Composers transfer ideas and musical notes to paper and then try out the ideas on various musical instruments. They may use computer software to compose and edit their music.

Composers usually experience greater success if they have superior training. This training typically comes from an education including:

  • Bachelor’s degree in music, theory or music composition
  • Master’s degree in music, composition, music interpretation or theory
  • Doctorate degree in music, composition, music interpretation or theory for composers who also want to teach college level courses

Composers often find that work is somewhat sporadic and project-based, so it’s not uncommon for them to also teach at universities and colleges. Some composers teach high school, which requires state certification as well as a degree.

Composer Job Description

Composers apply music theory to create original scores and songs. The type of music they generate depends on the type of project. Some composers write advertising jingles while others create operas. Other composers craft memorable scores for films while their colleagues invent catchy show tunes.

Composers use instruments, synthesizers and computers to compose and orchestrate music. They experiment with different styles of music and instruments to conceive unique pieces of music. A composer may be consulted to analyze music scores or evaluate a performer. Composers adapt music to the tones and vocal capabilities of performers.

Depending on the project, a composer may engage in any of the following tasks:

  • Create original music scores.
  • Utilize computers, instruments and synthesizers to compose music.
  • Guide and assist musicians and performers.
  • Consult with other composers, directors and producers.
  • Adapt music to various performers.
  • Experiment with different musical styles and instruments.

Some composers work independently, composing music by contract or project. Other composers work as a team with producers, directors and musicians to create comprehensive packages of music for a film, play or television show.

Composer Salary

Composing as a full time profession is directly related to ability and talent so predicting the upcoming professional opportunities for composers is tricky. However, the fields in which composers work, including theater, film and television, are expected to remain stable for the next decade. This means that composers will have at least as many employment prospects as they do presently.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wages for a full time composer amount to around $53,000. The range of salaries for this profession is $21,000 to over $85,000.

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