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Songwriters can perform a number of functions depending on career goals, ambition level, and specific talents. For example, a songwriter may simply write song lyrics and music, and then sell the completed song to a performing artist. This is common among pop music performers who often have more than one songwriter writing material for them behind the scenes. In this case, the songwriter has entered a commercial venture in which they are selling a product--their music--to a consumer.
Another type of songwriter is the singer songwriter. He or she writes his or her own material, including lyrics and musical accompaniment, and performs it on his or her own. This job is perhaps one of the most difficult ones to become successful at, because even a good singer songwriter has no guarantee of success. To become a strong singer songwriter, one must be able to think creatively to come up with strong lyrics, and also play a musical instrument well enough to perform in front of an audience. This combination can prove difficult for many aspiring singer songwriters, but since formal training is not necessary for such a profession, anyone with a reasonable amount of drive and talent can attempt it.
In either case, the main components of songwriting include lyric composition, musical composition, and musical performance. If a songwriter has mastered all three of these components, perhaps the best career or life path to follow would be that of the singer songwriter. If that person has not mastered the musical performance aspect of songwriting, he or she might be more inclined to write songs and sell his or her material to a performer, as described above.
In other instances, songwriters may be formally trained and educated people who have chosen to enter this specific profession. They may work in recording studios to aid would-be performers in writing their own songs; as freelance songwriters, writing songs for television or movies; or commercial jingle writers. Songwriters have countless outlets for their music; the tricky part is marketing that music to become successful.
If said songwriters choose to go through the training and rigor of schooling, they often have to attain a bachelor's degree, or at the very least an associate's degree. While salaries generally are not very high for this profession, even for successful songwriters, the rewards of this profession are numerous and the career trajectory is a unique one.