Music Teacher Shortage! Time for Crisis or for Change?, Part II

August 31, 2002

In Part I, I provided data that outlined the growth occurring in music education vacancies in higher education. This growth combined with a national shortage of K-12 music teachers sets up a potentially compounding problem: fewer music teachers in our public schools means that there will be a smaller pool to become future college music education professors to fill the rising vacancies at that level and, thus, fewer higher education faculty to train future teachers. How can we lure more of the best and brightest public school music teachers into the higher education profession? And how might we lure more undergraduate students into public school teaching?*

The job market for school music teaching is perhaps the only one among all areas in the music profession that can compete with the college teaching market (public school teaching offers many job opportunities with decent, stable pay, and benefits). The average salary for public school teachers in the United States in 2000 was $41,820 while the average salary of assistant professors in post-secondary institutions in 2000 was $45,600. At the point when a music teacher may decide to get a doctoral degree in music education in order to teach at the college level, they have years of experience and a Masters degree, which puts them at a high level on their school pay scalemuch higher than the typical starting salary for a university professor. When one factors into this the cost of getting a doctoral degree in music education, entering higher education as a profession is not economically attractive. While we cannot do much to change the economic issues a potential music education professor may face when entering the profession, we can be more aggressive in luring our best and brightest into the profession. Education about the benefits that do accompany college teaching can be made more explicit, and information about what we do in our profession not be kept so mysterious or secret. We need to make an aggressive effort to recruit the best candidates into our programs.

How might we lure more undergraduate students into public school teaching? In some universities, music education majors are viewed as second class citizens to those who choose performance as a major. We need to change this image and bolster the status of music education in our music departments. Equally important, music education professors need to initiate and maintain communication with studio professors and ensemble conductors to identify performance majors who have the natural talent and disposition to be outstanding music teachers, and then offer these students early teaching opportunities during their collegiate career. Performance majors should be welcomed into music education courses, and music education majors need to be welcomed into performance studios. The age-old barrier that typically separates the music education from others must come down.

In higher education we need to educate all music majors about teaching music with a much broader perspective than we have in the past. This means offering teaching, service, and outreach opportunities in communities and with professional arts organizations for all music students early and throughout their undergraduate careers in order to excite them about teaching as well as spark interests in areas outside of the narrow confines of their degree requirements.

The National Association of Music Education (MENC) is working to understand and solve the problem of the growing music teacher shortage. The National Executive Board of MENC has placed music teacher recruitment and retention at the top of its list of eight research priorities in order to find ways to recruit and retain music education undergraduates. In a research report sponsored by MENC, Bergee, Coffman, Demorest, Humphreys and Thornton (Bergee, 2001) provide information on the reasons young students choose to major in music education. One of their strongest recommendations is a simple solution: we need to speak to our colleagues about the current need for music teachers and the viability of music teaching as a career.

We need to think of innovative ways in which to get all of our undergraduate music majors interested and involved in teaching opportunities, and to attract our best public school teachers into the higher education arena. Lets view this potential problem as an opportunity for positive change in our profession.

* U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor statistics; Bergee, M. (2001). Influences on Collegiate Students Decision to Become a Music Educator.

3777 Last modified on May 1, 2013
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