Calling All Tenors, Baritones, and Basses

For those young men who have a good voice and the ability and desire to learn music… how would you like a job where you can travel the world — or at least the United States — and get paid for it, and where adoring young women often follow your every word and note? If so… have you considered being a collegiate-level professor of voice?

While the openings in full-time, tenure-track university positions for female singers with doctorates are almost non-existent, universities and colleges are always looking for qualified and talented male tenors, baritones, and basses. “All” you have to do is become a classical singer qualified to teach on the university level. This does require work in addition to talent, and getting a doctorate in music is not for everyone, nor is it without some cost, but the very top positions in the field can earn close to $100,000 a year, and that doesn’t count fees for performing outside the university. Now… admittedly, a starting salary for a male tenure-track junior voice faculty member is “only” $35,000-$50,000, but a full-time position usually includes health care and one of the best and most portable retirement pension systems in the country.

More than a few times, when my wife has suggested that male students might have a future by majoring in music, the usual response is that “I won’t make enough money.”

And exactly how true is that? The latest data from the Census Bureau notes that the median income of men working full-time in the USA is slightly over $42,000. The median for men with professional degrees [law, medicine, science, MBA] is around $72,000. Of course, all young men and women will be above average, just as the children in Lake Wobegon are all above average, and all will make fantastic salaries.

But what is fantastic? The average veterinarian makes $65,000, the average architect $57,000, the average accountant $41,000, the average secondary school teacher $47,000. For every junior attorney making $130,000, there are many more making $40,000-$60,000. With the median salary of attorneys around $80,000, that means half are making less than that, often after years of practice.

So how unaffordable is the possibility of a $75,000 a year income after 15 years, for a nine month contract, with all sorts of fringe benefits — such as health care, retirement, tickets to sports and cultural events, and even free or subsidized parking?

But don’t apply if you’re female. Because schools can legally discriminate by specifying voice type, there are on average at least twice as many positions for men, despite the fact that most voice students are female, and on average, you’ll only make 75% of what the men do.