Film Composer: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

Author: ProfGuide
Film Composer: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

A film composer is an unsung hero in the movie industry, someone who creates the music that enhances the emotional resonance of a film. This profession provides the sonic palette that underscores the narrative, enhancing everything from dramatic moments to comic scenes. In many ways, a film composer is as crucial to the film's success as the director or lead actors. By the way, recently the ProfGuide career guidance center has developed a precise career orientation test, which will tell you which professions are suitable for you, provide a conclusion about your personality type and intelligence.



While many film composers are generalists, able to adapt to various genres and styles, others specialize in certain types of music or film genres. Some may specialize in creating music for animation, others for action films, dramas, or documentaries. There's also a distinction between those who compose for major Hollywood productions and those who work in the independent film sector.

Tasks and Responsibilities

  • Creating original music to accompany a film
  • Collaborating with the director and producers to understand the tone and mood of the film
  • Orchestrating and arranging the music
  • Overseeing the recording of the music with musicians
  • Editing and mixing the music to align with the film's timing and pacing

Pros and Cons


  • Opportunity to express creativity and leave an imprint on a film
  • Working in a dynamic and exciting industry
  • The satisfaction of seeing your work reach a wide audience


  • Highly competitive industry
  • Irregular working hours
  • Pressure to meet tight deadlines


The demand for film composers is significant in the USA, Canada, GB, and Australia. As the film industry continues to grow in these countries, especially with the rise of streaming platforms, opportunities for film composers are expected to increase.

Salary Ranges

As of 2023, average film composer salaries are:

  • USA: $50,000 - $200,000
  • Canada: CAD 40,000 - CAD 150,000
  • GB: £30,000 - £150,000
  • Australia: AUD 50,000 - AUD 180,000

Where do Film Composers Work?

Film composers work in a variety of settings, from major film studios to independent production houses. Some also work freelance, providing their services on a project-by-project basis.

Important Qualities of a Successful Film Composer

  • Musical talent and a strong understanding of music theory
  • Creativity and a unique musical voice
  • Good communication and collaboration skills
  • Ability to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines
  • An understanding of the film industry and storytelling

Step-by-Step Career Path

  1. Master a musical instrument and learn music theory
  2. Earn a degree in music, composition, or a related field
  3. Gain experience in composing and arranging music
  4. Create a portfolio of work to showcase your talent
  5. Network within the industry and start working on smaller projects
  6. Work your way up to larger, more high-profile projects

How to Become a Film Composer

In the USA, it typically takes at least four years to earn a bachelor's degree in music or a related field. While not strictly necessary, this education can provide valuable skills and connections. There is no formal residency or graduate program for film composers, but many continue to study and refine their skills throughout their careers.

Where to Become a Film Composer

In the USA, notable institutions include:

In Canada, consider:

In the UK, some top choices are:

In Australia, options include:

Can You Enter the Profession with a Different Degree?

Yes, a degree in music or composition isn't the only pathway into this profession. Many successful film composers have degrees in other fields, but what's crucial is a deep understanding of music, a unique creative voice, and the ability to work collaboratively to enhance a film's storytelling. However, a background in music or a related field can provide important foundational knowledge and potential networking opportunities.

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