Performing arts

Classical musician

Classical musicians and singers perform music in concert, or on film, TV, or radio recordings.

Annual Salary

£23,000 to £40,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

34 to 36 variable

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; away from home

Future employment

There will be 2% more Classical musician jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

Day to day tasks

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • learning and rehearsing music pieces
  • looking after your voice and instrument
  • setting up your instrument before performances
  • preparing for and attending auditions

Working environment

You could work in a hotel, at a music venue, in a theatre or at a recording studio.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • applying directly
  • specialist courses run by private training organisations

You'll need a high level of musical skill and talent. To develop these skills, you could get a degree or postgraduate award in:

  • classical music
  • music composition
  • music performance

You'll need to train at a university or a music college, often known as a conservatoire. You'll usually specialise in one main instrument and study a second instrument.

Some music degrees focus more on music theory than performance, so research the courses carefully to make sure they're right for you.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or 3 A levels including music, or equivalent qualifications
  • grade 8 in your main instrument
  • to pass an audition
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information
Direct application

To apply directly to work as a classical musician you'll usually need to have:

  • learned at least one instrument from an early age
  • taken graded music exams
  • studied music theory

Other routes

Many musicians start learning an instrument from an early age with a private music teacher or training provider.

The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music offers qualifications and graded music exams.

More information

Career tips

You should get as much experience as you can of performing in public. You could do this by joining a youth or community orchestra, and by entering competitions.

The BBC Introducing programme could be a way to get your music heard on the radio, if you're an unsigned musician.

It's common for musicians to showcase their music on networking websites, social media or send a demo to recording companies. The Musicians' Union has more details on how to promote yourself.

Professional and industry bodies

You could join the Musicians' Union or the Incorporated Society of Musicians for access to training, events and networking opportunities.

Further information

You can get more advice about working in music from the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

You can also find out more about working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

With experience, you could progress in an orchestra to principal player or section leader. You could move into conducting, or start your own ensemble.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • active listening skills
  • the ability to work well with others
  • ambition and a desire to succeed
  • persistence and determination
  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • leadership skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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