If you have a good head for business and want to combine your musical and teaching ability, a career as a private music teacher may be for you

Private, visiting and peripatetic music teachers provide instrumental, vocal and music training for children and adults of all ages. You'll work at a variety of levels teaching different musical skills to either individuals or groups.

Teaching can take place in a school, college, university, conservatoire or a community-based setting. Alternatively, you may work in your own home or travel to various locations to teach students. You may be hired by a local authority music service or music education hub to teach in schools, or be employed by a privately or publicly-funded music centre. It's also possible to be self-employed.

Many private music teachers and musicians combine a number of these roles. You may be referred to as an instrumental and vocal music teacher.

Responsibilities

As a private music teacher, you'll need to:

  • plan individual lessons and overall schemes of work for your pupils;
  • teach individual and/or group lessons lasting from 15 minutes to an hour or longer, usually incorporating elements of general musicianship, such as ear training and theory, as well as instrumental technique and interpretation;
  • arrange lesson schedules, collect fees and enter students for examinations;
  • develop your knowledge of materials and repertoire for students at different stages of their musical development;
  • negotiate time and accommodation slots for school-based music lessons and work alongside classroom teachers on music activities;
  • communicate with parents about their child's lessons and progress;
  • establish relationships with schools, local authority music services and others who may be able to offer you work;
  • develop networks and collaborations with others working in music education in your area;
  • arrange performance opportunities for your pupils, such as concerts for friends and relatives;
  • prepare pupils for performances, examinations, auditions and festivals;
  • work with groups of musicians such as choirs, ceilidh and jazz bands, wind or string ensembles and drumming groups;
  • expand your own musical experience by familiarising yourself with the music your pupils listen to, learning another instrument, becoming familiar with other musical styles and developing your improvisation or vocal skills;
  • support students in their use of music technology by keeping up to date with major software tools and making use of recording and other technology;
  • ensure that you adhere to health and safety standards, are adequately insured and work in line with child protection legislation;
  • manage the administrative tasks associated with running a small business.

Salary

  • A minimum rate of £31.50 per hour is recommended by the Musicians' Union.
  • A 2015 survey by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) showed that most private music teachers charged between £26 and £36 per hour, while self-employed music teachers in schools charged between £26 and £37 per hour.

There are regional variations in rates with London lessons costing more, on average, than in the rest of the UK.

Most private music teachers are self-employed, so in addition to providing an income your fees need to cover the overhead costs of running a private teaching practice.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Your working hours typically include after school, evenings and weekends, and may be irregular due to cancellations and rearrangements. Some students may stop lessons during holidays, while others continue throughout the year.

Part-time work is common, and many private music teachers combine teaching with performing, directing, composing or other activities.

What to expect

  • Your career may combine several roles or jobs, either in a music-related field or in another sector altogether. For example, you may combine working for a local authority (LA) with private teaching.
  • As a self-employed music teacher, you need to devote time and energy to generating work opportunities. In the early stages, it may take some time to build up a portfolio of pupils and income-generating activity.
  • Travel during the working day is common if you teach pupils in their homes or in different schools.

Qualifications

There are no set qualifications for private music teachers. In practice, however, most have a degree, and many have further teaching and/or performance and theory qualifications. The most important qualifications are musical competence and knowledge of your instrument, plus a commitment to, and understanding of, the teaching and learning process.

If you don't already have a music teaching qualification, you may be interested in the Level 4 Certificate in Music Education (CME), which has been developed for anyone teaching music to children and young people, including instrumental and vocal teachers working privately, with schools or hubs. It's awarded by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and Trinity College London exam boards. See their websites for a list of course providers.

If you've already got a degree or equivalent in music and want to work in schools, you could consider doing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Professional Graduate Diploma of Education (PGDE) in Scotland in order to achieve Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) (TQ in Scotland). Although this isn't an essential requirement for a private music teacher, it may enhance your application.

Opportunities to develop your teaching skills at postgraduate level include the Teaching Musician Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma provided by the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Skills

As a private music teacher, you need:

  • musical and teaching ability;
  • patience, perseverance and excellent communication skills - much of your time is spent with a range of students at different musical levels, as well as with their parents;
  • high standards of professionalism and professional ethics;
  • excellent self-management and organisational skills;
  • the courage to be frank and business-like when discussing money;
  • resourcefulness and the ability to make things happen;
  • willingness to try new directions and be flexible;
  • readiness to do the routine jobs as well as the exciting ones.

