Music therapy degrees prepare students to work in professions where sound is used to improve the quality of the lives of children and adults. So what is music therapy? What are the benefits of music therapy? Music therapy is the use of music by allied health professionals to promote healing for their patients and also to enhance their quality of life. Music therapy is used to promote social interaction, encourage emotional expression, and relieve health symptoms. Music therapists use active or passive methods with their patients. Students who attend music therapy programs including music therapy certification and music therapy masters programs learn how to use their talents and apply them to the growing field of medical therapies, including both psychological and physical therapies. Some therapists also work with children and adults who have learning and cognitive disabilities, such as autism and aspergers.
Music Therapy Education and Training
Graduate from music therapy degree programs can expect to learn about composition, sound, and science within the scope of healing and helping people lead more fulfilling lives. The music therapy equivalency program is designed for those students who hold a first degree in an area other than music therapy and wish to work toward a professional music therapy certification as a music therapist.
Students who wish to work in this field must complete a fully accredited program as part of their music therapy studies that has been approved by the appropriate institution. In the United States, for example, the program must be approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).
Students are also typically required to participate in a clinical internship prior to graduation as part of their music therapy training. Music therapy courses may also focus on: Music Improvisation, Visual Production, Audio Production, Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) Applications, and Music Composition.
Students who enroll in these programs can expect to take a wide range of courses relating to both science and sound. Some of the courses that students will take include music theory, performance, and composition. Students may also specialize in a specific medium, such as guitar, piano, violin, or even computer based production. Schools are increasingly teaching styles outside of classical performance, such as rap, hip-hop, electronica, and rock. In addition, depending on the level of study, music therapy courses may include:
- Psychology of Music
- Music and Exceptional Children
- Behavior Modification
- Music in Special Education
At the graduate level, music therapy degrees students will also be required to take a range of science courses. These include psychology, biology, social science, and behavioral science. They will also need to complete courses about disabilities and psychoacoustics.
Music Therapy Careers
In order to work as a practicing therapist, students will also have to complete the certification exam prior to or after graduation. The exam is administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).
Graduates with music therapy degrees can work in a wide range of settings. Many people go onto working in hospitals, schools, prisons, and psychiatric facilities as therapists. Others may work in community centers, private practices, universities, and training centers. However, a graduate level degree is usually required to work in a university or training center.
Since music therapy degrees offers students comprehensive musical training, they may also pursue careers outside of the medical industry. Some graduates choose to become performers and composers. Others may continue their education and apply for teaching positions.The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that recreational therapists work in settings that include:
- Nursing care facilities
- Hospitals and rehabilition centers
- Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals
- Community care facilities for the elderly
- Individual, family, community, and vocational services
Estimated Income and Projected Career Outlook
The average salary for a music therapist is between $46,000 and $53,000. The salary can vary broadly, from $25,000 for new graduates to $200,000 for experienced music therapists. The salary of each therapist is highly dependent upon which type of institution the therapist works in and its location. People who work within the public sector, such as for schools or prisons, tend to earn more than those who work within the private sector. The BLS reports that Recreational Therapists earned an average of $39,410 in 2010 with a range of $24,640 to $62,670.
Graduates with advanced music therapy degrees can expect to be paid more than those with undergraduate training only. However, as this form of therapy becomes more widely accepted, job growth may experience a significant increase. Job growth for people who hold music therapy degrees is not particularly optimistic. Job growth in this area is slow but for rehabilitation therapists, the employment of recreational therapists is expected to grow by 17% between 2010 and 2020.