This guide provides an overview of a typical bachelor's in music therapy program. Earning a bachelor's degree prepares students to sit for the board certification exam and is essential to launching a career as a music therapist. Read on to learn more about degree programs, career resources, and the benefits of working as a music therapist.
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Why Get a Bachelor's Degree in Music Therapy?
A bachelor's in music therapy builds the skills students need to launch rewarding careers in music therapy. This section details a few of the main benefits of earning a music therapy degree and working in music therapy.
Enables You To Become a Music Therapist
A bachelor's degree in music therapy is the minimum educational requirement to practice as a music therapist. Earning a degree also prepares individuals to sit for the certification exam, which most employers require.
Allows You to Wield Your Passion for Music To Help Others
The opportunity to pursue a career in helping people while also incorporating your artistic passion is rare. While challenging, careers in music therapy can be very fulfilling and may lead to high job satisfaction.
Prepares You to Succeed in Both the Music and Counseling Fields
Individuals pursuing a bachelor's degree in music therapy learn many of the same foundational skills acquired in a general counseling degree. Graduates of music therapy programs can still use concepts learned in their degrees if they eventually pursue a career as another type of counselor. The music skills are also helpful if graduates end up pursuing music full time.
Example Courses in a Music Therapy Bachelor's Program
A bachelor's degree in music therapy develops entry-level competencies in counseling theories and techniques. Most programs also incorporate general education courses in English and math and include major-specific classes, such as music theory, composition, music history, and the psychology of music. Most programs require students to complete 120 credits and a six-month internship at an approved medical facility to graduate.
Exact curriculum varies by program. However, to practice as a music therapist or qualify to take the certification exam through the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT), students must graduate from an American Music Therapy Association-approved (AMTA) program. Below are a few example courses you might encounter in a music therapy program.
Psychology of Music
This class explores the psychological, physiological, and sociological foundations of music and music therapy. Coursework teaches students how music influences behavior, perception, and learning and development and explores the psychomotor components of music behavior. The ability to understand how people process music is essential to effectively using music to treat patients.
This course develops an introductory-level knowledge of music theory. Students learn about pitch, scales, rhythm, and intervals. Professionals must understand these concepts to become competent music therapists. Some programs include a focus on theory for voice or specific instruments, such as piano or guitar.
A course in composition challenges students to create original pieces of music using music theory concepts. Throughout the course, students present their works in progress for feedback from classmates and the professor. A final performance of their piece is typically required to pass the course. Classes may also explore contemporary compositions and major works.
Music History and Literature
This course examines music from different genres and time periods, such as the Classical or Baroque eras. Common topics include popular literature and composers during each period. Coursework includes an overview of changes in musical composition and explores the historical context surrounding musical styles, theories, and techniques.
Introduction to Music Therapy
This class introduces students to the basic concepts of music therapy, including its benefits and techniques. The course explores how singing, playing, dancing, or listening to music may elicit varying patient responses. Students may also explore music therapy's relationship with other types of therapy.
Colleges typically earn either regional or national accreditation. To receive accreditation, universities submit the details of programs they offer to the appropriate accrediting agency. If programs meet standards, schools gain accreditation. Programs undergo periodic review to maintain that accreditation status.
Individuals must graduate from an accredited university offering an AMTA-approved program to qualify to work as a music therapist and sit for the certification examination through CBMT. AMTA is a great resource for finding qualifying programs.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Music Therapy?
Graduates with a bachelor's in music therapy qualify for entry-level positions. Music therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, nursing homes, and schools. A bachelor's degree also qualifies graduates to become board-certified therapists through CBMT. Earning a credential is required by most employers because it demonstrates competence in the skills necessary to work as a therapist.
Common Work Environments
- Private practices
- Senior or nursing homes
- Community health clinics
Career Advancement in Music Therapy
Earn Your Certification and License
In addition to earning a bachelor's degree, music therapists must obtain a music therapist - board certified (MT-BC) certification through CBMC. To qualify for the exam, individuals must graduate from programs approved by AMTA. The exam costs $325 and consists of 150 multiple choice questions. It is administered by computer at 200 assessment centers located throughout the nation.
Professionals must renew their MT-BC credentials every five years. To qualify for renewal, candidates must complete 100 recertification credits, which they must earn through CBMC-approved continuing education courses. Therapists should consult CBMC's recertification manual for specific details.
The following states require music therapists to possess additional state certifications:
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
To earn certification in these states, prospective therapists must submit an application, test scores, and proof of MT-BC certification. Fees and recertification requirements vary by state, so individuals should consult their state's governing agency for exact details.
Pursue a Master's or Ph.D. Program in Music Therapy
Pursuing a master's degree or Ph.D in music therapy may lead to career advancement opportunities. A master's program expands the depth and breadth of an individual's clinical skills and qualifies them to work as supervisors, administrators, or teachers. A doctorate program focuses on developing competency in research, theory, and development. This degree leads to academic careers as professors or in research to advance the field of music therapy.
Join A Professional Organization
Professional organizations offer members access to educational resources and industry-related journals or newsletters. Many host conferences or webinars, giving professionals the opportunity to network and learn about the latest industry trends.
- American Music Therapy Association AMTA focuses on advancing education, professional standards, training, and research for music therapy. It offers a variety of publications and continuing education courses, provides access to policy information, and hosts conferences throughout the year.
- Institute for Music and Neurologic Function IMNF is a nonprofit organization focused on advancing clinical music therapy treatment through research and education. It provides training opportunities and access to industry-related information for professionals seeking to expand their knowledge.
- International Society for Music Education ISME aims to advance the field of music therapy by promoting music education and maintaining a network of professionals around the world. It hosts an annual conference and publishes several journals covering the latest industry research.
- National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations NCCATA is a coalition of membership organizations committed to music, art, and drama therapies. It gives professionals access to research and industry publications and hosts conferences, which allow therapists to network and discover the latest industry trends.
- World Federation of Music Therapy A nonprofit organization committed to maintaining professional standards, promoting research, and providing up-to-date information on credentials and industry policies, WFMT provides access to educational resources, industry publications, events, and job boards.