Teaching in the SDA System


The Adventist educational system is one of the more sophisticated comprehensive parochial systems in the world. While the pay isnít terrific, it is better than in most private systems, being standardized, and, once set, not reversed if things are not going well at your particular school.


Information About Working in the System . . .



Your beginning salary and subsequent increases will be governed by the geographic region and its cost of living index, as determined by housing and other related factors. This can lead to significant differences.

You can expect to reach maximum salary within a stated period of time (5-7 years) and will subsequently receive cost of living raises thereafter. Presently, there are some changes occurring in the overall system which may be of benefit to you.


Medical Coverage/Educational Subsidies

You will be covered by a comprehensive medical plan and have educational subsidies for your children (75% & 90%). There are adjustments now being made in both of these programs and there undoubtedly will be more in the near future.


Graduate Study

You will may be given assistance for graduate study, particularly if certification requires it. If you end up teaching at the college level, you may be fortunate enough to have your doctoral study expenses covered by the school. If you finance your own doctoral study and one of our colleges hires you, one of the enticements from them for you may be significant or total reimbursement for that expense. This will be amortized by your continuing with that school for a period of usually up to five years.


Moving Expenses

Your moving expenses will be covered as you travel to your first and subsequent positions.


Changes were made in the retirement program as 2000 began. Simply put, the church contributes a percentage of the your income (4%) in an investment fund of your choice and then contributes an additional amount on a matching basis, (you add 2%, the church 1%) for a total of 7%). If you do not touch that (you can borrow it if you wish) and let it grow for the duration of your career, you should have a reasonable retirement, just using the interest from the accumulated corpus. Of course, you can also elect to cash the fund out, pay the tax on it, live gloriously for a short while, and then in poverty for the balance of your life! (Not recommended!).


And more . . .

And, finally, yes, there is even a death benefit. I would recommend, however, that you carry additional insurance to assist your surviving family should something happen to you. "The Lord will provide" is not enough in these times.

You should carry enough to pay off the mortgage, if you are buying a home, and enough to help a surviving spouse and children (if you have them) continue at the same level of living and also provide for their education. Term insurance (your best bet) is available through the church or elsewhere and is inexpensive when you are young.


Avoid changing positions frequently.

The stress and adjustments for both you and your family when moves are made can only be justified when there is an obvious gain or an opportunity for expanded service.


Specific Information about the System and Salaries . . .



Presently there are over 250 music positions in the North American Adventist school system: 57 full-time in the colleges and universities, 98 in the academies, 98 in the junior academies and 50 in the elementary schools. Many of the positions in the junior academies and elementary schools are part-time and several full-time positions in the secondary level also include teaching in non-music areas, particularly in smaller schools.

While the turnover rate at the college level is relatively low, teaching position changes at the secondary level can be fairly rapid, particularly in the smaller schools which often serve as the place where beginning teachers are hired, prove themselves, and, if successful, then leave for positions at larger schools when the opportunity arises.

Success at the larger academies where one can focus on either band or choir, coupled with graduate study beyond the master's degree and proficiency as a performer, can lead to a college/university position. Success in ensemble leadership and music lessons and experience in music classroom teaching are important prerequisites for those wanting to teach at the college level.

Those aspiring to teach keyboard at the college/university level must have established themselves as successful performers and have completed a DMA in performance at a reputable school. Additionally, they must have an interest in and preparation for teaching either theory or music history.

Opportunities for college teaching in the Adventist system have increased in recent years because of a large number of retirements. Also, in a few instances some programs are expanding and new positions are being created.


Related Data



Minimum requirements include a bachelor's degree in music and state and denominational teaching certification for elementary and secondary teaching. One should also be able to teach in a non-music subject area since many music positions include classroom teaching. Many states will provide provisional certification for a limited period, if one has deficiencies. Most states now require that a master's degree also be completed within a few years of the start of teaching.

Salary (Elementary/Academy): $ 30,100 to $51,600

Salaries vary depending on where the school is located. The maximum is reached usually after completion of master's degree a and five to six years of teaching. West Coast salaries are usually higher.

Salary (college/university): $ 30,200 to $59,479

Salaries vary, affected by years of teaching, completed degrees, and rank attained. The four ranks, from lowest to highest, are instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Attaining rank of associate or full professor can take several years and will depend on success in the classroom and activity in performance and/or research and writing. Salaries vary widely within both colleges and universities in the Adventist system.


Other Professional and Personal Considerations Ö


Professional Growth

Do continue your education. Complete your masterís degree, and, while you are still young, start on a doctorate, if you are interested in doing so.

Other avenues for professional growth and rejuvenation can be found in workshops, seminars, attending another school and observing others at work in your field, participating in a teaching exchange program, and doing educational travel related to music. Also, belong to and make a contribution in time to (a) related professional organization(s).


Community Service

As a musician you can do much to enhance the quality of life in your community. Be active in participating and in leading out in community groups. It is possible to become so consumed by your work that you miss the opportunity of being a contributing member of the community.



Music teaching is a demanding and high-stress profession where the intensity of the work is at times unrelenting. If you do not provide periods of rest and breaks from the routine, however, it is possible to burn yourself out. Everyone loses in that situation.

Aside from the emotional and physical damage you do to yourself, the quality of your teaching will diminish, bad judgment calls will be made in critical moments, your family and its life will be hurt, and, in the end, the contribution you might have made will never be fully realized.

You, by nature of the kind of teaching you do, can create a schedule that provides an afternoon off, a weekend free, and a restorative vacation with your family. Plan ahead and create those needed moments for yourself. Be proactive in doing so.

Also, cultivate other interests and hobbies not related to music. There is nothing more sad than seeing someone retire who has been so preoccupied with his/her profession that they donít know what to do with their new found time.


Keeping Perspective

You are a link between the past and the future of what is a marvelous profession, the teaching of music.

Within our own system there have been many who have sacrificed and given of themselves, fighting many a battle to get us to where we are today, people of vision, talent, and dreams about what this church might do in music. You may know and may have worked and made music under and with some of these persons. Their legacy is ours to protect and adapt in a functional way to the present and its unique challenges.

This is one of the most challenging times ever in Adventist music education. Over the last twenty-five years there have been significant contractions on both the academy and college level. These have made music teaching more demanding than ever. Even so, it is still possible to create exciting and solid programs that will command respect and support.

Over the years, many dedicated and competent teachers have built and maintained successful programs. It is invariably true that programs that are truly succeeding do not get cut, but are the ones that will survive. You have the potential for building such a program.