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Composers create a wide variety of original music including symphonies, operas, choral and vocal works, ballet scores, musical theatre scores, jazz pieces, electro-acoustic works and rock songs. They also write music for commercial media including advertisements and film soundtracks.

Also Known As

Artist, Music Composer

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 5132.2: Composers

2006 NOC-S

  • F032: Conductors, Composers and Arrangers

2011 NOC

  • 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2016 NOC

  • 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2021 NOC

  • 51121: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2023 OaSIS

  • 51121.02: Composers
Updated May 17, 2021

Composers write music pieces that may range in length and difficulty from 30-second radio jingles to symphonies. Once a music piece is created, a composer either produces a recording of it, or ensures the piece can be performed by others by creating accurately annotated sheet music for each instrument involved in the piece. They generally have no other specific duties unless they:

  • Are composers-in-residence for symphony orchestras, choral groups or post-secondary schools
  • Are college instructors or university professors
  • Have accepted a commission or signed a contract that defines additional responsibilities

Composers often develop a style of their own, but may produce music in other styles when required by clients. For example, they may be commissioned to compose music for a live dance performance, a new symphony, or a film or television soundtrack. They may work closely with artistic directors, film editors, arrangers, conductors or music copyists to complete final scores, or with performers in rehearsals and recording sessions.

Film and television composers study films and scripts and work with producers and directors to define the nature and placement of the music so that it creates the desired effect.

Increasingly, composers use computer software and synthesizers to independently produce complex music scores, to orchestrate and to create new arrangements, and to output sheet music.

Working Conditions
Updated May 17, 2021
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Most of the time, composers work alone when creating the initial concepts. Composers must also work collaboratively with their clients to receive feedback and create revisions before arriving at the finished piece. Their working environments may vary from very basic at-home locations to professional sound and recording studios. Their hours of work may also vary considerably, due to uncommon times of inspiration or communicating with clients remotely in different time zones.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

Interest in synthesizing information to invent melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structures in order to express ideas and emotions in musical forms such as symphonies, operas, and film and play scores


Interest in precision working to play instruments to assist in composing, arranging and orchestrating music; and in copying compositions to music paper


Interest in applying knowledge of harmony, counterpoint, orchestration and musical forms to create compositions and scores; may conduct and teach music

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated May 17, 2021

Composers need:

  • Musical talent and creativity
  • Understanding of music theory, musical notation, structure and composition
  • Determination and perseverance
  • Time management skills
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal and networking skills to market their work

They should enjoy playing musical instruments and inventing melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structures to express ideas and emotions. They should also enjoy working collaboratively with others.

Educational Requirements
Updated May 17, 2021
  • Minimum Education Varies

To succeed, composers must:

  • Be trained in the formal language of music composition and annotation
  • Understand the range, sound and capability of a variety of musical instruments
  • Understand how music is put together harmonically, melodically, rhythmically and texturally
  • Be able to blend various instrumental sounds to produce harmonies or to create desired moods or emotions in an audience
  • Be able to use musical notation to express their ideas

The ability to play a musical instrument is a definite asset, as is knowledge of related technologies such as Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) software and music notation programs. Composers of classical music also may need to understand other languages such as Italian, French or German.

Composers of popular music (for example, country and rock) often do not have extensive formal training. They may study alone, at a music conservatory or a college, or with accomplished musicians. For related information, see the Songwriter occupational profile.

For composers of concert music, developing a unique style is crucial. This requires listening to as much music as possible, studying scores from various musical styles, experimenting and gaining experience.

Post-secondary education in music provides excellent training and exposure to different musical styles. Most serious composers pursue further studies at a university or music conservatory. Some apprentice with a recognized, accomplished composer as part of their post-graduate training.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 17, 2021
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 17, 2021

Few composers earn a living from composition work alone. To supplement their incomes, many do related work including:

  • Performing
  • Accompanying soloists
  • Teaching privately or in colleges or universities
  • Arranging or orchestrating scores

Composers may be commissioned by a major arts organization or a provincial arts funding source to write a piece of music. There is considerable competition for grants and commissions.

Music publishers may be interested in listing new pieces of original music in their catalogues. However, many Canadian composers have begun publishing their own works to retain control over publishing and distribution. Some composers use a music agent to negotiate contracts and agreements.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group, 97.2% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 3.1% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 13 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Wage & Salary
Updated Sep 29, 2022

Composers often negotiate their fees directly with employers. Fees vary widely and are not necessarily based on experience.

The Canadian League of Composers pays a flat per-minute rate to composers of commissioned works. The composer's reputation and talent determine the fee for most long commissioned pieces.

Composers are paid royalties from performances of their music. Royalties are collected and distributed by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

Composers are part of the larger 2016 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers.

According to the 2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group earned on average up to $37.80 an hour. The overall average was $29.84 an hour. For more information, see the Conductors, composers and arrangers wage profile.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 17, 2021

Canadian League of Composers website:

Canadian Music Centre website:

Cultural Human Resources Council website:

Music Publishers Canada website:

Screen Composers Guild of Canada website:

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2021. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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