Singing training is never finished. Like life, it goes on.
When you are very young, you begin by learning the basics. You have to study for quite a while before you know what you don’t know. It doesn’t come with rules (although that would be nice). You have to keep going to find out if what you are being taught is what you need to learn. (Very often, it isn’t.) You have to have a high level of drive and commitment to the entire process unless you are very talented or very lucky and get by on your higher than average gifts and blessings.
When you are older, you have to contend with “higher education”. That has been addressed here many times. College training for singing runs the gamut from soup to nuts (not a pun) and the risk is real. After college, you must decide “what you will do with your training”. After all, you spent a lot of money and some considerable amount of time learning to be a very good singer, should you waste your efforts and stay at home? Another big decision.
Some go into education, some into choral conducting, maybe with an additional degree or two, some try to become professional singers locally and some few come to the big cities, maybe even to NYC or LA, and see if they can “break into” the music industry in one of its forms. Music Theater, opera, jazz, or rock music. There isn’t much by way of a folk scene at the highest levels or of country music other than that coming out of Nashville. There is a very big Christian music industry, but the standards aren’t very different there than outside the religious based world, and it isn’t really located in just one city.
Some people do get started and become professional singers, making their livings by standing up in front of audiences and singing. Mostly, they are invisible but respected. It could be that they are in the Ensemble on Broadway, or have professional “ringer” jobs as classical vocalists, or do “studio sessions” or go out on tours as back-up vocalists or some combination of all of these. Generally, even though there are jobs in these areas the number of people who only sing for a living is very very small. Again, if you have enough money to work for little or no pay you might have a career but not one that pays the rent. How many people are in that category?
The people who don’t make it or get tired of the hard work involved in keeping a career going without fame eventually have to face stopping. Where do they go? Back to school? To teaching? To another kind of work altogether? Yes to all of these options.
If you persevere, you might end up in middle age finding a way to get all of this to work and being content with your choices. You will still have to think about “upkeep” of your voice, though, because you need to sound at least decent in order to have some kind of credibility, if not with your students than with your colleagues. As the body ages, the voice follows. No longer are you striving to build your vocal skills, you are working to keep the ones you have so they do not deteriorate.
And, if you continue until you are in the category we kindly call “senior citizen” what you once took for granted is now a daily challenge. You return to wondering what this thing called singing really is, day to day, and what the overall outcome of your vocal decline will be when it finally catches up to you enough to take over. You remember well that you had to answer some of the same questions about “vocal skills” when you were a kid. The familiarity isn’t comforting.
And when you are in your “golden years” and you have lived a good long life, your voice will still be your traveling companion. How it works and what you can do with it could vary day by day or even hour by hour. You, your body and your voice, as lifetime partners, will be submersed in the adventure of discovering what works and how it works to sing in any form at all.
Your work with your voice is never finished until you are. When you are gone from this earth and your voice is silenced the sojourn will be over, but while you are alive your voice should never, can never be finished. It is always being its creative self. Don’t ever give up on it and it won’t give up on you!