How Do You Become a Music Therapist?

If you are interested in using music therapy and your artistic talents in a healthcare-related setting, you may be wondering how to become a music therapist to achieve this goal. Music therapy is a powerful career choice that offers musicians the opportunity to share music in life-changing ways with patients struggling with specific physical and personal challenges. At its core, music is used in a therapeutic way and helps individuals to overcome their current situations. Although some may consider a music therapy career as lucrative, this field boasts an impressive job placement rate, mainly due to the many hours of clinical internship opportunities often pursued. Job possibilities are diverse, and graduates can find employment in mental health institutions, nursing homes, hospitals, and schools.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

According to the American Music Therapy Association , the requirements needed to begin a successful practice in this field include a bachelor’s degree from an American Music Therapy Association-accredited college or university. There are more than 70 institutions in the U.S. that meet these qualifications, and the curriculum is typically concentrated on clinical areas of study as well as musical therapy. The diverse, intense program is critical to bridging the gap of the technical side of a scientific field of study with the artistic nature of music. Most bachelor’s degree programs require students to complete a minimum of 1,200 hours of clinical and internship experience.

Although a bachelor’s degree in music therapy is the preferred path of education for an aspiring music therapist, a student may also earn a bachelor’s degree in a related or different field and instead complete an alternative certification program. Also known as an equivalency program, this option provides a comparable course of study that can help to prepare a student for the board examination. However, students taking this path can expect to take an additional two years to earn their bachelor’s degree and three years for a graduate degree.

Is a Master’s Degree Required?

Although earning a master’s degree in music therapy is beneficial, doing so is not required to enter this profession. However, earning a specialized graduate degree will provide students with more specialized opportunities in branches of clinical practice areas as well as more career options such as university supervisory or teaching positions. Keep in mind that students earning a master’s degree will also need to complete additional clinical hours as well as research opportunities and hands-on experience in the field.

Is Certification Necessary?

Once an aspiring music therapist earns his or her bachelor’s degree, he or she may begin the process of becoming certified. Formerly known as the MT-BC, this honor is granted by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). Essentially, the program is the way by which clinic practice of the profession is standardized. It also gives professionals a point of reference to evaluate their work. Professional music therapists should consider three standards: the code of ethics, the standards of clinical practice, and the professional competencies. Each of these provides useful information for both established and beginning professionals as they strive to offer patients the best possible care.

Related Resource: How Do You Become a Clinical Mental Health Counselor?

Music therapists are a critical yet often unknown part of the healthcare system. Regardless of the path to certification that you choose in order to become a music therapist, this field offers an exciting opportunity for music therapists to use music in life-changing, dramatic ways.