Becoming a Music Therapist

Becoming a music therapist is not as simple as majoring in music and minoring in psychology or vice-versa. Some professionals say a minor in psychology can be beneficial for entering the field. However, a student with a major in psychology and minor in music is not eligible to sit for the certification exam.

by Caitlin Peterkin

“A bachelor’s degree in psychology or music that is not music therapy or that is offered by a school not accredited in music therapy does not prepare a student for the professional practice of music therapy,” says Dr. Cathy McKinney, Music Therapy Program Director at Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music.

According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), curriculum for a music therapy degree includes coursework in music therapy, psychology, music, biological, social and behavioral sciences, disabling conditions, and general studies. Piano, guitar, and vocal proficiency are expected and are the most frequently used in therapy.

Students in a music therapy program also receive clinical experience outside of the classroom, typically partnering with on-campus clinics or facilities serving individuals with special needs in the community.

So do I need a master’s degree?

Most experts say that currently, a master’s degree in music therapy is not necessary if you earned your bachelor’s in music therapy.

Lalene Kay, director of the Cleveland Music Therapy Consortium (consisting of Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, The College of Wooster, and Cleveland State University), says there are some hospitals and facilities that prefer master’s-level training for supervisory and manager-level positions. “Some music therapists will consider graduate work and explore a master’s in music therapy,” she adds, “or look to other areas to strengthen their skills, knowledge and abilities in a population-specific focus such as Master’s in Social Work, Communication Disorders, Child Life, Gerontology, Neuroscience, Psychology, Counseling, Early Childhood Education, to name a few.”

Others believe advance training in music therapy is now more important than ever, particularly to become more competitive in the market. “The American Music Therapy Association is in the process of determining whether or not to require a minimum of a master’s degree,” says Dr. William Davis, director of the undergraduate program in music therapy at Colorado State University and chair and director of graduate studies in music for the department. “This is likely to happen within the next 10 years or so.”

Dr. Darlene Brooks, director of music therapy at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, believes students should consider a master’s degree shortly after their internship. “The bachelor’s degree serves as an excellent foundation for the young music therapist to work with clients in a general way,” she says. “The needs of clients extend beyond what the bachelor’s music therapist can provide, and the master’s degree is needed in order to understand the depth and breadth of practice.”

What if I already got my degree in another area of music or a different field altogether but I want to enter music therapy?

The AMTA says that students who have earned a degree in a non-music therapy field may complete the degree equivalency program in music therapy offered by most accredited universities. Brian Wilson, director of the music therapy program at Western Michigan University’s School of Music, says that most schools’ equivalency programs take about two years, and many also offer a music therapy equivalency plus master’s program, which can typically take three years.

Dr. Feilin Hsiao, associate professor of music therapy at the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music, encourages students who have earned a non-music degree to complete music prerequisite courses first. These include music theory, music history, conducting, and piano, guitar, and vocal proficiency.

At Colorado State University, Davis says it is common to enter a graduate-equivalency program in music therapy with another degree in music. He estimates 90% of the graduate students who enter CSU’s program have a degree in music other than music therapy.

What employment opportunities are available for music therapists?

Students who earn a degree from an accredited music therapy program have numerous opportunities to practice. Program directors say their graduates have accepted jobs in a variety of settings, including:

  • hospitals
  • schools
  • mental health facilities
  • assisted living facilities

Because of most programs’ internship and clinical requirements, students are able to obtain employment before or soon after earning their degree.

According to Wilson, Western Michigan University has had an almost 100% placement rate within three months of graduation for the past several years, and other schools seem to be reporting similar findings.

Baldwin Wallace has seen its graduates find employment at many major cities around the country. “We have recent alums working with community programs which service adults with developmental disabilities, autism and severe/profound physical and neurological disorders in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, as well as hospice programs in Maryland and Cleveland,” says Kay. “Most recently, an employed alum was hired by the agency in San Diego where she completed her six-month internship. She now heads a new program she helped pilot during her internship.”

What are some challenges music therapists face?

Many professionals acknowledge that a general lack of awareness and understanding of the field is the biggest challenge. This can lead to new graduates struggling to find jobs, particularly in parts of the country where music therapy is less well-known. “The larger metropolitan areas are where the majority of the full-time jobs are,” says Davis. “Those in areas outside of cities sometimes have to create their own positions or set up a private practice.”

Another challenge, according to Brooks, is the number of clients music therapists are expected to see in a given day. “Once facilities recognize the value of music therapy, they want all of their clients to have the service,” she says. “Balancing that request with good treatment is a challenge.”

The field is also ever-changing and rapidly developing because of new uses of music, the emergence of new populations in need, and more specific applications of music therapy interventions. McKinney says that music therapy for premature infants in neonatal intensive care is a good example of how the field has evolved.

