Luthiers design, build and repair stringed instruments such as violins or guitars. Approximately two-thirds are self-employed, so earnings typically depend on business profits, rather than a regular salary, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Most luthiers also know how to play the instruments they work with, so they can assess the damage on instruments and the effect of their work.
Education and Training
Luthiers typically have a high school diploma and learn their craft through intensive seminars and courses. Students seek training opportunities at technical schools, colleges and via some home study or Internet courses. Although rare, there are some opportunities for on-the-job training. The DOL indicates luthier trainees perform support functions, such as selling instruments and cleaning the shop in addition to assisting trained luthiers for a period of about two to five years before they begin independent work.
The average annual salary for luthiers was $46,500 as of 2013, according to the Career Builder website. The Greater New Orleans Area reported the highest average earnings for luthiers, at $62,000 per year, followed by the Greater Denver area, at $31,000 per year. In a randomly selected sample of 10 U.S. geographical areas on the Salary Expert survey website, Miami had the lowest average salary at $21,559 while California had the highest, at $59,393.
How much you'll earn depends, in part, on where you live. In randomly selected cities reported on Salary Expert, individual averages included Miami, $21,559; Dallas, $22,370; New York City, $32,500; San Francisco, $33,822; Houston, $34,258; Atlanta, $36,045; Chicago, $48,760; and Los Angeles, $53,057. Starting salaries, which are usually at the 10th percentile, differ by city. For example, in Miami the average starting salary in 2013 was $28,473.
There are few luthiers, as opportunities for training are scarce and individuals tend to leave the profession primarily due to retirement. The DOL indicates the demand for luthiers will rise slightly due to increased numbers of musicians. In a sluggish economy, individuals are more likely to repair rather than replace stringed instruments, so luthiers skilled in repair will be in highest demand. Opportunities will exist for those working with school systems to repair equipment.