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Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re considering studying music at degree level, these are some of the questions you may find yourself (or your parents) asking:

I love music but should I do a more vocational subject at University?

GarethThat is entirely up to you and largely depends on what you hope to do once you graduate.  If you hope to enter a particular vocation then certainly you should pursue the area of academic study – generally the areas considered ‘practical’ subjects - that will qualify you to work in that particular sector.

If, however, you’re more open about your future plans or you’re passionate about music as a subject, that studying music at University is something to strongly consider.  Music, as with other humanities subjects, can often open more possibilities than a vocational subject.  Think about the long-term value of good writing ability, communication skills and critical thinking in an economy where people regularly change jobs and are required to be flexible in terms of taking on new tasks and challenges.

Many employers look for a good degree from a respected university, rather than a degree in one specific subject.  A 2012 Education and Skills Survey by the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) revealed that employability skills are the most important factor taken into account when recruiting graduates – four in five employers were found to value these skills above other factors such as the actual degree subject studied.

Take what Theresa McHenry, HR Director with Microsoft , has to say about what she looks for in new recruits:

“We are after people with a can-do attitude, enthusiasm, interpersonal skills and the drive and ambition to make an impact. Softer skills are also valued, especially as employees often have to work with a variety of people outside their immediate team. For us, it’s less about what you’ve studied and more about why you want to work for us and what you can bring.”

Will a music degree help me to get a job?

It’s true that with the rise in tuition fees, one of the most important factors when choosing a university course is what job it can get you when you finish. Luckily, out of the most popular universities in the UK, Cardiff University students have some of the best graduate prospects. According to Unistats, 95% of our music students are either in work or further study six months after graduation.

“Music  graduates have a good employment record. The majority, in some cases as many as 95% of a graduate cohort, secure employment or enrol for postgraduate study within six months of graduation… As a result of their highly developed collaborative and transferable skills, music graduates are becoming increasingly attractive to employers in industry, retailing and other areas.”

– Quality Assurance Agency

Music students are often able to demonstrate skills and attributes that help them to stand out from the crowd when job-hunting. For instance, self-discipline (think about the hours and hours of practice), performing under pressing (overcoming nerves to perform well on stage and at auditions), technical skills (from using technology to create and record music), teamwork (working in orchestras or ensembles) and commercial awareness (managing income from performing or teaching).  


When I graduate, will my only options be performer or teacher?

This is a common misconception surrounding music degrees. Yes, many Cardiff graduates have found satisfying careers in performing and teaching music at all levels but, equally, many of our graduates can also be found in a huge range of other sectors. Alongside our talented performers and teachers, we have composers, arts managers, producers, arts administrators, music librarians, journalists, marketing professionals, politicians, web developers and many others.

JonSince completing his BMus in 2010, Cardiff graduate Jon Yardley has been pursuing a career in web development and has seen first hand how valuable employers – even in this seemingly unrelated field – find his degree:

“Employers are often intrigued by my degree and when you explain that you can work in a team and independently, think critically, think on your toes and even lead a group of people under pressure they are always impressed. 

I am glad I studied music as it gave me a wealth of experiences and skills I would never have gained studying any other subject. Not only that but the course was so much fun and genuinely interesting. I can't imagine having done any other degree, nor would I want to. Even though, for the time being, my main profession is in web development I am indebted to the skills I learned studying an instrument, studying analysis, scholarly writing, playing in ensembles and even conducting."


What help will be I given with careers and employment?

IT suite
Both the School of Music and the Cardiff University Careers & Employability Service will be on hand to offer practical help and guidance to you during your time here. Our Careers in Music talks bring in active professionals to provide first hand accounts of all sectors of the music industry.

In collaboration with the Careers & Employability Service and GoWales, we promote work experience and internship opportunities, connect students with professional mentors in their area of interest for specialist guidance and advice, and run a Personal Development Programme. The Careers Service has a Consultant assigned to the School of Music and a dedicated Work Experience team responsible for arranging voluntary work experience placements.

Visit the University’s Careers & Employability website for more information.


The quote from Theresa McHenry is taken from The Telegraph online