Music Therapy Ph.D. | Program Guide

Music therapy counselors use the power of playing, singing, writing, or listening to music to help patients with physical or emotional issues. Music therapists who want to remain on the cutting edge of the practice and develop new techniques can earn music therapy doctorates.

Read on to learn more about the opportunities that earning a doctoral degree in this field can provide.

Degree Snapshot
Time to Complete Internship/Practicum Component Can I Become a Music Therapist With This Degree?
3-7 Years Dependent on Program ✗*

*The American Music Therapy Association does not regulate Ph.D. programs.

Why Get a Ph.D. in Music Therapy?

While American Music Therapy Association (AMTA)-approved bachelor's and master's degrees allow professionals to work as music therapists, music therapy Ph.D. programs let candidates expand the field and teach new counselors.


Allows You to Research and Advance Music Therapy

Music therapy doctorates allow candidates to conduct research both during their programs and after graduation. These studies can move the music therapy field in new directions and help more people.

Prepares You to Train the Next Generation of Music Therapists

Many people who earn music therapy doctorates go on to work as professors. These educators train students to help more people through music therapy.

Example Courses in a Music Therapy Ph.D. Program

Many music therapy Ph.D. programs double as doctorates in music education. As such, curricula often include courses in both areas. Most programs assume some prerequisite knowledge and focus on research through courses in study design, statistical analysis, and interviewing in research settings. Music therapy doctorates tend to conclude in thesis projects in which candidates complete research and present their findings to faculty members. While individual courses vary, doctoral students may encounter some of the following courses.

  • Statistics for the Behavioral and Social Sciences

    In this course, students learn to understand the data they collect in music therapy research. They also learn how data collection and analysis in behavioral and social sciences differ from other disciplines.

  • Contemporary Music Therapy Theory

    During this course, learners discover some of the latest theories on how music can help people recover from physical and emotional disabilities. These theories help guide student research and push students to form their own ideas.

  • Theory Development in Music Medicine

    In this course, students learn how to examine studies, find emerging research, and develop theories around their findings. Students may also design studies to test their new theories.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Music Therapy?

Because the AMTA does not regulate music therapy Ph.D. programs, these programs aim to help licensed music therapists dig deeper into the topic. With music therapy doctorates in hand, graduates can conduct research that breaks new ground in the field. They can also work as professors, training up-and-coming music therapists. Some Ph.D. graduates also continue to work with clients.

Career Advancement in Music Therapy

Join A Research University or Organization

Research does not stop once candidates earn their music therapy Ph.D. Postdoctoral fellowships at research organizations and universities allow professionals to continue researching the effects of music in therapeutic settings. These fellows receive stipends and research budgets to conduct studies for their organizations.

Join A Professional Organization

Professional organizations can help graduates create professional networks, complete continuing education, and find jobs. The following organizations can help music therapists advance their careers.

  • American Music Therapy Association This organization oversees music therapist licensure and educational requirements. Members can attend conferences, access a job board, enjoy exclusive publications, and list their practices on the AMTA website.
  • National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations This organization welcomes all counselors who use creative arts to heal others, including music therapists. Members enjoy access to conferences, a job board, grant opportunities, and research.
  • World Federation of Music Therapy This international organization welcomes students and practicing music therapists alike. Members gain access to resource centers that provide job opportunities, continuing education, and volunteer opportunities.
  • International Society for Music Education Because many music therapy doctorates double as music education degrees, this organization can help graduates. Members attend international conferences, receive free copies of peer-reviewed journals, submit work for publication, and attend professional networking events.
  • Musicians Without Borders This organization seeks to use music to make social change. Music therapists can find volunteer opportunities, make connections that allow them to work with the public, and continue to put their musical skills to work for the greater good.
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