Music Theory Professor

Teach university students about music theory.
picture of Music Theory Professor

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$33,000 – $121,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Music Theory Professors do?

Music Theory Professors are masters of music theory — the study of how music works, including how it’s written and composed. They’re employed by colleges and universities to teach the principles of music to students who are used to being taught its practice.

If you ask most people how music’s made, they’ll probably tell you it’s made by playing an instrument, like a piano, guitar, or saxophone. “Playing” music, however, isn’t the same as “making” it. Although instruments make the noise, it’s pitch, rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, and timbre that make the music.

That’s what you teach your students if you’re a Music Theory Professor. Like an English Teacher who teaches the mechanics of language, therefore, you’re tasked with teaching music vocabulary. Among the lessons you might give as a Music Theory Professor, for example, are how to read notes for pitch and length, how to count meters, and how to create harmonies.

Like other Professors in other subjects, your duties include advising students, planning curriculums, choosing textbooks, preparing syllabi and handouts, teaching courses, giving lectures, assigning and reviewing homework, and giving and grading exams. Ultimately, though, your higher purpose isn’t giving grades; it’s creating future Composers and Musicians.

Speaking of which, you’re very likely an established Musician yourself, which might allow you to teach courses not only in music theory — including courses in music composition, analysis, and transcription — but also music performance.

At the end of the day, though, you’re a musical Construction Worker, building in your students’ brains the foundation of a house that will eventually be inhabited by beautiful songs, symphonies, sonatas, operas, concertos, etc.

Should I be a Music Theory Professor?

You should have a master's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Independent: You enjoy flying solo and doing things your own way.
  • Leader: You're good at taking charge, giving directions, and inspiring other people.
  • Team Player: You're able to listen, communicate, and work with tons of different people.

  • Also known as: Music Theory Teacher, Theatre Instructor

    How to become a Music Theory Professor

    Most Music Theory Professors have a Master's degree. Start by getting your Bachelor's degree. Chart?chd=s:aaaj9a&chl=|||bachelor%27s+%2810%25%29|master%27s+%2863%25%29|doctorate+%2827%25%29&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,0,63
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