“As recently as 15 years ago, there was very little literature in this area and few music therapists in NICUs,” she says. “Now there are at least three books on the subject, a growing research base that has shown the cost-effectiveness as well as precautions and contraindications, and an increasing number of NICUs seeking to hire music therapists who have expertise in this area.”


Caitlin Peterkin is a graduate of Indiana University, where she earned a B.A. in Journalism and a Minor in Music. She is program manager at Earshot Jazz in Seattle.

Comments

  1. Hannah

    I heard about the music therapy field a few months ago, and I have been doing a lot of research since then. I’ve played piano for nine years and guitar for four and a half, and I’m looking at taking voice lessons someday. I really feel like this is something I want to do someday 🙂 I only have one concern. . . Does a person generally have to take a lot of psychology classes to become a music therapist? I’ve read that that’s a rather big part of it, and I’m not so sure psychology itself is something I’m interested in (from what I’ve studied on psychology in the past). I’d imagine it depends a great deal on the school too; is that true? Thanks in advance for your advice 🙂 .

    • Every school accredited by the American Music Therapy Association has a somewhat similar curriculum and, yes, it includes classes in psychology. That said, it is not preparing you to become a counselor or psychologist and psychology is only one of the required areas of study. Click on the names of the schools listed on the side of the article you wrote in from, or any other school where you’d be interested in studying music therapy. Look at their required music therapy courses by going to the “Majors Offered” link. That’s the most direct way to see what you’d actually be doing as a music therapy major.

  2. Tina

    Hi, I’m a senior in high school and i had some questions hopefully you can help answer. I’m looking into becoming a musical child therapist but i’m not sure on the requirements i need. i know i at least need a bachelors in music therapy but I’m also told i need some kind of degree (not sure what) in Psychology, music, Biological, Social and Behavioral sciences, Disability’s, General study’s, an a Child care certificate. Any information would be most appreciated, thank you

    • Read additional articles on MajoringInMusic.com about music therapy to learn more about this profession. You’ll see that music therapy majors take classes in exactly what the American Music Therapy Association has deemed necessary to be able to work effectively in this profession. We also recommend that you look at schools that offer music therapy as a major (you can see a number of them right on the article you wrote in from). Check out the required courses on their websites to see the classes you’d be taking. A master’s in music therapy may open additional doors for employment, but there are additional degrees in other fields required for this profession.

  3. Drew

    I am currently a Junior in high school and I would like to major in music therapy. Ther are no affordable nor close colleges near me that offer Music Therapy as a major itself. Would I be able to get a bachelors degree in music education and a minor in psychology and then go to a graduate school to earn a master’s or a doctoral degree in music therapy? Or would it best to major in music itself? Thank you for your time.

    • With an undergraduate degree in a field of music OTHER THAN music therapy, you could enter music therapy by taking the Equivalency Program that many schools with music therapy programs offer. Some of these lead to a master’s degree in music therapy, which opens up more employment options. Read this article to learn more:

      http://majoringinmusic.com/equivalency-program-in-music-therapy/

      We’ve not seen music therapy schools stipulate that an undergraduate degree has to be in a specific area of music, but do check at schools where you might see yourself taking the Equivalency Program. And actually, a bachelor’s in Music Education, if you are interested in teaching, will also open up employment doors.

  4. Miguel

    I want to be a music therapist but my college does not offer the program. I was planning on majoring in psychology with a minor in music and them pursuing a graduate music therapy program. Is this even a possibility for me. I have a lot of experience in music from being in choir since the 6th grade and singing in my college choirs. I just need help knowing what steps I need to take to make sure I am going on the right path.

    • Most schools we’ve talked with want you to major in some area of music if not music therapy in order to go on to become a music therapist. The Equivalency Program is for designed for students who majored in music but not music therapy (we have an article on that on MajoringInMusic.com). We have heard there are a few schools that will allow really strong musicians who did not major in some area of music into their Equivalency Programs. You could visit the website of the American Music Therapy Association and then contact them to see if they know which schools will allow you to do that if you consider yourself a very strong musician already. If you do this, please let them know MajoringInMusic.com referred you. But no, without an undergraduate degree in music therapy or an Equivalency Program, you would not be able to enter a master’s degree program in this field.

  5. Nicole

    Do you have to read music to get into a music therapy program? I thought it was part of the curriculum but some colleges have a test on it as part of the audition. If I can’t read it, will I automatically not get into the program that has the test? Thanks.

    • At every school we know of, applying for a music therapy program includes auditioning on your primary instrument. Schools tell us they like to see that you have some ability in sight reading and a basic understanding of music theory at the time of the audition. Becoming more proficient in both are expected as you move through any college-level music program. If you don’t currently read music at all or have any background in music theory, we urge you to start learning right away. Summer music programs can help, private teachers can help, apps can help.

