Music therapy is the continually evolving practice of using music in therapeutic ways to help a variety of people. It isn’t just used for people who are mentally ill, but may have a broad range of applications for ill people of all kinds. Those who work in this field can have numerous degrees, including bachelor and master degrees. Some programs are available at the PhD level, though these are rare. What is most important for those people who would like to get a music therapy degree is to find an accredited program that will allow them to practice what they’ve learned.
There are different credentialing agencies in each country. The United States has the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), and Canada has the Canadian Association for Music Therapy, for instance. Those considering getting a music therapy degree should check with their country association first, to see what schools the association approves. It doesn’t make sense to get a degree in this field if it won’t allow students to practice what they’ve learned.
Even in relatively populous countries, there may not be that many music therapy programs. The US has less than 100 approved by the AMTA. Knowing the locations of schools lets people know where they might live while pursuing a degree, and what might be the costs. Each school also has different programs and requirements, but most people entering this field must have musical skills. Most school programs require musical proficiency or “talent” and students are likely to need this in any jobs they take as a music therapist.
The majority of music therapists will first get a music therapy degree at the undergraduate level, which will allow them to go to work as a music therapist. Beyond musical talent, those applying to a BA program are best off if they have good all around high school grades and reasonable college entrance exam scores. Bachelor programs usually last about four years. In the US, when students have complete coursework at a school approved by the AMTA, they can take a national examination and become a music therapist-board certified (MT-BC).
Though most countries do not require people to get a music therapy degree at the master’s level, some schools do have this advanced degree for those students who want to study further. As mentioned, there are few doctorate programs in this discipline. Most students who want to get a master’s degree must hold a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, or they must complete any coursework required of the bachelor degree student before being accepted to a master’s program. This may vary by school program, and students can look at individual requirements to see which ones apply.
The master’s music therapy degree might be useful for those students with a degree in either psychology or music who want to practice as music therapists. Some schools will admit students who haven’t completed coursework in music therapy on a provisional basis. They might need to take a year of classes to fulfill bachelor degree requirements prior to studying at the master’s level. Alternately, students with a different degree might just complete the requirements needed to fulfill a second bachelor’s degree, and thus have the training they need to practice in this field.