Musician (Instrumental) Career

instrumental-musicians-500So you want to be a rock’n’roll star/Then listen now to what I say–The Byrds, “So You Want To Be A Rock’N’Roll Star” (1967)

Instrumental musicians play and compose music. They may work in an orchestra, a band or other ensemble. They may also work in recording studios or as a solo artist performing live at various private and public venues or even teach others how to play instruments. Some musicians record and sell albums of their original music as well as that of others.

Musician Career Snapshot

Musicians work in nightclubs, public auditoriums, and recording studios. Some musicians even teach and perform in schools and private homes. A musician’s hours vary according to each individual artist as many of them are at least partially self-employed. While they all must practice for many hours, the actual time for which they get paid is fluid unless they teach or have an artist residency somewhere. It is not a 40 hour per week job and most of the overtime they put in is unpaid.

Further details on a career as an instrumental musician are listed below (statistics from the May 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics and Onet Online):


is the average annual pay for instrumental musicians.


increase in employment between 2014 and 2024.


have a Bachelor’s degree while 21% have a Master’s degree.

Musician Education

Technically, no formal education is needed for working as a musician although those who teach in schools require some level of formal education dependent on the type and location of the educational institute. There is no “typical” education when it comes to musicians. Statistically-speaking, 38 percent have earned a Bachelor’s degree and 21 percent have earned a Master’s degree. 13 percent have only earned a high school diploma or the equivalent while the remainder has not even completed high school.

Musician Job Duties

The job duties differ for each musician. Those who teach music at a school or college have the same responsibilities as all the other teachers in terms of instruction, planning, and supervision. Others must simply take their instruments to wherever they are going to perform, check in, set up their equipment and in some cases collect their pay.

Musician Salaries

Considering the different opportunities for musicians and the fact that some are self-employed, the average yearly salary is difficult to truly determine. indicates that the median pay for a musician was $52,291 per year or $25.14 an hour. However, the lowest paid musician makes only $19,406 yearly or $9.33 an hour. The highest 10 percent of paid musicians slot in with an annual income of $141,710 or $68.13 hourly.

Musician Job Outlook

Realistically, the expected growth for professional musicians is difficult to predict. Statistically-speaking, however, the job outlook is reported to be slower than average at only three percent from now until 2024.

Musician Skills & Traits

Musician Skill Set:Required Abilities:Tools Used by Musicians:Typical Work Activities:
• Active Listening
• Coordination
• Critical Thinking
• Judgment and Decision Making
• Hearing Sensitivity
• Arm-Hand Steadiness
• Auditory Attention
• Manual Dexterity
• Accessories for stringed instruments
• Drum stick
• Metronomes
• Microphones
• Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
• Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
• Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
• Processing Information

Related Careers

Music Directors & Composers

Bachelor’s Degree

What Do Related Careers Pay?