Music Therapy Certification Guide

Music therapists work in hospitals, hospice centers, behavioral health facilities, and other health-related settings. They use music to help patients express themselves through singing, playing instruments, and dancing. Music therapy can help with physical rehabilitation, patient motivation, and emotional support.

Music therapy is a rewarding career for musicians also interested in healthcare. With diverse settings and client populations — including youth, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and hospital patients — music therapists choose from multiple career options and experience the opportunity to help people through difficult times.

Benefits of Certification

Music therapists must earn certification to practice. The only nationally recognized certification is the Board-Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC), granted by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).

MT-BC status ensures that music therapists can practice legally. It also assures that patients receive therapy from a qualified individual. While certified music therapists may use many techniques in their practice, they must uphold the standards of the CBMT and adhere to the organization's code of professional practice, along with its core values of quality, integrity, and professional commitment.

Music Therapy Certification Process

The CBMT is a nonprofit organization that oversees music therapy certification. To become certified, music therapists must demonstrate the necessary knowledge and skills to meet the organization's standard of excellence. The CBMT provides accountability and the assurance that music therapists meet core values of quality, integrity, and professional commitment.

To take the certification exam, music therapists must successfully complete all the requirements of a music therapy degree, including internships. In some states, music therapists must complete additional requirements before entering into practice.

Board-Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) Icon - Plus/Minus


$325 to take the examination, plus a yearly maintenance fee

Steps to Take

  1. Complete music therapy degree, including internship requirements, and submit transcripts to the CBMT office
  2. Apply to take the examination, and pay $325 examination fee
  3. When application is approved, schedule the examination, and on the appointed day, take the examination
  4. Receive a certificate. Candidates should check state guidelines for additional requirements. MT-BC credential-holders must renew every five years.

Provisional Registered Art Therapist (ATR-P) Icon - Plus/Minus


$60 application fee, plus a $25 yearly maintenance fee

Length of Time to Complete

Five years

Steps to Take

  1. Complete a minimum of 24 graduate semester credits (or 36 quarter credits) in art therapy core curriculum
  2. Complete a minimum of 18 semester credit hours (or 27 quarter credit hours) in studio art based courses
  3. Complete a minimum of 1,500 post-education hours of direct client contact and 150 hours of supervision with a board certified art therapist
  4. Apply online

Other Designations Icon - Plus/Minus

Currently, the National Music Therapy Registry (NMTR) recognizes three certifications other than the MT-BC, all of which the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) offers:

  • Registered Music Therapist (RMT)
  • Certified Music Therapist (CMT)
  • Advanced Certified Music Therapist (ACMT)

On January 1, 2020, however, the RMT, CMT, and ACMT certifications will no longer be recognized, and music therapists must pass the CBMT examination to obtain MT-BC status.

Though the AMTA's certifications represent advanced levels of practice and experience, the number of acronyms has caused confusion about the field of music therapy in general. Together, the AMTA and the CBMT aim to reduce confusion around music therapy certifications, simplifying licensure so that clients can better understand the profession. This change can also clarify music therapy designations for state governments and regulating organizations, employers, and the general public.


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