  6. Kaitlyn

    I want to become a musical therapist ever since I was in seventh grade. What courses in high school can I take now that can prepare me for college courses besides choir (I’m already enrolled in that course). Also, I really have no idea of which colleges would help me reach my goal effectively, and at a relatively quick rate. I have been hoping to go to BYU, but if that school wouldn’t be able to get me there, then which one will. I am a junior right now and I don’t have a lot of time before I have to make some pretty heavy decisions about my future. Any and all advice on this front, whether negative or positive, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!

    • We suggest you read ALL of the music therapy articles on MajoringInMusic.com to get a better sense about this career. Familiarize yourself with the American Music Therapy Association linked in all of the articles. You’ll also see that schools with music therapy programs that participate on MajoringInMusic.com are listed on these articles. Visit their websites and look at the audition requirements as well as the classes you would take as a music therapy major. You’ll see that you’ll need to pass proficiency exams in voice, guitar, and piano before graduating, so getting started in at least one of these now would be helpful. You’ll also be working with specific populations so getting some experiences volunteering with any of the populations mentioned in the articles will give you useful insights.

  7. Alayna

    Thank you so much for being so considerate and replying to everyone’s questions on here, that’s so thoughtful of you. I am about to begin my senior year of high school as well as my first year of running start at a local community college. I am also planning on taking a second year of running start classes after I graduate high school. I am looking to get a bachelor’s degree in music therapy at a 4 year college/university, and I am unsure of how I’m going to do that if I end up taking a second year of community college. The community college I’m attending offers a couple degrees that I might be able to pursue, like an A.A or A.F.A. I don’t know if the credits will transfer over properly if I want to get a bachelor’s in music therapy. Will the credits transfer over? What would you recommend I do? Thank you so much, I appreciate your help.

  8. Liv

    I have wanted to be a music therapist since high school. Unfortunately for me, I have committed to a school that does not offer music therapy as a possible major, so instead, I applied majoring in music education. I also plan on minoring in psychology. Do you think this is a good idea? I’m not sure what courses to enroll in that would be suitable for my major, and whether or not minoring in psychology would be beneficial, as you said music therapy is its own course. What do I do? Thank you for your time.

    • Read our article on Equivalency Programs for music majors who did not major in music therapy. This is the way into that profession. A Music Ed degree with a psychology minor will be a good entry and set you up well for the Equivalency Program especially if you can get proficient on keyboards, voice, and guitar – which are all required for music therapy.

  9. Alecia

    How in depth would each course in Music Therapy be? I know that the performance aspect would obviously be much less than that of a performance major, but are there still concerts and performance requirements for the program? Is it going to be basic theory, playing, psychology etc or a lot of work in each?

    • We suggest you look at the required music therapy curriculum at schools you’re interested in applying to. You can start by checking schools listed on every music therapy article on MajoringInMusic.com. You’re right, the focus is not just on becoming a top notch performer. You’ll see that you’ll take music classes (applied lessons, ensembles, music theory, aural skills, music history, and more); you’ll be required to meet set standards on guitar, keyboards, and voice; and you’ll take some psychology, natural science, and gen ed courses. It’s a rigorous program. You’ll also take a clinical internship where you get to apply everything you’ve learned, before you graduate.

  10. Hailee

    I see that this question was kind of asked by Em earlier, but would it be a wiser choice to go to a school with a music program that is famous with many students in it, or one with a lesser known program and less students. Is there an obvious difference in the programs run or is it more of an experience? One of my top colleges is a college known for pre med, so does that mean that there won’t be many music students and I will feel alone in the program? Thank you so much for answering all these questions informatively and honestly, I’ve read all questions and answers and they are so helpful.

    • Find out how many students are in the music therapy program at the school you’re thinking of. If this information isn’t available on their website, and they participate on MajoringInMusic.com, ask your questions directly on the form on that school’s participating page on our site. Otherwise, call the Admission office for answers.

      As for finding the best fit school, we reiterate the importance of coming up with a list of criteria, to the best of your ability, about what you need in order to thrive. Include criteria that are school-related but also social environment and extracurricular offerings. Then, look for schools that offer music therapy and use their websites to see if they seem to meet your criteria. After that, come up with a list of questions to ask those schools to help you figure out which ones to zoom in on and hopefully visit, including options for clinical internships and employment successes of recent graduates, etc.

  11. Caralynn

    I have been reading various audition requirements and from my understanding, many auditions include piano, voice, guitar and primary instrument. How much preparation is necessary for these auditions? Does it take years of experience or just a couple months of practice?

