Professor of Music History and Literature Careers

Music professors work with college students to build and refine their knowledge of music.

Students who explore music at the university level require guidance to develop their skills. Professors of music are experts in their discipline who use their knowledge to help these students reach their potential as musicians.

There are many different types of music professors; some focus on music theory or composition, while others are experts in music history and cultural impact. More performance oriented music professors may instruct students on technique or lead ensembles, and some will work with students one-on-one or in small groups.

Music professors are theorists, performers, ethnomusicologists, composers, and more, but they are also educators trained to convey knowledge and communicate effectively with students and colleagues. Many music professors pursue their own projects while teaching, and sometimes they provide opportunities for students to participate in their creative output or academic research.

Work as a professor of music history and literature may include...

  • Designing courses and curricula
  • Conducting independent field research
  • Lecturing or leading master classes
  • Instructing students in music
  • Advising students

Professors of music are employed by higher education institutions such as colleges, universities, and conservatories. They may be permanent tenured faculty members, lecturers, adjunct professors, or contractual instructors, depending both on their qualifications and available roles. Jobs in academia are notoriously competitive, and landing the right one can be a difficult task. Some music professors may progress to more advisory or leadership roles, such as department heads or academic deans; others eventually become administrators who oversee entire programs.

Teaching in higher education almost always requires an advanced degree, though some institutions will hire professional musicians whose expertise in the field is so impressive that it outweighs their formal credentials. Industry experience is a big plus, as the expertise of a working musician can be useful to students. Many professors of music studied music or music education at the undergraduate level; a Bachelor's degree in either field is a good starting point for an aspiring professor. Graduate programs often provide the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant or lecturer, and most professors complete a Master's or Doctoral degree.

If you have a deep love for music and crave a career in higher education, a career as a professor of music could be for you.

The College Music Society is a consortium of college, conservatory, university, and independent musicians and scholars.

The Music Teacher's National Association is a professional organization dedicated to supporting and connecting music teachers of all levels.