Table of Contents
I. When Should You Start Looking?
Getting your first job takes time, preparation, and determination. Start your search during your final six months in college. For many music education students, this is the period set aside for student teaching. It’s important that you have at least some student teaching experience before you start looking for a job, as administrators tend to shy away from applicants who have not had any classroom experience. In addition, good recommendations about your teaching ability will improve your prospects of finding employment. Although most job openings occur during the spring and summer, there are occasional openings mid-year due to retirements, maternity leaves, relocation, and so on. Your chances for hearing about job openings are best if you stay in close contact with your undergraduate institution. If your search extends beyond the time you will be on campus, stay in touch with the music education faculty, your student-teaching mentor, ensemble conductors, and your college placement service. These people will hear about potential openings first. Make sure you have their work and home phone numbers and that they know how to reach you, especially if you move away from the area.
Some Basic Considerations
A. Get started BEFORE you graduate.
Let’s face it–after several demanding years in college and a grueling student-teaching experience, you’re tired. You’re more than tired. You’re totally burned out, right?
It’s very easy to bury your head and spend your free time staring blankly at the television screen for a few months, or to reward yourself with a thirty-day vacation after graduation, rather than getting started on finding a job. This is no way to proceed. If you don’t start preparing your résumé until mid-July, the chances are slim that you’ll find a teaching job for the Fall. As the saying goes, “he who hesitates is lost.”
B. Know what you want
Determine the type of position you want before beginning your job search. Establish reasonable targets. Applying for every single job within a three-state area would take too much time and effort. On the other hand, applying only for one dream job would be too risky.
- What type of teaching job do you want?
- Do you want to teach elementary, middle, or high school students?
- What geographic areas interest you? Could you teach in a remote, rural area or at an inner-city school?
- Some schools combine music positions with other subjects. What combinations would you be willing to assume and are certified to teach? Would you teach social studies or elementary art? Would you teach both band and choir? Would you teach strings?
- Would you travel among several schools?
- Could you teach in a very small school? Very large school?
- Would you be willing to be someone’s assistant director?
Try to imagine yourself in a variety of situations. Keep in mind that most music teachers work for at least two different school districts during their careers. Your first job may not be your dream job, but it will be a place to grow and gain valuable experience. Be cautious about assuming sole responsibility for a large, highly developed and demanding music program during your first few years of teaching. Maintaining the quality of a highly successful program is not as easy as it looks.
C. Expect a less than perfect music program
Your first job is likely to have problems. Do not look for a “perfect” situation. Do not turn down positions because the program is too small, schedule is challenging, facilities are terrible, etc. Perfect jobs don’t really exist anyway.
Three Myths About Finding a Job
Myth #1—Your college or professors will find you a job.
Your undergraduate institution is only responsible for providing you with learning opportunities. It has absolutely no obligation to provide you with a job after graduation. Finding a job is your responsibility. Make your commitment to the job search worthy of the tremendous amount of time and effort it took to get your degree.
Myth #2—School districts will find you.
Occasionally, a school district will find itself in an emergency situation and will actively seek out job candidates. However, schools normally wait for applicants to come to them. Don’t make the mistake of sitting by the telephone waiting to be “discovered.”
Myth #3—Only the best music students will get jobs.
First of all, how you define the word “best” may differ from the way a school administrator defines it. Also, it is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, for administrators to determine who the “best” students are based on the information they receive. Most students will have several positive recommendation letters. The résumés of recent grads are often similar. Musical performance ability and grades are not always accurate indicators of teaching ability. Students with good credentials who persevere in their job search are usually successful in finding employment.