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Without composers, we couldn't have music. It's true. Anyone who plays an instrument, even if it's just banging on a drum, is composing a song. People who take the time to write out the music, however, are professional composers. They write everything from multi-hour symphonies to 30-second jingles. Composers write music for synthesizers and oboes, pianos and electric guitars. They try to produce music that conveys emotion and tells a story to the listeners.

Composers can be self-employed, and create music for themselves, which they may ask a musician to play. They may, however, work for an orchestra, or on contract to a film production company. The composer may love writing music for children's television shows, but may have to write the score for a horror film, in order to pay the bills. This would involve watching the movie a number of times, and studying the script, in order to determine where the music would be best suited, and what that music should sound like. Using computer programs, soundproof studios and various instruments and musicians, the composers tries to create a suitable piece.

When the music is ready to be played, or recorded, the composer may choose the musicians to play their creation, and may also take part in the conducting of the songs. Composers who write original music of their choosing have a harder job. They must come up with brilliant music, and also find a company or an orchestra willing to play it. This takes a determined, creative soul with a lot of faith in their talent.

Composers need to be innovative and hard working. A composer's role will always be needed, as we will always have music. But finding the stamina and will to stay in the business can be just as challenging as finding the right note everytime.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a composer? These individuals should be musically talented. As well as being good with instruments, they need to have a good understanding of how music sounds, and how different kinds of music are created. Composers need good eyesight and hearing. They should be determined, driven people with tremendous amounts of passion. They need to be organized, methodical and able to work alone.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Write a piece of music according to a commission (movie score, television show theme song)
  • Create a composition from personal ideas
  • Consult with musicians, arrangers and other composers
  • Use computer programs
  • A typical day will involve a lot of listening and playing around with different instruments, note arrangements, and selections until the composition is coming along satisfactorily. There may be some consulting with other composers, musicians and conductors, particularly when working on a difficult piece. There may be some travel involved, but most of each day will be spent at work alone in a sound-proof studio, or wherever the composer finds inspiration.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Composers are largely employed by the entertainment industry in the areas of film, television and radio. They may also work with theatrical productions, orchestras and symphonies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Composers can go on to work as arrangers, musicians, artists, conductors and music teachers. They may even choose to open their own studio as a composer.

  Educational Paths  
A university degree in music or completion of a program at a music academy, conservatory or school of music is usually required. A period of specialized study related to composing is usually required. Musical and creative talent are all extremely important in this field.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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