Do I Need A Degree To Be A Music Teacher?

Do I Need A Degree To Be A Music Teacher ?


Wondering to yourself ‘Do I need a degree to be a music teacher?’ or ‘What music teacher qualifications do I need?”… Well that depends…

We often get asked “do I need a degree to be a music teacher or teach music”, and “what music teacher qualifications do I need?”. The answer solely depends on whether you want to teach privately or in a school or university setting.

In short, you don’t need a degree to teach music privately. You will likely need one to teach within a professional body such as a school or university though.

There are a few things you will 100% need to succeed as a music teacher regardless of a degree or not and we’ve covered them later on in the blog.

Let’s dig in.

Private teaching vs. teaching music in schools – what music qualifications do I need?

If you’re a musician, you might have students already lined up or already learning an instrument under your tutelage. Perhaps you are trying to figure out what you need to be a music teacher or how to teach music lessons online?

But when so many jobs out there require professional qualifications, training and certification, does the same apply to music tuition? Can you be a music teacher without qualifications or being recognised by a professional body? Or will a qualification help you in your profession and put you ahead of the pack?

The answer to these questions will depend on the type of music tuition you are delivering.

Basically, it comes down to whether you want to teach music in a school or at home.

What Qualifications Do I Need To Teach Music At A School Or University?

The UK Government’s careers service lists the usual list of entry requirements for some music jobs, so it’s worth checking that, but we’ve summarised the findings below. Basically, QTS (qualified teacher status) is needed to teach in state schools, or a relevant postgraduate degree for teaching in a specialist music college or conservatoire.

These courses will also have prerequisites, such as GCSE’s and A-Levels in relevant subjects.

To teach music in a university setting you will need a postgraduate music qualification or a degree. As well as 2 or 3 A levels including music, or equivalent qualifications and a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study.

To teach music in a college you’d need a level 3 qualification or higher in music as well as a further education teaching qualification. As well as 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course.

To teach music in a secondary school you will need a teaching qualification in music or a teachers qualification with a specialism in music. As well as 2 or 3 A levels including music, or equivalent qualifications and a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study.

To teach music in a primary school, you would need teacher training for all subjects and develop a specialism in music. As well as 2 or 3 A levels including music, or equivalent qualifications and a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study.

If you are already working in a school or for a professional body then the chances are that this is not news to you. If you are looking to go down this route of teaching, and you also have DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) clearance, then you will usually require a university degree to teach within a school or university.

But don’t let qualifications stop if you just want to teach music at home or become a private music tutor.

What Qualifications Do I Need To Become A Private Music Teacher?

Officially, none. But there’s a catch…

In the words of the government over at National Careers, “You may be able to become a private teacher without qualifications if you have exceptional musical skills.”

If you are a private tutor with good skills, have attained a high-grade level in your chosen instrument and are already picking up bookings then a graduate programme may be unnecessary and expensive in terms of building your business.

You actually don’t need any official qualifications as a private music teacher.

If you are a talented private teacher – with experience, expertise and a steady base of students under your care – you don’t really need a university degree in music.

We mentioned a catch…

5 Things You Need Instead Of Qualifications As A Private Music Teacher

We’ve established that you don’t need a qualification to be a private music teacher. But there are a few essential things you do need.

1. You Must Be A Competent Musician

If you’re marketing yourself as a music teacher online, or if you’re planning on retaining music students, you actually need to be good at the instrument. Some of the world’s greatest musicians have zero qualifications, but they’re still good at what they do.

If you’re rubbish at your instrument of choice, students and parents will find out and go elsewhere.

2. You Should Be Of A Graded Standard If You Want To Teach Grades

You wouldn’t try and fix a car without knowing what you’re doing. So don’t try and formally teach grades if you’re not graded yourself. You need credentials to back up your teaching.

3. You Need To Plan And Create Great Lessons – Take It Seriously!

Don’t just turn up and “wing it” when it comes to music lessons. You need to plan your lessons ahead of time and keep track of each student’s progress to ensure they’re getting the best value for money and progressing. This is a dedicated professional, so come at it with the level of respect your students and the craft deserve.

4. Insurance

We’ve discussed the importance of insurance and why music teachers need insurance in a previous blog. But this is an absolute must so you’re covered against Public Liability and Professional indemnity claims. It also signifies that you take your job seriously and schools and parents will almost always want to see this.

5. Registered As Self Employed

You need to register as self-employed if you want to be a full-time music teacher. We’ve also discussed what tax relief and what expenses you can claim as a music teacher. But this is an absolute must-do if you want to be a professional private music teacher without the taxman hounding you and potentially fining you.

Basically, take it seriously and market yourself accordingly!

What If I Want To Add More Qualifications As A Private Music Teacher?

Of course, you can become a music teacher without a degree, but we recommend a degree or a PGCE should you wish to continue developing your music qualifications. This all helps in strengthening your profile and showing prospective students that you’re serious about teaching music and through word of mouth helps you to get more music students!

One of the best-known courses in the UK is run by the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music). Their Certificate for Music Educators (CME) qualification (also called a Level 4 qualification) is designed for everyone from teachers in school, private teachers and any musicians who undertake community or educational work. There are no formal entry requirements beyond an assessment by course providers to see if applicants have musical competence and the skillset needed to teach.

The benefit of the Level 4 CME is that it is designed for teachers of all levels of experience and ability.

It provides helpful advice and guidance to give young learners a first-class musical education, by keeping lessons accessible, fun and full of learning. There are also modules on safeguarding and promoting diversity, equality and inclusion in music education.

These skills are essential to good teaching practice and may already be in your skillset, but the ABRSM course is a fantastic way to lend professional credence to your work. The course is flexible around the time constraints of individuals but typically takes a year to complete.

Trinity College London is one of the main providers of the CME but there are others out there, and courses are priced from around £700.

Qualifications such as the Level 4 CME can be a great way to pick up some new knowledge or revitalise your teaching methods, and they also add a level of kudos to your teaching that may lead to more business.

It also gives you a professional gateway into freelance work in schools, and could be a step towards another qualification. Like a degree in music, they may help you land certain work and they may give parents and young learners peace of mind when searching for a teacher, but it is important to remember that they are not essential.

If you are already getting great reviews, happy students and wonderful results without a music qualification, you may not need one after all.

Let us know your experiences with music qualifications, and follow the links for more information about how they could help you!

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