Classical musician

opera singer
Performing arts and media

Career outlook for classical musician

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would play an instrument or sing for audiences in live concerts. You’d also record music for people to listen to at home.

You might perform solo or as part of an orchestra or ensemble (group of musicians). Some people work as freelance session musicians, playing or singing with different orchestras or ensembles as required.

You’d record music for people to buy on CD or download, or to be played in films, TV and radio.

You’d also need to:

  • Practise regularly
  • Learn and rehearse new pieces
  • Look after your voice or instrument
  • Set up and tune your instrument before a performance

You’d prepare for and attend auditions and, if you work freelance, you’d need to contact agents and find work.

You might also:

  • Compose your own musical scores
  • Conduct an orchestra
  • Teach music to children, either privately or as a visiting teacher in schools

You’d need to be prepared to practice for several hours a day. You’d also have to be able to accept criticism and rejection.

Working conditions


Working hours can be long and include evenings and weekends. Studio recording sessions can often take many hours and run until late at night. You would also need to spend hours practising and rehearsing. You might also work in a related area, such as community arts or arts administration.


You could perform in many different locations, from theatres, concert halls and other music venues, to hotels and restaurants.


You could also spend time travelling around the country and possibly overseas.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Adaptability
  • Persevering
  • Self awareness
  • Self esteem
  • Recalling
  • Verbal communication
  • Cooperating
  • Networking
  • Creative

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


There are no formal qualifications required to get into this role but any qualifications and experience that demonstrate your commitment to music and musical ability will be useful.

Many musicians choose to study and gain qualifications in music at college or university.

You can enter some National Certificate or National Qualification courses (SCQF 2-6) through an audition but most courses also ask for National 4/5 qualifications (SCQF level 4/5).

You can enter Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) with National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications.

To enter a degree (SCQF level 9/10) usually requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of three Highers or a relevant HNC/HND.

Useful subjects

  • Music (required by many courses) 
  • English (required by many courses) 
  • Music Technology
  • ICT
  • Maths
  • Social subjects such as history

You will also need

Many university courses look for grade 7/8 music exams as well as academic qualifications. 

Helpful to have

Most musicians start learning to play an instrument from an early age and work toward graded music exams through Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) or Trinity College.