ABRSM Exam Certificates

I often come across students who ask the question “Can I start teaching once I’ve got my grade 8?”. It’s a perfectly legitimate question, to which the legal answer is “yes”. In the UK, we do not have a licensing system for private music teachers. There are no official qualifications, or routes into the profession. There is no single professional body one has to join. Legally speaking, anyone (literally anyone) can teach any instrument they fancy to anyone willing to let them.

Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story, and that’s why I’ve titled the post the way I have. If you’re a student wanting to teach, this post should give you some idea of the benefits to you and your students to getting a qualification. For those of you looking to find a music teacher, this is why you shouldn’t just ask about performance qualifications, even degrees.

Qualified music teachers are qualified as teachers not just performers

Graded exams don’t have any requirements which test teaching – they’re designed to test learning, and these are different skills. A candidate with a distinction at Grade 8 might be a wonderful performer, but they might also find it hard to explain to a student how and why they do what they do to achieve that performance. There are some wonderful performers who may be so comfortable with their abilities that they find teaching a beginner frustrating! Music degrees, whether from universities or conservatories, also don’t generally include any training on how to teach music to others. If your prospective music teacher has only taken performance qualifications, how did they learn to teach?

Qualified teachers have invested in their own development

It’s not cheap to sit a teaching qualification. For qualifications in private music teaching, a candidate will be required to spend upwards of £200 (rising to £600-£1000 for top level qualifications) just to sit the exam, never mind the hours of reading, study and preparation that have gone into the qualification. Anyone who is committed enough to put that kind of investment in is going to be someone who is invested in teaching for the long term, and is far more likely to be taking an interest in Continuing Professional Development. If your teacher isn’t a qualified teacher, are they taking steps to improve their teaching through books, courses and networking?

Qualified teachers know they way they learned isn’t the best way for everyone

Of course, this can be true of non-qualified teachers too, but part of getting teaching qualifications involves reading about pedagogy, and developing new ways to teach old skills. At higher levels, many exams require understanding of child development, psychology, sociology and even anatomy. I would never have learned so much about the physical nature of the voice if I had not studied for a teaching qualification, for example. By taking the time to study teaching as a skill in itself, qualified teachers are more likely to have a wide vocabulary of activities to teach each skill covered.

Qualified teachers have respect for their profession

Again, I realise many non-qualified teachers do have respect for the profession as a whole, but I feel that taking a qualification in teaching has two key benefits with regard to the whole profession. Taking a qualification, as has already been said, is an investment and one which directly reflects a commitment to teaching. Teachers who invest in training are likely to be teachers for the long haul – they’re not going to disappear once their music degree ends, never to be seen again! The other benefit of qualifications is that many of them help teachers develop a network of other teachers for support, help and ideas. Is your teacher undercutting their colleagues? Or do they have respect for their fellow teachers?


Yes, there are many good and experienced teachers who are not yet qualified. If you are one of them, I would urge you to invest the time and money in getting your skills and talents attested to by an independent body. To you I say, help us raise the bar with teaching and make it the norm for music teachers to be qualified as teachers not just performers.

Perhaps you are someone who wants to be a teacher? Please take the time to study teaching, to learn about how to help others learn, and get rewarded for that effort. It marks you out as someone worth learning with.

To prospective pupils, a qualified music teacher may charge you more, but they will be worth it in the long term. They are far more likely to be a teacher you can stick with right the way up the grades and on to greatness. Qualified teachers are a good investment.

If you’re looking for singing lessons in Edinburgh, click here to contact me – I am, after all, a qualified teacher.

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