Alternate Career Titles:

Cultural Anthropologist, Musicologist, Cultural Analyst, Folklorist

Career Overview: Studies, documents and researches social and cultural aspects of music and dance in a local and global context.

Career Salary Range: $30,000 to $90,000+

Become an Ethnomusicologist

Career Description

An Ethnomusicologist researches music, musicians, instruments, and music-producing processes. He or she looks deeply into different cultures and their music-making practices and capabilities. For example, in this music career, he or she might travel to China to get to know a family of musicians who perfected a certain instrument or created a specific type of music. The Ethnomusicologist engrosses themselves in the culture, doing the best they can to get a feel for beliefs and customs, and the role of music.

Even though there is a great deal of travel in this position, these individuals also conduct research traditionally within libraries and museums. With that said, to be successful, one should have a passion for travel and should enjoy communicating with the world’s many cultures. They need to be accustomed to spending a lot of time away from home, as they could be spending months and maybe even years with certain cultures.

Satisfaction comes from becoming a part of new cultures, and then teaching students or museum goers about the culture of music. One of the most enjoyable aspects for many is the opportunity to see the world from many different angles.


Salaries depend on a number of factors including experience, educational background, and the particular position in which they are employed. All things considered, they can earn between $30,000 and $90,000. Usually those who work in museums are paid the most.


Ethnomusicologists can find work in a number of different settings like universities, libraries, and museums, along within the Recording Industry Association of America.


It’s common for many Ethnomusicologists to move into traditional teaching roles after they’ve had some time and experience in the field. One can advance their career by taking on more advanced, in-depth experiences with cultures in areas not previously researched.

Education and Training

To get started in this position, one needs at least a masters degree. To earn more and obtain more advanced positions, a PhD is necessary. Study areas include sociology, anthropology, psychology or other cultural study areas.

Experience, Skills, and Personality

Because of the fact that much of their time is spent in the field, Ethnomusicologists must have superior research skills, while remaining objective and analytical. They need to know how to take detailed notes, and they should be good at deductive reasoning. Also, they should be good writers, with the ability to translate their notes into detailed reports once research has taken place.

Unions and Associations

Ethnomusicologists may belong to the Society for Ethnomusicology, which is dedicated to the study of all forms of music from the perspectives of social science.

Suggestions for Getting Started

  • Check for internships to establish contacts and gain experience.
  • A good background for this career can be as a traveling musician or a self-made music scholar.
  • Try to gain as much experience as possible in terms of playing music and living alongside those who create music.

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