What qualifications do you need to become a qualified music teacher?
Updated: Mar 4
Note: The article below is part of the Introduction Section of the book Certificate for Music Educators Guidebook: Teaching Children and Young People, written by Enact Music CME Course Director, Dr Lilian Simones, published in 2021 by Routledge
Do you want to become a qualified music teacher but not sure of what qualifications you could or should pursue?
The answer to this question depends on the specific context of work where you want to, or currently teach. Commonly, music teachers work in the following contexts:
Early years sector;
Instrumental and vocal music teaching;
Community music facilitation.
Each of the above contexts is wide-ranging and requires specific contextual and musical knowledge and a particular set of practical skills. In turn, these need to be developed primarily through:
Acquiring appropriate teaching qualifications;
Engaging in lifelong continuous personal and professional development;
Being an active member of a community of musicians and teachers sharing experiences, best practices and helping to create new knowledge in order to advance teaching and learning in their own contexts and beyond.
The requirements for becoming a qualified music teacher vary from country to country, and you must familiarise yourself with these specifically in the country where you are or wish to operate in.
In the UK for instance, Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) is a compulsory teaching preparation for teachers of children in all subjects when working in maintained schools[i] and special education schools[ii] throughout England and Wales. Several routes can lead to QTS status via registration with either the Teaching Regulation Agency in England, or the General Teaching Council for Wales. Examples include having completed an undergraduate degree and a teacher training programme, or having other education-based qualifications such as a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE).
Teachers in Scotland and Northern Ireland achieve what can be considered equivalent to QTS when they register with their respective General Teaching Council (GTC) and which only registers candidates who have successfully obtained teaching qualifications such as a Bachelor Degree in Education (B.Ed.), Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) or a Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE).
Several new courses provide qualified teacher status to vocal and instrumental music teachers in Australia and Europe, albeit with substantial differences in systems of professional music training across countries in these continents (Smilde, 2012). Other courses intended to provide teaching insights for vocal and instrumental music teachers include the ABRSM, TCL and LCM teaching Diploma, Licentiate and Fellowship levels.
Although music in early childhood, has enjoyed consistent growth over the past twenty years, it is noteworthy that although there is wide variety of short courses for educators working in early years music, there are only a few options when it comes to becoming fully qualified as a teacher. In the UK, this consists of a new postgraduate course focusing on early years music education at Birmingham City University in partnership with the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC), and a CME course specifically on early childhood music, currently on offer at CREC.
The UK has been a prolific environment for training for community musicians, particularly from 1994 onwards. Training has been delivered through various providers, such as:
Local providers such as Youth Music, Sound it Out, Music Leader, Community Music Wales, and various others;
Conservatoires such as the Royal College of Music, Birmingham Conservatory and Leeds College of Music, which have also widened up their offerings to include programmes in community music at the postgraduate level;
Universities such as the University of Edinburgh and the University of York which have also followed suit.
Beyond the UK, there are various training opportunities for community musicians including: the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance; the Universities of Washington, New York and Boston; the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg; and, in Japan via the Creating Music Culture Foundations organisation which delivers a variety of lifelong learning programmes deeply connected to the facilitation of community music (Higgins, 2012).
In a world where musicians and music teachers increasingly work within emergent and evolving portfolio careers, in multiple teaching environments (Bennett et al., 2012), the Certificate for Music Educators (CME) course offers a personalised and tailored music qualification approach by:
Providing you with numerous opportunities to focus solely on the specificities of music teaching in the contexts where you work;
Taking account of and then begins with your identified needs of development no matter what stage you are at in your career;
Providing you with a mentor who will guide you through all steps of your CME learning journey, particularly on how to achieve the development goals you set yourself and how to effectively demonstrate achievement of the required learning outcomes via coursework tasks.
Offering you the flexibility to combine a busy lifestyle, other life responsibilities and duties with your CME learning and coursework.
If you are considering the CME as a potentially suitable option, you can learn more about the Enact International Certificate for Music Educators course, validated by ABRSM and Trinity College London, delivered by Enact Music here and here.
Bennett, D., Beeching, A., Perkins, R., Carruthers, G., & Weller, J. (2012). Music, musicians and careers. In D. Bennett (Ed.), Life in the real world: How to make music graduates employable (pp. 3–9). Common Ground.
Higgins, L. (2012). Community music in theory and in practice. Oxford University Press.
Smilde, R. (2012). Change and the challenges of lifelong learning. In D. Bennett (Ed.), Life in the real world: How to make music graduates employable (pp. 99–123). Common Ground.
[i] Maintained Schools in the UK are schools maintained by the Local Authority, and in which the national curriculum must be followed, in addition to national teacher employment conditions and guidelines.
[ii] Special education schools in the UK are schools where special education provision is made for children and young people with special education needs (SEN). These schools can be maintained by the local authority. However, there are a number of non-maintained special schools and independent special schools.