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Top 4 High-Paying Music Careers That Don’t Require a Degree

how does the music industry work

Whether you’re in the industry and looking for a new job, or getting your feet wet right after school, it may come as a surprise that not every career in the music industry requires advanced degrees. Sometimes, all it takes is the right certification, self-taught skills, or communication savvy to make an impact on the industry.

Record Producer

The record producer is the head at the controls. It’s the man or woman who oversees the entire production of an artist’s album, EP, or single. It doesn’t take a four-year degree to learn the ins and outs of a recording studio, only some time studying how it all fits together: you must become familiar with tracking, mixing, editing, mastering, and everything else that’s part of making a record. If you’re a musician or songwriter yourself, you’ll be able to make yourself more valuable by offering to help artists with the arrangements (or even songwriting!).

How to Get Started: This is the ultimate "learn by doing" type of position. Just dive in and start producing records! Reach out to artists or bands who are just getting started and offer to produce a single for them for free (or for a modest stipend, if you want to get familiar with market rates). Be transparent about your level of experience, but drive home to them that this is a win-win situation. You’re gaining experience, and they’re potentially walking away with a professional quality recording for cheap.

If you’re not someone who can confidently perform the above mentioned skills, then you can build your own production chain by connecting with established audio professionals, and become a streamlined production pipeline. This is the more of a business-like approach, but still effective!

Mixing Engineer

Pro Tools is a digital soundboard for artists to mix and build their songs from scratch. Through this unique tool, it’s becoming easier and easier for artists and bands to achieve professional quality recordings from their bedroom studios. But music mixing is still best handled by a seasoned professional.

A mixing engineer receives the unmixed recordings from a band or artist and mixes the song in their preferred DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Pro Tools by Avid is the most popular option and considered the industry standard, but there are plenty of other options to consider. Pro Tools Certification is available from the publisher Avid Learning Partner, but isn’t required by most clients to start mixing for them. Become familiar with the tool, and the rest comes with frequent practice.

How to Get Started: Once you’re confident with the program, start mixing your own tunes or enlisting artist friends to style their mixes to build a portfolio. If you’re interested in getting certified in Pro Tools, check it out here.


A manager is the backbone of the artist’s day-to-day life and is the ultimate planner. They help the artist with booking shows, releasing new albums, planning tours, and generally steering their career in the direction they want to go. Luckily, this type of position doesn’t require an expensive degree, but rather the communication skills and connections to pull it off. A manager needs the personality to collaborate and work well with other artists and their managers, booking agents and more.

Are you outgoing, organized, and a real go-getter to accomplish your goals? Are you fascinated with the ins and outs of the music industry and helping fellow artists? A managerial position could be perfect for you.

How to Get Started: Start small and build connections. Don’t be afraid to jump in and assist musician friends with booking appearances, getting in touch with other artists, or helping run their social media. Start with one or two artists that you get along with and believe in their vision, instead of overwhelming yourself with a whole slew of artists to handle.

Music Teacher

For some people music isn’t all about the fame and fortune, but rather spreading the artform in schools and communities. Use your experience at the helm to become a music teacher or counselor, guiding newcomers on the best ways to hone their craft. You’ll have a leg up with your own experience on your belt as well. Those who are best suited for this position are usually those who took music lessons as a child or young adult and are already familiar with what is expected of them and the needs of the student.

How to Get Started: The two primary ways to begin a career as a music teacher would be to go solo and seek out students for private lessons under your own name. On one hand, you would make your own hours and keep 100% of the client's payment. On the other hand, it's difficult to find and attract potential students without some sort of clout or name attached.

Alternatively, you could apply for a job at an established children's music academy or after school program. You would typically be paid an hourly rate, but you're guaranteed a steady supply of students. Being skilled in multiple instruments will give you an advantage if you choose to apply for a job at a children’s music academy or afterschool program.


Got more questions on how to start your music career? Let us know your thoughts!