Trombonists may use their skills in several different trombone jobs which fall into three categories: education, manufacturer and repair and performance. These types of jobs are similar for other instrumentalists and vocalists.
The primary need a trombonist has is steady work. For many trombonists, this translates to trombone jobs in education. Some trombonists who obtain master's or doctoral degrees in education are fortunate enough to become employed as assistant or full time professors of trombone. These trombonists not only teach individual lessons, but also provide guidance and conducting assistance to groups such as trombone quartets or trombone choirs. These teachers usually enjoy the highest pay rate of any trombone teachers because they have a higher education level and a dependable number of students and hours to work.
The next option for a trombonist who is interested in education-based trombone jobs is to teach at the secondary or high school level. Although some high schools are large enough to employ more than one music director, directors who play the trombone generally do not concentrate only on trombone students. Instead, they have to work with many different instruments, as the school expects them to lead the band(s).
If a trombonist wants to teach but doesn't want to be in a college, secondary or high school, he might opt to open a private trombone studio and give lessons. This is a good option for trombonists who want a high amount of flexibility and independence, as the trombonist has control over how many students to take and when to schedule lessons. The downside of these trombone jobs is that the number of students is not necessarily constant. Students may drop out or join the studio at any point, and students who travel often have to abandon regular lessons during summer months or other periods of vacation. It can be difficult to make a steady income.
Outside of education, the next best option for a trombonist who needs steady employment sometimes is to work in a music shop or manufacturing company as an instrument developer or repairman. Those who work in music shops have to be able to demonstrate trombones to prospective buyers and must understand what features should be paired with particular student needs. They have to have excellent communication and service skills and may help place orders or track inventory. Trombone repairmen in music shops have to have a basic understanding of how the trombone works in order to fix basic problems such as sticking slides or a dented bell.
Working as a trombone manufacturer is more complex than being a basic repairman. In a manufacturing position, a trombonist has to build trombones from scratch. He must know from the start what qualities he wants in the instrument and how the materials and shape of the trombone will contribute to the desired sound and projection. The manufacturer may call on the trombonist to help develop new models of trombones that address problems in previous instruments.
The next group of trombone jobs are performance-based jobs. Ideally, a trombonist will get a formal position with a professional orchestra or band. The problem with this is that these jobs open up only scarcely, with competition being fierce when positions are available. If a trombonist is fortunate to land one of these positions, he is committed to playing with the group that hired him usually only three years or less, depending on the contract offered; no guarantee exists that the group will hire him back when the contract expires. The trombonist is free to audition again with everyone else, however, and many groups simply extend players' contracts if they are satisfied with the level of playing demonstrated.
Some trombonists get work as members of small ensembles, such as a trombone quartet. These trombonists do not have steady performance work, and their income depends completely on the ability to land individual jobs or "gigs." This requires excellent networking and advertising skills. Even when a trombonist has incredible talent and communicates well, ensembles that feature trombone are not as popular as other small ensembles such as string or woodwind quartets.
An important consideration is that many trombonists do not hold just one trombone job. For instance, even if a trombonist holds a professorship, he might give additional lessons outside of the university or play in various ensembles. This helps a trombonist fill in income gaps when necessary or bring their pay level to a more desirable level.