Composers and Arrangers

Composers create much of the music heard every day on radio and television, in theaters and concert halls, in the movie industry, on recordings and in advertising, and through any other medium of musical presentation. Composers write symphonies, concertos, and operas; scores for theater, television, and cinema; and music for musical theater, recording artists, and commercial advertising. They may combine elements of classical music with elements of popular musical styles such as rock, jazz, reggae, folk, and others. Arrangers take composers’ musical compositions and transcribe them for other instruments or voices; work them into scores for film, theater, or television; or adapt them to styles that are different from the one in which the music was written. Approximately 23,190 composers and music directors are employed in the United States, and more are self-employed or work on a freelance basis.

Next Section: History

Quick Facts
Alternate Title(s) Music Directors, Adapters (arrangers), Songwriters (composers), Transcribers (arrangers), Transcripters (arrangers), Jingle Writers, Orchestrators
Duties Write music for movies, televisions shows, theater productions, symphonies, concertos, operas, recording artists, video games, and commercial advertising; arrange and transcribe musical compositions for other instruments or voices
Salary Range Below $25,000 to $100,000+
Work Environment Primarily Indoors
Best Geographical Location(s) New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville, as well as opportunities throughout the country
Minimum Education Level
  • High School Diploma
School Subjects
  • English
  • Music
  • Theater/Dance
Experience Several years' experience playing and writing music
Personality Traits
  • Artistic
  • Creative
  • Outgoing
Skills
  • Computer
  • Interpersonal
  • Performance
  • Music
  • and Acting
Certification or Licensing None
Special Requirements None
Employment Prospects Fair
Advancement Prospects Fair
Outlook Little Change or More Slowly than the Average
Career Ladder
  • Composer/Arranger for High-Profile Projects
  • Composer/Arranger
  • Musician

Career Update Newsletter

Tips and tools to help you manage your ideal career.