a dark blue TraitLab logo
Sign up

Have an account? Sign in

Career profile Composer

Also known as Choir Director, Composer, Conductor, Film Composer, Liturgical Music Director, Music Composer, Music Director, Music Producer, Orchestra Director, Songwriter

Composer

Also known as Choir Director, Composer, Conductor

Interests Profile
  • Artistic
  • Enterprising
  • Social
Pay Range
$23,890 - $124,390 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Critical Thinking
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Fine Arts
  • Computers and Electronics
  • Customer and Personal Service
Core tasks
  • Stay abreast of the latest trends in music and music technology.
  • Produce recordings of music.
  • Use gestures to shape the music being played, communicating desired tempo, phrasing, tone, color, pitch, volume, and other performance aspects.
Is Composer the right career path for you?

Would Composer be a good fit for you?

Explore how your personality fits with Composer and hundreds of other career paths.

Create your free account

What does a Composer do?

Composers conduct, direct, plan, and lead instrumental or vocal performances by musical artists or groups, such as orchestras, bands, choirs, and glee clubs; or create original works of music.

What kind of tasks does a Composer perform regularly?

Composers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Use gestures to shape the music being played, communicating desired tempo, phrasing, tone, color, pitch, volume, and other performance aspects.
  • Direct groups at rehearsals and live or recorded performances to achieve desired effects such as tonal and harmonic balance dynamics, rhythm, and tempo.
  • Study scores to learn the music in detail, and to develop interpretations.
  • Apply elements of music theory to create musical and tonal structures, including harmonies and melodies.
  • Consider such factors as ensemble size and abilities, availability of scores, and the need for musical variety, to select music to be performed.
  • Determine voices, instruments, harmonic structures, rhythms, tempos, and tone balances required to achieve the effects desired in a musical composition.
  • Experiment with different sounds, and types and pieces of music, using synthesizers and computers as necessary to test and evaluate ideas.
  • Transcribe ideas for musical compositions into musical notation, using instruments, pen and paper, or computers.
  • Audition and select performers for musical presentations.
  • Plan and schedule rehearsals and performances, and arrange details such as locations, accompanists, and instrumentalists.
  • Write musical scores for orchestras, bands, choral groups, or individual instrumentalists or vocalists, using knowledge of music theory and of instrumental and vocal capabilities.
  • Position members within groups to obtain balance among instrumental or vocal sections.
  • Perform administrative tasks such as applying for grants, developing budgets, negotiating contracts, and designing and printing programs and other promotional materials.
  • Fill in details of orchestral sketches, such as adding vocal parts to scores.
  • Meet with soloists and concertmasters to discuss and prepare for performances.
  • Confer with producers and directors to define the nature and placement of film or television music.
  • Write music for commercial mediums, including advertising jingles or film soundtracks.
  • Explore and develop musical ideas based on sources such as imagination or sounds in the environment.
  • Transpose music from one voice or instrument to another to accommodate particular musicians.
  • Rewrite original musical scores in different musical styles by changing rhythms, harmonies, or tempos.
  • Arrange music composed by others, changing the music to achieve desired effects.
  • Assign and review staff work in such areas as scoring, arranging, and copying music, and vocal coaching.
  • Study films or scripts to determine how musical scores can be used to create desired effects or moods.
  • Transcribe musical compositions and melodic lines to adapt them to a particular group, or to create a particular musical style.
  • Create original musical forms, or write within circumscribed musical forms such as sonatas, symphonies, or operas.
  • Collaborate with other colleagues, such as copyists, to complete final scores.
  • Copy parts from scores for individual performers.

The above responsibilities are specific to Composers. More generally, Composers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Thinking Creatively
Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Scheduling Work and Activities
Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.

What is a Composer salary?

The median salary for a Composer is $52,250, and the average salary is $65,720. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Composer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Composers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Composers earn less than $23,890 per year, 25% earn less than $33,990, 75% earn less than $76,000, and 90% earn less than $124,390.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Composers is expected to change by 6.4%, and there should be roughly 6,000 open positions for Composers every year.

Median annual salary
$52,250
Typical salary range
$23,890 - $124,390
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
6.4%

What personality traits are common among Composers?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Composer are usually higher in their Artistic and Enterprising interests.

Composers typically have very strong Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Also, Composers typically have moderate Enterprising interests. Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Composer tend to value Achievement, Independence, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Composers very strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Second, Composers strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Lastly, Composers strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Composers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, cooperation, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Composers, ranked by importance:

Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Innovation
Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.

What education and training do Composers need?

Many Composers will have a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Composers usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Educational degrees among Composers

  • 1.4% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 7.9% completed high school or secondary school
  • 15.3% completed some college coursework
  • 4.3% earned a Associate's degree
  • 41.4% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 24.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 4.9% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Composers

Composers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as fine arts, computers and electronics, or customer and personal service knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Composers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Fine Arts
Knowledge of the theory and techniques required to compose, produce, and perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, and sculpture.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Communications and Media
Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.

Important Abilities needed by Composers

Composers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Composers need abilities such as hearing sensitivity, originality, and oral comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Composers, ranked by their relative importance.

Hearing Sensitivity
The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
Originality
The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Fluency of Ideas
The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).

Critical Skills needed by Composers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Composers frequently use skills like active listening, critical thinking, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Composers, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Judgment and Decision Making
Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Coordination
Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.