How Do You Become a Music Therapist?

Quick Degree Finder
Sponsored Schools

There are certain things you need to understand and do before you become a music therapist. One important thing you need to know is that music therapy is far much different from a typical career in music. Professionals in music therapy combine psychology and music to address physical, psychological and social needs of individuals. A career in music therapy offers various challenges, distinctive rewards and opportunities. Here is a roundup of the steps you need to take to become a music therapist.

Acquire the Right Education and Training

You will need at least a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from a college or university recognized by the American Music Therapy Organization (AMTA). A bachelor’s degree program has courses such as music theory, psychology, disabilities and behavioral sciences. You will also take classes in music foundation, human development, musical instruments, vocal proficiency and therapy. The degree program usually takes between three and four years to complete. You may also have to go for internship during your final year to gain experience. The internship period ranges from six to nine months.

Get Certified

You need to get a professional certificate from the Certification Board of Music Therapists (CBMT) to practice in the US. A certification not only allows you to practice, but it also increases your employment opportunities and opens more doors for career growth. You will have to take an exam to test how well you understand the principles of music therapy before you acquire certification. There is a list of revision materials you can use to prepare for the exam on the CBMT’s website. Some of the things you might want to revise before the exam include music therapy codes of ethics, music theory, guitar codes and structure, music therapy methods and types of music.

It is a good idea to take the certification exam immediately you complete your internship program when things are still fresh in your memory. The test is administered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. Those who pass are considered Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC).

Understand Your Scope of Practice

It is helpful to know your scope of practice. The American Music Therapy Association provides a document created and approved by their organization and  the Certification Board for Music Therapists to help explain more of the scope. This document will act as a guide when serving your clients. It outlines the range of skills, abilities and experience music therapists need to practice effectively, safely and ethically. It also defines the potential for harm by those who do not have formal music therapy training and describes the education, clinical training and board certification requirements for aspiring therapists.

Find Employment

Start your search for employment by applying for a position at the place where you completed your internship. Most companies prefer to absorb their interns to save them the cost of hiring and training new employees. You can also look for places that need music therapists. This could be medical hospitals, senior centers, mental health facilities, schools or rehabilitation centers. The demand for music therapy is increasing, as many individuals begin to see its benefits. You will most likely get a job within the first two months after earning your certification.

Related Resource: 5 Great Books for Music Therapists

The benefits of music therapy on people’s social, psychological and physical well-being have made it a number-one medical alternative. This has increased the demand for music therapists significantly. The steps discussed above will give you the guidelines on how to become a music therapist and succeed in your practice.