6.1 Formal Training

The journey towards a conducting career differs greatly from one conductor to the next. While some have gained many years of official training at university level before entering the field, others first spend years as musical performers before moving on to a position as conductor. Some conductors actually have no formal training at all but have emerged to the role as a result of their musical background and personal suitability for the job.

Professional conductors at a high level usually have at least a Bachelor’s degree in music. While many educational institutions offer degree programmes in music performance and composition, programmes in conducting are also available. A few countries offer Bachelor degree programmes in conducting, but most common are Master degree programmes and shorter courses such as one-year graduate programmes or independent “non-degree” programmes. Some universities offer Doctoral of Musical Arts or PhD programmes as well.  

Students in conducting programmes usually work with a mentor teacher and should receive plenty of hands-on training with accomplished experts and ensembles. While this varies between institutions and countries, Bachelor programmes tend to have a stronger focus on theoretical and technical studies, while Master programmes usually contain more practical experience in front of an ensemble and may allow the students to specialise in particular areas of conducting such as choral, wind or orchestral conducting.

In order to conduct music in an educational setting, one may need to pursue a teaching license or education certificate in addition to musical training. Typically, public or state schools often require these educators to have a Bachelor’s degree in their field of speciality (music) and a state license or certification. Requirements for licensure vary between countries.

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