Work experience

Whatever teaching or performing qualifications you've got, there's no substitute for practical experience. You need to take every opportunity to involve yourself with young people's music making, whether it's coaching ensembles or teaching individuals.

Raise your profile by giving local performances, arranging concerts and gigs, singing or playing wherever you can. Skill as a piano accompanist can be useful and may lead to extra work for examinations, choirs and dance classes/performances.

A private teaching practice is usually built up through personal recommendation, so networking with local musicians and other music teachers is important. Take out student membership of the Musicians' Union and the ISM, and join the national Youth Music Network and LinkedIn to help develop your professional contacts.

Employers

Most private music teachers work on a self-employed basis, sometimes combining teaching with other activities such as performing or composing.

As a private music teacher, you may be 'employed' directly by your pupils or an organisation such as a school music service, which employs you to teach pupils attending schools in their area.

Typical employers include:

  • local authorities (LAs) - bring pupils together into local or regional choirs, orchestras, wind ensembles and jazz bands;
  • schools, colleges and universities;
  • young people's arts and drama organisations;
  • privately and publicly-funded music centres;
  • private pupils, both children and adults.

Look for job vacancies at:

  • Local Government Jobs - LAs occasionally advertise vacancies for private music teachers (or you can contact individual LAs speculatively).
  • TES Jobs - the education press occasionally advertises vacancies.

You'll have to use your initiative to find opportunities and promote your business. For example, advertise your lessons in public places by giving out your card or publicity leaflet to your local music shop, library and schools, or use social media to boost your profile.

It's also important to register your details on databases such as:

Professional development

As a private music teacher, you need to maintain your own musical skills and develop yourself professionally as a teacher. This includes keeping up your awareness of developments in music education and teaching through personal reading, attending conferences, courses and seminars.

The ISM and ISM Trust offer a range of training and continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities, including seminars and free webinars in areas such as setting tuition fees and developing a portfolio career. Training, qualifications and opportunities for professional development are also offered by the Trinity College London and ABRSM exam boards, as well as by Rockschool.

It's also important that you have an awareness of child protection and safeguarding issues. Training in this area is provided by the ISM, as well as through the Child Protection in Education (Music) online course developed by the Musicians' Union (MU) in partnership with EduCare.

Membership of the MU and the ISM is important as it provides access to careers and business advice to help your business grow, as well as specific assistance in the form of lesson planning documentation, obtaining Disclosure and Barring Service clearance, National Insurance contributions, legal issues and other teaching-related issues.

As a member of the ISM, you can also apply for Registered Private Teacher status to show potential pupils and parents that you've satisfied certain criteria set by the ISM, including a reference from a pupil or parent/guardian, a DBS Enhanced Disclosure with Barred List Check (safeguarding), a past convictions declaration and an agreement to adhere to the ISM Safeguarding & Child Protection Policy, Code of Practice and Procedures.

Career prospects

There are limited opportunities for hierarchical progression as a private music teacher, although coordinating and managerial roles do exist in local school music services. Arts management and leadership roles are also possibilities.

Despite limited promotion prospects within music teaching itself, there are various opportunities for professional and musical development, including:

  • mainstream school music teaching if you have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), or TQ in Scotland;
  • examining for the music boards, such as ABRSM, which involves assessing performance of candidates in several different instruments and at several different levels;
  • festival adjudication, judging performances by students of various ages in different instruments and singing;
  • curriculum development;
  • orchestra, choir or arts administration;
  • directing choirs or orchestras;
  • composing music;
  • performing;
  • accompanying at examinations, recitals or dance lessons (if you're a pianist with good sight reading);
  • lecturing and research in universities and colleges of higher education.

If you choose to stay in private music teaching, there are several possibilities:

  • teaching pupils at the higher musical grades;
  • specialising in a particular type of music such as early music or jazz piano;
  • directing choirs and orchestras for local and regional educational bodies;
  • teaching masterclasses.

To make a full-time sustained career as a private music teacher, you'll probably need to combine several of these activities.