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Occupational Profile

Composer

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.

  • Avg. Salary $36,221.00
  • Avg. Wage $32.85
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Artist, Music Composer

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

28%
28%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Composer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Composers
NOC code: 5132.2
INNOVATIVE

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

METHODICAL

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

directive

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

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 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 More

Duties
Updated Mar 26, 2017

Composers write music pieces that may vary in length and difficulty from symphonies to 30-second radio jingles. They 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 arrangers, orchestrators 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 are using computers and synthesizers to produce music scores, to orchestrate and to create new arrangements.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 26, 2017

Most of the time, composers work alone. Their working environments and hours of work vary considerably.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 26, 2017

Composers need to possess:

  • musical talent and creativity
  • determination and perseverance
  • 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.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 26, 2017

To succeed, composers must:

  • 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 special effects
  • 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.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Grande Prairie Regional College

Red Deer College

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 26, 2017

Few composers earn a living from composition 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.

Composers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers. In Alberta, 89% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook (PDF) in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions)
  • size of the occupation.
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 26, 2017

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).

Conductors, composers and arrangers
NOC code: 5132

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $0.00 $0.00 $29.46 $23.08
Overall $0.00 $0.00 $32.85 $25.27
Top $0.00 $0.00 $33.20 $25.27

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

D: Lowest Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lowest Reliability, represents a CV of more than 33.00% and/or if fewer than 10 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 25% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

28%
28%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

N/A

2015 Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Music
  • English Language Arts
  • Languages (other than English)
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Communication Technology
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 26, 2017

Canadian League of Composers website: www.composition.org

Canadian Music Centre website: www.musiccentre.ca

Cultural Human Resources Council website: www.culturalhrc.ca

Screen Composers Guild of Canada website: screencomposers.ca

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada website: www.socan.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 20, 2017. 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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