Employability and music

Skills that employers are looking for

How those skills are built into our syllabus

Written communication skills

Training in, and expectation of, high order writing skills is embedded at all levels of the Music degree programme in essays, projects and final year dissertations. Our students are taught:

  • to use the English language with clarity, sensitivity and accuracy
  • to communicate effectively and present a cogent and comprehensible argument
  • to formulate independent judgements (and to defend these)

Students receive detailed feedback sheets on all their written assignments. Further guidance is available in group tutorials and in the tutors’ consultation hours. The Faculty’s Writing Fellows are also available to provide support.

Tested during the recruitment process through: e-tray exercises, including prioritising and producing professional emails and briefing documents, and through producing accurate and articulate application form answers to specific word limits.

Oral communication skills

Seminars and tutorials are used to develop oral communication by requiring students to engage in group discussions, make convincing individual oral presentations and act as a respondent to the presentations of others.

At first year level, students receive training in their weekly group tutorial meetings (groups of 6-8 students). At second and third year levels, team-working exercises (e.g. seminar presentations) are integrated into specific units. The third year Extended Musicology unit includes a formal presentation as part of the overall assessment for the unit.

Tested during the recruitment process through: one-to-one and panel interviews, telephone interviews, group discussions and case studies, presentations (both solo and in groups).

Performance skills

As performers, students are expected to acquire the following skills:

  • development of muscular control (technical command of the instrument/voice)
  • command of mind-body co-ordination
  • selection of repertoires suited to particular performance contexts
  • development of musical interpretation, informed by analytical skills and awareness of performance techniques appropriate to certain styles of music
  • presentational flair (e.g. audience awareness and acknowledgement)
  • ensemble playing (responsiveness to the performances of others in a group setting)
  • effective practice regimes
  • responsiveness to constructive criticism

Critical & analytical thinking and problem solving abilities:

These are embedded at all levels and in all aspects of our teaching. Students are expected to:

  • assimilate a wide range of scholarly literature (and relevant aesthetic and philosophical writings) and to engage critically with its premises and/or conclusions
  • demonstrate a command of bibliographical techniques
  • synthesise information from a wide variety of sources
  • evaluate competing arguments and make reasoned judgements
  • apply relevant methodologies to particular situations (e.g. historical, statistical, critical or analytical)
  • act independently in planning and undertaking specified tasks
  • present results or findings in a coherent and communicable form (orally or in writing or via other appropriate media)
  • relate music to its various historical, social, cultural, political, religious and other contexts and to display sensitivity to changing patterns within these environments.

Tested during the recruitment process through: case studies, aptitude and reasoning tests, problem solving exercises in groups under time constraints, interview questions asking for problem solving processes and justification of methods used.

Self-management, motivation & organisation

Embedded at all levels in a programme of active learning. Students are encouraged to work in a self-motivated way without constant supervision.

Tested during the recruitment process through: application form and interview questions required evidence-based answers.  You will need to provide evidence of managing your degree, any employment or volunteering and any extra-curricular activities.  Evidence based solely on academic workloads will not be considered sufficient.

Reliability & flexibility

Students are expected to attend all their lectures, seminars and tutorials, to be punctual for all their commitments, and to hand in their assignments by specified deadlines. This is monitored closely at every stage and reports are often included in references provided for potential employers.

Tested during the recruitment process through:

evidence-based questions in application forms and interviews.  Demonstrating resilience in the face of a challenge and reacting positively to change is an essential skill.

Team working & leadership

Students are required  to work cooperatively in various aspects of their studies, e.g.

  • the ability to direct/ rehearse and stage/ take part in a musical performance
  • to work effectively in a group - ability to learn from, and contribute to the learning process of, others through participation in the give-and-take of group discussion; the ability to listen, express strong disagreements while respecting the views of others; the ability to sustain debate; the ability to modify one’s own ideas in the light of discussion.

Tested during the recruitment process through:

competency questions in the application form and interview, observed group exercises, social activities during assessment centres.  Leadership can be evidenced by your taking the lead on a failing project, or helping others to meet a deadline.

Commercial awareness

Not built in as such, though some units do engage with it.  However, this is considered to be a crucial competency area by employers, who will expect you to spend some of your spare time researching the employment sector to which you are applying, specific organisations and their competitors, current news items and any other relevant information.  If you are not interested enough to undertake this research, then it is probably not the right area of work for you.

Tested during the recruitment process through: application form and interview questions (e.g. Why do you want to work for us?  What makes us different from our nearest rivals?), group exercises, presentations.

NB. Evidence of your skills will not be best served by an exhaustive list of everything you have ever done on your CV.  You need to be able to speak and write articulately about your academic, work and life experiences in terms of what you have learned from each experience and why this is relevant to the job for which you are applying.

Career Planning for Music Students

Career Planning

Finding out more about types of work


Career Resources


The Resources section of our website includes Downloads of previous careers talks covering researching employers and occupations (teaching, law for non-lawyers, careers NOT in business, journalism, charities, development, environment, postgraduate study etc.) http://www.bris.ac.uk/careers/downloads/

In addition the Careers Network provides details of Bristol alumni who are working in a broad range of sectors who have offered to provide advice (and sometimes work experience!) to current Bristol students. Covers all areas of employment (both mainstream and those sectors which are harder to enter where networking is vital) – public sector, media, publishing, law, think tanks, development, advertising, libraries/museums/galleries/archiving, etc. http://www.bris.ac.uk/careers/network/index.asp

A variety of useful DVDs are streamed on our website, including The Graduate Job Interview (a fly-on-the wall look at real interviews with graduate employers – essential viewing for interview preparation), Assessment Centres, completing on-line applications and opportunities with small and medium sized businesses http://www.bris.ac.uk/careers/resources/dvds.asp

Careers Advice


For a wealth of information covering CVs, covering letters, application forms, interviews, assessment centres. Plus access to PDFs of free guides covering each of these areas.

Interactive exercises

  • The Windmills Programme – Virtual Career Coach www.windmillsonline.co.uk
  • Prospects Planner – online career planning tool for graduates which allows you to assess the types of jobs which would suit you.  See www.prospects.ac.uk – look under Jobs and Work / What jobs will suit me?

Postgraduate Study


Every week, employers contact us with a wide range of vacancies covering graduate schemes, ad-hoc vacancies, vacation placements, internships, term-time and part-time work.  Have a look at our website to see what is on offer (job vacancies are updated every day).  You can sign up for a jobs by email service to have any new vacancies for job sectors that you are interested in to be automatically sent to you.  See http://www.bristol.ac.uk/careers/jobs