Do You Need a License, Permit, or Degree to Teach Guitar?

Have you been thinking of turning your favorite hobby from an expense into a way to earn some income? 

Chances are you already have all of the equipment and hopefully the skills, so let’s take a look at what is involved if you are interested in becoming a guitar teacher.

Teaching guitar is not a heavily regulated industry and is easy to try out before spending precious time and money on certifications and degrees. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, from a few private students to prestigious music academies. 

Let’s take a look at what is required.

Do you need any permits to teach guitar in the US?

It may feel like you need a permit to even walk outside these days but luckily you aren’t required to have a permit to give private music lessons in the US. 

However, working for schools and some private companies will probably require certifications, such as teaching permits, music, or education degrees.

Is it common for countries or states to ask for any credentials to teach guitar?

Unless you are trying to obtain a work permit in a foreign country, you shouldn’t have to worry about legal requirements for teaching guitar lessons. 

Keep in mind that many music schools may require you to present a criminal background check though, especially if you are working with children.

Do you need a degree to teach guitar?

A diploma from the Berklee College of Music might unlock some great opportunities, but it is your skill, experience, and personality, that are really going to dictate your success as a guitar teacher. 

Just think of all of those years of practice and experience as an “honorary degree”. 

Most of my favorite musicians don’t have a music degree or even formal training and I’ll bet that yours don’t either.

Should you inform any authorities about giving guitar classes?

If you are giving private lessons then you shouldn’t have to worry much about local authorities pounding on your door. 

But just to be on the safe side you should use common sense and check your area’s laws on issues such as noise complaints, fire code (maximum occupancy of a room/building), and curfew for minors.

Do you need a legal establishment to give guitar lessons?

Having a storefront or fancy environment for your lessons is not required although it may help to attract more students. 

If you are interested in renting a space for lessons or large group classes, it is wise to ask the property owner or local authorities about guidelines.

Is there any difference if you teach from home?

Many private music teachers teach in their own homes or their students’ homes and are considered to be self-employed by the IRS. 

This keeps things simple, is less likely to involve legal complications, and the lack of overhead cost can be a great benefit for you and your students.

Is it okay to have students come to your home for lessons?

Giving lessons out of your home is probably the most convenient way to start your teaching career and prevents you from having to move your equipment and teaching aids every time.

Here are some things to keep in mind and protect yourself:

  • Try to dedicate an area to your teaching – keep it clean, organized and professional.
  • Your teaching area has to be safe – no rusty nails or sagging ceiling tiles that might fall on someone’s head!
  • If you are worried about a student’s behavior or being accused of misconduct, then schedule lessons in pairs or small groups to avoid unwanted situations.

If all of this sounds like too much work, there is of course the option to use video-conferencing apps (you still have to keep your work area clean). 

It might not be quite as effective for an instrument as hands-on as guitar but that is something for you and your students to decide.

Do you need insurance to give guitar lessons?

Generally speaking, you are not required to have insurance to give guitar lessons, especially if you plan on focusing on private lessons. 

If you are thinking of growing your business you will probably need to research creating a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), which will protect your personal assets from lawsuits related to your business. 

Of course, your business will then need liability insurance to protect its own assets so it all depends on the scale of your goals.

Do you have to pay taxes if you teach guitar lessons?

Of course, no one can escape the taxman and you will have to factor in taxes when you plan your lesson fees for private lessons. 

The US self-employment tax, which consists of Social Security and Medicare is about 15% as of 2022 (if you work for a company then the company pays half of this). 

If you get a headache even thinking about taxes, you should consider working for a company, and then all of the messy financial details will be taken care of for you.