Expand mobile version menu


Program Description

Just the Facts

Conducting. A program that prepares individuals to master the art of leading bands, choirs, orchestras and other ensembles in performance, and related music leadership. Includes instruction in score analysis and arranging, rehearsal and performance leadership, music coaching, arrangement and performance planning, ensemble operations management, and applications to specific school or professional ensembles.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Related Careers

Check out related careers

Additional Information

The auditorium falls to a hush. You grip your baton tightly. You know your professor is in the audience, and the performance you're about to conduct will be a big part of your grade. Conducting students face situations like this every week.

Programs in conducting are all offered at the graduate level. That means you need an undergraduate degree in music first. It's even better if you specialize in musical performance in your bachelor's degree.

Conducting students can specialize in choral conducting, orchestra conducting, marching band leading or conducting a particular type of ensemble, such as string quartets. Different specialties are available at different schools.

In the U.S., more than 30 universities offer graduate training in conducting.

Master's degrees in conducting are usually two-year programs. Most programs lead to a master of music degree. At some schools, a PhD program is also available. Doctoral students usually want to teach conducting in a university setting, or just study the theory behind it further.

Getting into a conducting school can be tough. Most schools require at least a 70 percent average for incoming students. Tapes of conducting performances are often required. Many schools also require an audition.

High school music courses are important, and so is any extracurricular experience.

"Try to find a good conductor. Become their assistant, even if that means getting them a coffee or a towel," says Horst Buchholz, orchestra director at the University of Denver.

A conductor is often the leader of an orchestra outside the concert hall, too. That means you could do a lot of public relations work to promote your show. So, marketing and arts electives are also important.

Conducting courses can be challenging. For example, you could be asked to write an analysis of a musical piece from a conducting point of view, then conduct the piece under supervision.

Expect to read over long scores of music and notes closely. You will need to learn every musical piece inside out.

Paul Phillips is a professor and orchestra director at Brown University. He says learning languages is also important. Many of the great composers such as Bach and Handel were German, for instance, so that's a good language to learn. French and Italian also help.

Often, you will review a videotaped version of your performance with your supervisor. "Students would have a live performance in front of student groups. We would videotape it and talk about it later," says Phillips.

A thesis and a lengthy conducting performance are required by most schools in order to graduate.

Music scores and textbooks can be expensive.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Musicians, Singers and Related Workers

Classical Net
Books about music conducting

How Hearing Works
Learn how we perceive sound


  • Email Support
  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900
  • North Dakota Career Resource Network
    ndcrn@nd.gov | (701) 328-9733