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Find out how to choose a qualification path as a music educator, and different types of qualifications that exist.

Last updated: 29 August 2023

Qualifications recognise the skills and knowledge you develop through training. Newer qualifications tend to engage better with contemporary issues such as special needs and technology. Check that a qualification will assess your teaching in person or by video. Older qualifications may assess you through assignments about teaching, which employers may see as less valid.

School-based classroom teachers are often qualified and paid according to their qualification level, although academies (now the majority of schools) can in theory hire teachers without qualifications and pay them what they choose. Nevertheless, a qualification is still the most common route into classroom teaching. Find out more on the government’s Get into Teaching website.

University of York

There are two post-graduate courses available at the University of York for musicians working in music education:

The MA Music Education: Instrumental and Vocal Teaching at the University of York offers opportunities for musicians interested in developing their instrumental and vocal teaching skills, allowing for exploration of both practical and theoretical concepts of pedagogy. Through a combination of reflective practice, engagement with academic research, and creative development of new educational approaches, you will be able to enhance your capabilities and confidence as a teacher.

The MA Music Education: Group Teaching and Leadership at the University of York integrates theory and reflective practice so musicians can gain an understanding of the philosophy and psychology of music education. Areas explored encompass inclusive approaches to supporting musical development in early childhood, primary and secondary education, and with learners with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

Guildhall School of Music & Drama Post-Graduate Certificate (PGCert)

The Post-Graduate Certificate (PGCert) in Performance Teaching is a Masters-level course designed to support professional performers and production artists who teach as part of their practice, either as their main employment or as part of a portfolio career. It offers a unique opportunity to develop creative and reflective practice in teaching in performing arts contexts.

Guildhall School of Music & Drama is a vibrant, international community of musicians, actors and production artists in the heart of the City of London. Ranked as number one in Arts, Drama & Music by the Complete University Guide 2023 and one of the top ten performing arts institutions in the world (QS World University Rankings 2022), we train the next wave of industry professionals across our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Discover more

Qualifications for instrumental and vocal teachers

For instrumental or vocal teachers, there is no formal connection between qualifications and pay. However, CPD and qualifications often help individual teachers negotiate better rates from themselves, as well as increasing job satisfaction and employability.

  • The Certificate for Music Educators (CME) is a Level 4 (equivalent to early undergraduate level) qualification for music teachers. Assessment is through assignments and live or video observations of lessons. The CME is awarded by Trinity College London and ABRSM with training offered by a range of providers.
  • Manchester Metropolitan University’s PGCE in Secondary Music with Specialist Instrument Teaching covers both secondary classroom music teaching and instrumental/vocal teaching. It is delivered in partnership with the Royal Northern College of Music and leads to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • London Music Masters offers a one-year PGCEi in group string teaching, in partnership with Birmingham City University. This course offers options to progress on to QTS afterwards.
  • The European String Teachers’ Association offers a range of courses including the CME (mentioned above) and a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in partnership with Chichester University. The latter, a Level 7 course (masters equivalent), is predominantly online and does not offer QTS, although it does include transferable masters credits. Teachers of all instruments and voice are catered for, not just strings.
  • The Piano Teachers’ Course is a part-residential, part-distance-learning programme that leads to its own certificate, with options to opt in to ABRSM teaching diplomas.
  • The British Kodály Academy offers training and certification for teachers wishing to pursue this particular approach to music teaching. Dalcroze UK and Orff UK offer similar programmes.
  • Music and Children with Special Needs: Sounds of Intent is a one-year part-time masters level course for specialist musicians and music teachers working in schools and colleges with children and young people with special musical needs or abilities, including those on the autism spectrum. The post-graduate certificate course is a partnership between University of Roehampton, Sounds of Intent Charity and Services for Education, Birmingham. Visit the University of Roehampton’s website for more information or to apply.

What to check when choosing a qualification

  • Is training included, or is it up to you to arrange this?
  • If training is included, is this online or in person?
  • If you are looking for mentoring, is this included?
  • Does the qualification lead to QTS? This is usually associated with higher-level qualifications and may not be necessary for instrumental/vocal teachers
  • Can you access funding to take the qualification, from your employer, the provider or elsewhere?
  • What other costs will be incurred, for example on books or residential accommodation?