Government Job Profile: Elementary Music Teacher

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How do you get 20 elementary school children to do the exact same thing all at once? You put it to music. A group of fifth graders can play a 30-second rendition of “Hot Cross Buns” remarkably well when taught to play three notes on a recorder. They learn this and other feats under the instruction of elementary music teachers.

The Selection Process:

Music education teachers are hired through the usual government hiring process.

School principals post positions with the assistance of human resources staff in a district’s central office who may also help with screening applications to ensure that minimum requirements are met. Principals interview a handful of candidates and choose the ones they think will fit best in the school. Principals may have assistant principals or other teachers help in the hiring process, usually by serving on interview panels.

The Education and Experience You'll Need:

All teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued teaching license. Many universities offer undergraduate programs in music education. Future teachers take classes in musical theory, conducting, music history, educational psychology, education administration and similar topics.

College students also gain practical experience through student teaching. They observe current teachers and teach lessons under their guidance.

Because education graduates come out of school with a bit of practical experience, they can land teaching jobs before or immediately after they graduate. Experienced teachers can move to more desirable positions, so new teachers may have to take whatever positions they are offered.

What You'll Do:

Elementary music teachers instruct music classes for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

These professionals spend their days instilling a love of music into children by teaching them basic musical concepts like keeping a steady beat, subdividing rhythm, singing different pitches, identifying common time signatures and reading notes on a treble clef. Older elementary students learn to play simple songs on basic instruments like recorders and xylophones.

Elementary music teachers rely on their pedagogy training when developing lesson plans. They ensure their curriculum is age-appropriate. Curriculum that is too easy for students will bore them. Curriculum that is beyond their age level will frustrate them. Students must be challenged, but challenges posed must be achievable.

Students have a lot of fun in music class. They get to do things they don’t do in other classes. For one thing, they are encouraged to make noise. This can spur children to act out in class. Elementary music teachers monitor their classes to strike the appropriate place on a continuum that goes from active fun to squealing chaos.

Other elementary school teachers have a positive perception of their music teachers. Other teachers see music class as a respite for themselves. Teachers drop off their students with the music teacher for a half-hour or so a few times a week.

This gives teachers a much needed break to grab a snack, catch up on grading assignments or enjoy a few moments of relaxing silence.

Band directors and choral directors rely on elementary music teachers to prepare their future students. If middle school band and choir students have been well-prepared by their elementary music teachers, the band and choral directors spend less time on simple concepts with new students.

What You'll Earn:

Elementary music teachers are paid the same as other teachers within a school district. Each district adopts its own pay scale. These scales reward public school teaching experience and advanced degrees. Teachers with more experience are paid at a higher rate. Teachers with advanced degrees earn a little more than teachers without bachelor’s degrees when tenure is held constant.

The average teacher salary in the US is $53,230 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New teachers tend to earn less than the average. Teachers near retirement usually earn more than the average.