OFO No: 265201





Other names for Composer:

  • Lyric Writer
  • Music Arranger
  • Orchestrator
  • Programme Selector Music
  • Songwriter

What is a Composer?

A Composer creates and writes music.  A Composer may specialise in a certain area like:

  • Classical music (like Beethoven and Mozart)
  • Jazz (like Duke Ellington)
  • Choral (like Handel)
  • Rock (like Freddie Mercury)
  • Opera and Musical Theatre (like Andrew Lloyd Webber)
  • Movie and television soundtracks etc (like Ennio Morricone)

They often work alongside songwriters.

A Composer may be commissioned for a particular piece of music, for example a soundtrack to a movie or they may create their own music to record, or create their own musical show.

What does a Composer do?

  • understanding the various sound of instruments
  • being able to read and write musical arrangements
  • meeting with various directors and producers
  • writing lyrics on their own or in conjunction with a songwriter
  • bringing together different strands of music theory
  • applying musical knowledge of rhythm, melody and tone
  • utilising electronic means such as computing, to produce outputs
  • facilitating amateur groups in producing music for plays or community operas
  • composing music for TV, films, plays and for dance
  • working on and composing for oneself

Are you … ?

  • passionate about music?
  • able to read and write music?
  • able to play a number of instruments?
  • a person with a good ear?
  • able to work on one’s own?
  • dedicated?
  • driven?
  • willing to work long and unusual hours?
  • able to handle criticism?

How do I become a Composer?

To become established as a Composer takes time. Newly established Composers may benefit from bursary schemes or be lucky enough to be appointed as the Composer with an orchestra or community music centre.

Other sources of income initially are from competitions and awards.

Once established, a concert Composer can make money from a variety of sources including commissions, publishing and recording contracts and royalties from performances, broadcasts and sales of recordings and sheet music.

Many universities offer training in music.  Check with your local institution whether they do.


  • CLICK HERE to check for a training institution near you to see what they offer.
  • Make sure you understand their entry requirements for each course.
  • To avoid scams, make sure your institution is registered with the Department of Higher Education. 
  • CLICK HERE to check accredited Private Higher Education Institutions. 


Certificate in Music

  • University of Cape Town
  • University of SA: UNISA
  • University of Stellenbosch


Diploma in Music


Bachelor of Music


National Diploma in Music

  • Tshwane University of Technology

BTech in Music (Bachelors in Music)


OTHER CAREERS TO CONSIDER:   Sound Engineer … or … Singer

Is becoming a Composer the right career choice for me?