Whether you’re studying vocal performance in school or your friends and family have told you that you’re a natural talent, you might be considering a career as a singer. It can be a dream job for those who have the drive to make it happen, but there’s not necessarily one clear road to get there. There aren’t any strict educational requirements to become a professional singer, though if you’re thinking of specializing in classical or opera music, you’ll need to complete at least a bachelor’s degree in music. Educational offerings vary by college, but a degree program generally can help to prepare you for the rigors of performance and the reality of a singing career.
Lack of Steady Work
As with any professional in the performing arts, singers face the reality of unsteady work. Sure, you could snag a position in a chorus, church group, or other, more permanent organization, but the likelihood is that you’ll be out there performing on your own, picking up opportunities here and there as they come. The BLS notes that in 2010, 43 percent of all musicians and singers were self-employed. Of course, all of this changes once you become the next Pink or Taylor Swift -- but until then, you’ll have to be prepared to face stretches of time where you may not get paid, or not get paid well, for your singing.
Performers make a living in the public eye. As a result, they must face criticism regarding their performance style, personal appearance, wardrobe -- you name it. Before they even get a chance to perform, they often have to face seemingly endless bouts of rejection, auditioning at various venues and for many different employers. As a singer, you need to have a positive outlook about your career and find ways to take criticism constructively, rather than taking it personally.
It’s also important to keep in mind that working as a singer is anything but a 9-to-5 job. Singers often have to travel long distances to tour and to perform at various gigs. These performances most frequently take place on nights and weekends, when the audience can come out to enjoy the show. When you’re not traveling or performing, you’ll be spending time rehearsing.
Practice, Practice, Practice
If you’re naturally gifted with the ability to sing -- well, you still have to practice. You need perseverance and self-discipline to keep up your voice and performance skills and improve them to advance in your career. Not only does this take up time, but it’s tough and repetitive work, and not nearly as glamorous as performing on stage makes a singing career seem.
Samantha Ley writes career and education articles for various online publications. She also works in social media management and creates test materials and other educational content for various companies. Ley holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kenyon College and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia.