Music Therapy Degree

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What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a process by which individuals obtain treatment for ailments, both mental and physical, through the use of music. Various methods are employed, such as composition, improvisation, listening and discussion, to engage the patient and utilize music as a central theme of that session.

The use of music to provide therapeutic treatment has been advanced greatly over the years, providing methods for emotional and physical recuperation. Music therapists will work through hospitals, schools, clinics and other locations that provide therapy and assistance.

Music Therapy Degrees

For students considering earning a degree in music therapy, it is vital to your success to understand the span of degree options.  Below you will find a summary of undergraduate and graduate degree programs.  We have organized this resource page to ensure prospective students can quickly reach out to accredited colleges and universities in a centralized fashion.

To be efficient with your time, collect information from a number of schools offering degrees in music therapy before narrowing your list.  Degree programs in music therapy include bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees.

Music Therapy Bachelor's Degrees

A bachelor degree in music therapy is a 4-year program for full-time students and longer for part-time students.  Degrees are conferred as either a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) depending on the program emphasis.  Bachelor degrees in music therapy fuse liberal arts education such as history, philosophy, communications, and sociology with core curriculum.

Core classes in music therapy programs will vary from college to college but will include classes such as: applied music, classical piano, guitar repertory, classical voice, sightseeing, music theory, world music cultures, technology in music, conducting, drumming, non-verbal communication, psychology, music recreation techniques, psychology of music, developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, human exceptionality, music in special education, and anatomy.  At the completion of the program, students in the BA and BS program will have a capstone course and internship.

Music Therapy Master's Degrees

Master’s degrees in music therapy are generally 2 year programs for full-time students.  Graduate degrees at this level are conferred as a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Music (MM), or Master of Science (MS).  Programs focus on developing deep insights into music therapy with an emphasis on theory and research.

Courses in a master’s degree program will include variations of the following: music in counseling, music in special education, applied music assessment, medical music therapy, advanced therapy, grant writing, behavior health counseling, psychology of music, classical guitar, behavior modification, technology in therapy, nonverbal communication, perception of music, drumming, ensembles, guitar repertoire, descriptive research, and arts in medicine.  Master degrees will frequently culminate with a thesis project intended to advance the field of study.

Music Therapy PhD Degree

Doctorate degrees in music therapy are conferred as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at most universities.  PhD programs will take 3-5 years to complete on a full-time basis and longer for part-time students to complete.  Research-latent doctorate programs are constructed to extend the knowledge in the field through research and residency programs.

The doctorate degree prepares students for a career in teaching, research, or jobs in industry of all types.  Students can find themselves working for small non-profit organizations, public institutions, or government agencies in leadership or administrative positions.

Music Therapy Requirements

Students interested in music therapy must obtain at least a bachelor's degree, though master's and doctoral degrees are also available and preferred. Equivalency programs are also available for bachelor's degree holders in majors that are not music therapy. Such programs will allow the individual to fill in missing courses in order to become a music therapist.

Music therapy combines knowledge of music and therapy as well as other fields. Once a program is completed a supervised internship is required, followed by the passing of the national certification exam.

Students enrolled in a music therapy program will learn about music in a variety of forms combined with various therapies used to rehabilitate patients and the various mental or physical issues that may be treated through such therapies. Students will be exposed to a variety of instruments, developing a nominal understanding of how they are used.

Additionally, the ability to compose and to teach notation and composition will be explored. Courses in psychology and physiology will also be explored, providing the therapist with the knowledge necessary to treat patients.  Specialized courses in the application of music therapy will also be provided, both through theory and observed practice.  Courses that may be offered in a music therapy curriculum:

  • Music Theory
  • Music History
  • Composition
  • Foundations of Therapy
  • Methods of Therapy
  • Psychology

Employment & Music Therapy Careers

Job opportunities are expected to grow for music therapists over the coming years. As various therapies begin to become more commonplace and the developmental role of music therapy expands there will be an increased need for qualified individuals. Music therapists work in clinics, hospitals, at homes or in special offices.

A music therapist's work begins prior to encountering the patient through research and review of the patient's profile. A music therapist must be engaging and patient, and willing to work with patients of all ages.

The average salary of a music therapist is approximately $58,000 per year. Salary is based on experience and education, with professional who may demonstrate success over time earning more. Higher levels of education also allow for higher pay rates.

Resources for Music Therapists

Individuals interested in music therapy may also be interested in art therapy, dance therapy, or occupational therapy.  The AMTAS and MTA are national associations for music therapists providing unique member benefits and professional growth opportunities.

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Related Areas of Study

Career Summary: Music therapy Major




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