How To Become a Music Therapist

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Last updated: July 24, 2020

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Music Therapists
plan, organize, or direct medically prescribed music therapy activities designed to positively influence patients' psychological or behavioral status.

Salary: $50640
Degree: Bachelor's degree
Personality: The Artist

Summary

Degree levelBachelor's degree
Degree fieldMusic Therapy
License or certificationYou need the Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC) credential. You also often need licensing or certification in the state where you plan to practice.
Duration to become one5 years
Difficulty to become one

Hard

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Music Therapists Requirements

Step 1: Take Music Classes in High School

Music Therapy revolves around the use of music as a therapy aid, requiring musical ability and knowledge. Aspiring Music Therapists should start their music background before graduating from High School. Consider enrolling in a Band or Orchestra to learn how to play one or more musical instruments.

Psychology and Social Sciences are also major components of the Music Therapy curriculum. If advanced classes on these topics are available at your school, you can gain additional preparation for a degree in Music Therapy.

The university or college that you go on to attend will also have specific admission requirements for their Music Therapy programs. The requirements vary, but you typically need to meet the minimum GPA requirements. At schools where Music Therapy is a high-demand major, you may also need to demonstrate your music performance skills.

Step 2: Enroll in an AMTA-Approved Music Therapy Program

Music Therapists need to complete an approved Music Therapy program from an accredited university or college. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) develops the curriculum standards for these programs. There are currently about 70 AMTA-approved programs in the United States.

The curriculum for Music Therapy programs includes 44 credits, with core classes in music and liberal arts. Courses include music, biology, social sciences, psychology, and physiology. You learn how to complete client assessments and use music therapy strategies to aid treatments.

In some cases, you first need to gain acceptance to the university’s school of music, which involves music performance skills exams during the first year of undergraduate enrollment. After passing the exam and meeting the GPA requirements, you may apply for acceptance into the university’s Music Therapy program.

The program is completed while earning the necessary credits for a Bachelor’s Degree. A Music Therapy degree includes four or more years of college curriculum and 1200 hours of clinical training. During the clinical training portion of the program, students typically complete internships at clinics that offer Music Therapy.

If you already have a Bachelor’s Degree in Music, Psychology, or a field related to Music Therapy, you may complete a Music Therapy equivalency program.

Music Therapy equivalency programs require you to complete the coursework and clinical training without obtaining a second undergraduate degree. However, they do not require four more years of education. Graduate students typically complete equivalency programs in one or two years.

Both the standard Music Therapy Bachelor’s Degree program and the equivalency program allow you to continue your education with a Master’s Degree in Music Therapy.

Step 3: Pass the National Certification Exam for Music Therapists

After completing an AMTA-approved Music Therapy program and earning a Bachelor’s Degree, you can sit for the national certification exam. The exam is administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).

You cannot apply to take the exam until you complete your internship and the requirements for the Music Therapy degree. The CBMT exam includes 150 multiple choice questions and is completed at approved testing sites.

The CBMT recommends that you complete a self-assessment examination (SAE) test. The web-based test helps identify your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to determine which areas you need to work on.

When you pass the exam, you gain the Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC) credential, which allows you to call yourself a Certified Music Therapist in most states.

Step 4: Determine If You Need State Licensure

Along with the MT-BC credential, Music Therapists often need licensing or certification in the state where they plan to practice. In the states where licensing or certification is needed, you may need to earn the MT-BC credential before applying.

Some states have their own licensing boards that handle the application process. You typically need to submit relevant documents to prove your credentials. No testing is required beyond the CBMT exam. However, you should still review the Music Therapy requirements in the state where you plan to seek employment.

Step 5: Seek Employment as a Music Therapist

With the MT-BC credential and required licensing in your state, you can start looking for Music Therapist job listings. Common employers include clinics that specialize in Music Therapy. You may also seek employment at hospitals, schools, assisted living facilities, and mental health facilities that offer Music Therapy treatments.

Many Music Therapy graduates find employment at the clinics where they complete their internships. Job placement for recent graduates is extremely high. For example, Western Michigan University has maintained close to a 100% job placement rate within three months of graduation.

In the past few years, demand for Music Therapists has increased in major cities throughout the country. However, some markets may still provide limited employment options. For those that struggle to find employment after graduation, consider looking for opportunities in other cities.

Step 6: Continue Your Education to Increase Your Career Prospects

After landing a job as a Music Therapist, continuing your education may lead to additional career opportunities. For example, obtaining a Master’s Degree in Music Therapy may help you find managerial or supervisory positions at clinics.

Master’s programs help expand your knowledge of Music Therapy practices. Students often explore the latest research on Music Therapy. Additional courses cover neuroscience, music composition, and the historic foundations of Music Therapy.

Step 7: Join the American Music Therapy Association

As with many other careers, Music Therapists have their own professional organization that offers networking opportunities and resources. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) is also responsible for establishing the academic criteria for Music Therapy programs.

Members of the AMTA receive access to job referrals, hotlines, and documents to help Music Therapists with their careers. You can also find the latest publications to increase your education and remain aware of the latest developments in Music Therapy.

What degree do most Music Therapists have

Bachelor’s degree

We did a survey to ask other Music Therapists what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

Bachelor’s degree
75%


Master’s degree
12.5%


Post Baccalaureate certificate
10.71%


How long does it take to become a Music Therapist

5 years

Becoming a Music Therapist requires the completion of a Bachelor’s degree through a Music Therapy program, which typically takes four years to complete. After graduation, you need to pass the national exam to become certified as a Music Therapist. You can then apply for jobs in the field. This entire process may take five years, depending on how quickly you find employment after graduation.



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