Q: I currently go to high school and recently we have been taking aptitude tests and going over what jobs or careers we would be interested in. I am stuck on two careers and I would love some help please on deciding what I should do. My first choice is to be a music director or composer (orchestra). I’ve played the viola since I was in 4th grade and I know also play the cello and take private lessons. My teacher thinks I have a high potential with it but when I graduate I mos likely will not have a good job opportunity. My second choice is a physical therapist. As a physical therapist I will make twice as much as a composer and have a more likely job opportunity, but it’s more college and I’m so passionate about music. I’m worried I won’t be able to get a job or pay bills once I go to college and I’m on my own. …Please give me some advice? (By the way, none of my family has gone to college so they are completely clueless.) Thanks!
A: From what you have said, Jessica, you are passionate about music and would be interested in becoming a Music Director or Orchestra Composer, but you are concerned that you won’t be able to get a job that will allow you to sustain yourself. If this is your passion, you should take this time, while it is still early, to research the various paths you can take to lead you here. Your planning, efforts, and diligence are what makes the difference.
Start by obtaining as much information as you can about the field. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great place to begin. Here you will learn that Music Director’s earn somewhere in the area of $47,000 per year. They generally earn bachelor’s degrees and require very little work experience to get started. You will see that the DOL estimates that there were 77,600 such jobs available in 2012, but that the job growth in this area is slower than average (adding about 3,500 new jobs over the next 8-10 years). The site also indicates that while some work as music/orchestra teachers, in a high school, camp, or extracurricular program, for example, many are self-employed.
You will also want to start researching internship possibilities in your chosen field so you can expose yourself to industry professionals and start to build a rapport with people who can mentor you, teach you invaluable lessons about entering the field, and perhaps hire you, when you graduate.
If you decide, through your research and experiences, that you no longer have a passion for music, you could always transfer your core classes to a Physical Therapy program and continue from there.
Follow your passion!