they are applying is not difficult. The truth is that universities will let almost anyone major in music even if there's no chance that they will have a career in it. The result is a degree that's only suitable for applying to graduate school in another field. College is not a promise of success, it is a business. A very lucrative business.

November 22, 2012 at 01:26 AM · You can most definitely find a different type of job as a music major. But you should think about what field you might be interested in and go do some research for what the qualifications are. I do the hiring for my organization and we have several people that have degrees that aren't related to the field, but they came with experience and a positive attitude and that qualified them. Whatever field you think might complement your musical career, go find some people who are successful in that career and ask them how they got started, what sort of skills, training and/or certifications they might need. Read books about the subject matter you are interested so you can answer topical questions in the interview. Lastly, look for some internship or volunteer opportunities so that you can get some experience on your resume. If you have experience, it won't matter that your degree is in something else. For what its worth, I'm a Russian studies major and was once fluent in Russian and had 2 very good jobs in that field and then ended up managing an invasive species program in Hawaii. Go figure. You never know where life will take you. Good Luck!

November 22, 2012 at 06:32 AM · I worked as a iphone game QA for 2 years and teaching on the side (my major was in violin). After 2 years though I realize that my passion was in teaching, not in gaming.

From my experience, if you want to major and music but still also want to consider working in a different industry, it a good idea to broaden your skill set early on - hopefully something you're really passionate about. For me, it was computers, games, and violin- I did all three pretty much since childhood. Hope that helps!

November 22, 2012 at 06:59 AM · "9 times out of 10 a person does not work in the profession for which he has his degree."

I would suspect the number to be quite a bit lower for engineers... almost all the engineers I work with have that as their major. That would tend to skew the statistics a bit.

November 22, 2012 at 04:41 PM · Thank you for the generous replies! The reason why I asked this question is that I admittedly am quite anxious on the availability of music careers in the future. Many orchestras are closing down and budget cuts are plenty. I wanted to have some kind of fallback just in case. Additionally, what inspired me to ask this question was the story of Charles Ives. He was a music graduate but became famous in the insurance and finance industry.

What will be difficult for me now is finding a "passion" other than music. Music has been there throughout my life and I really don't have a clear idea on what I was good at besides it. I'll have to do some skill searching. ;)

November 24, 2012 at 06:20 PM · Of course you can! I do! I was learning to play viola for many years and now it's not my profession, but hobby and even more than that!

November 24, 2012 at 06:45 PM · As a music grad you will HAVE to seek work outside your field.

November 29, 2012 at 01:05 PM · What will be difficult for me now is finding a "passion" other than music. Music has been there throughout my life and I really don't have a clear idea on what I was good at besides it. I'll have to do some skill searching. ;)


I recognise your anxiety which is understandable and also your reservations on a music career opening up any time soon, make a lot of sense. However, I believe that there are many options apart from orchestral performing within the music field. If you don't feel you like to, you don't have to learn say, corporate banking or finance, stockbroking or plumbing - see some examples below where I am serious and not at all joking.

My neighbour's uncle was a stockbroker before he retired and he plays a lot of chamber music but even when he was young and making deals full time, he took 3 summer months off work for music making.

Two of my daughter's music teachers are solo concert artists in Europe and one is also a part-time music conservatoire teacher (one day a week) and more surprisingly, another is also a composer who writes music for computer games and he also teaches and accompanies.

A musician friend once shared with me how he could not comprehend why his musician daughter who has a very successful teaching career in several excellent private schools and can afford a lovely city apartment in prime location is forever pining after an orchestral job and feels bitter about not having landed one, after many years of, being in a top conservatoire and having solo-ed in her youth? I had no crumb of comfort for him other than wordlessly nodding with a bit of understanding cum empathy seeing that I was told my late uncle who died before I was born, was a plumber on weekdays and a gigging musician on weekends.

Still, I could see that one needs to be open minded like you are, so whether you feel it or not, you have made a GOOD START by asking questions here.

I believe that if you are passionate about "staying in music" after this 4th year and are open minded, there are many things you can do in the music field still albeit by engaging a different set of skills. You can start to teach, write music reviews and yes, speaking from experience, even a newbie can present successful concerts with a lot of hard work. Whatever you choose, do not under-estimate yourself.

(1) Consider reading a book like "The Savvy Musician" by David Cutler which is filled with many real life examples of, various "skill-sets" and musicians with "passion" like yourself, who made it in music in their own highly creative, unconventional or unique ways. Those examples and ideas could start your brain-ticking to discover what other skills you also possess (without realising now) which you can use to serve your music.

(2) Consider also the wisdom of Almita Vamos who was interviewed years ago for, and her wise words are quoted below:

"... we should define what it means to "make it". To me, "making it" means becoming as good as you can through hard work and perseverance, being passionate about what you are doing, and being happy pursuing those goals."

"One should leave many options open in the field of music. Violinists are lucky because they can do so many things: chamber music, orchestra, solo, teaching. And there are alternative possibilities. One can create fun work by creating their own careers utilizing their youthful energy."

"When I was young I knew that I wanted to be a very fine violinist, the best that I could be, and I let life guide me to a career. Since I am by nature a happy person I am very happy doing what I am doing."

"So far, all of my students who've wanted to stay in music have jobs in music. Not many are millionaires financially, but they are millionaires in satisfaction and are leading very rich lives."

"When I married my musician-husband my parents feared that we might be very poor. It was a wasted worry."

Best wishes, Chino.

November 29, 2012 at 05:08 PM · Thank you very much, Thessa, for that wonderful reply. It opened more my somehow "profit-centric" mindset. It can't be blamed though, because I live in a 3rd world country (Philippines) where opportunities are few, though I really understand your point. Hard work is really the key. :)

December 3, 2012 at 05:16 PM · I forgot to say a friend at law school was a violinist and a busker and as he sounded so good when practising violin I asked him, "Why, law?" and he laughed as he replied: I need to eat!

December 26, 2012 at 10:08 AM · Of my friends who graduated with Bachelor's or Masters degrees in music, only about 40% have jobs in the music industry (mostly performance or teaching music). The rest still play in orchestras or bands as a hobby or spend a lot of time going to live concerts, but finding a job as a musician is not easy and being an independent music teacher takes dedication, since you have to run the business and find students, as well as teach.

I wasn't a music major (there are only so many hours in the day, I have a lot of interests and you can't do it all) but I would have enjoyed studying music (and spent a lot of time with the music majors). With all my other responsibilities, it's a real challenge to find time for it.

If I could have nine lives, I would spend at least one as a musician.

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