    • The more competitive a school is, the longer those who apply and audition have studied their instruments and have prepared for their auditions. Find a good teacher to work with – one who is experienced in helping students prepare for auditions. And be sure to check the application and audition requirements at schools you’re considering. Note that many schools require pre-screens in order to determine who they’ll offer an audition spot to.

  12. Em

    I’m going to be a junior in high school and have begun looking at colleges to major in music therapy. Should I be looking at colleges with a well-known, large music program or schools with a smaller music program? Is it easier to get into a school with a smaller music program? Or is it better to go to a school where many students are in music programs? Some schools I’ve been looking at have large populations of business or science students, but also a music therapy program, and I don’t know if that’s good or not.

    • You will do best at a school that fits you; the kind of environment that will support your growth and goals. Take the time to figure out what that means for you and create your own list of criteria. Use this article, “10 Considerations for Visiting Music Schools” for guidance. For music therapy in particular, you’ll want to check out the clinical internship options at the various schools you consider.

    • Every school is so different. And some of them talk about student:teacher ratios right on their websites. Others don’t. So we suggest you look first at the websites of schools with music therapy programs that you’re interested in attending. You can find a number of them on MajoringInMusic.com. If the information isn’t available in the schools’ music therapy links, then contact the schools directly.

      You can use the forms on participating school pages on MajoringinMusic.com to ask questions of any of the participating schools with music therapy programs on this website. We’ll make sure those questions get right to our contacts at those schools.

  13. Sydney

    I am going into my junior year of high school and have been researching schools to major in music therapy. I’ve played the piano since third grade and the clarinet since fourth grade, but have no knowledge of guitar and limited voice skills. Many audition processes require auditions on piano, guitar and voice. How in depth are these portions of the audition? What sort of training/practicing should I start? Also, should I stick to schools in my home state (NY), in terms of the licensing? I’ve been looking at some other east coast state schools but I’m not sure if the certification would be a problem when returning to NY.

    • You will need to demonstrate piano, guitar and voice proficiency before graduating in music therapy, but you will audition on your primary instrument. You will take classes on the instruments you are not yet proficient on. Music therapy credentials are granted through the American Music Therapy Association. See this page to learn more about the certification process for becoming a professional music therapist: Music Therapy Requirements

  14. Dan

    Hey, I’m a Junior, about to become a Senior in high school and I’ve finally decided I want to become a Music Therapist. I’m very advanced in Guitar. I started playing when I was 5 and took private lessons for about four years starting when I was 13. I’ve played live shows singing and performing a few times. I play piano as well and started at the age of 14 and now started taking private piano lessons and it has been about three months and I’ve already become a somewhat advanced player. I also am an advanced Ukulele player and Drummer. I have a standard GPA of about 3.5/4. I’ve been looking around trying to figure out which Major and Minor classes to take while becoming an undergraduate looking for a BA degree to start out with. ive narrowed my choices down to two colleges I’d like to go to and wanted to try to enroll in one within the next 7 months.

    • If you are looking for a major in order to become a music therapist, the most straightforward path is to go to a school that offers music therapy as an actual major. Otherwise, your best bet is to major in music and once you graduate, find a school where you can take an Equivalency Program to get the classes necessary to prepare for the music therapy credentialing exams. Read our article on Equivalency Programs here and also see schools we work with that offer music therapy as a major.

  15. Kayleigh

    I am a freshman in highschool and I was wondering what classes to take. I go to a small school so there are not many options. I am in Band and have been for 4 years. My school does not offer music theory. I can play a little piano and can somewhat song but I do not play guitar. Thoughts?

    • You’ll need to audition for a music therapy program so now’s the time to figure out which instrument you’re going to want to audition on. Start taking lessons and practice a lot. Note that if accepted to a music therapy program, you’ll also need to become proficient enough on piano, guitar, and voice to pass required exams (college classes in these instruments will be offered). As for theory – some background in music theory before college is always helpful. See if a music teacher can help you start learning the basics.

  16. Amy

    Hi, I’m a high school sophomore. I’m in a performing arts program as a vocalist, so I can sing pretty well. I can sight read, although I do acknowledge that I need to practice. I’ve taken almost two years of Music Theory. I can play the piano at a beginner level (I struggle to play with both hands, but I know enough to use in my theory class) and I’m learning to play the guitar now, also at the beginner level.

    I’m going to try to get private piano lessons during the summer and buy myself a guitar so I can give myself lessons instead of depending on the school guitars. Also, since the performing arts program helps with music internships, I’m looking to see if I can get an internship with a music therapist.

    Is there anything else you would recommend for me to do?

    (Also, I just wanted to say that I was incredibly happy to see how you answer everyone’s comments here. Being able to depend on getting a response is so reassuring. Thank you for all the time you put into this, I really appreciate your thoroughness.)

    • We’re impressed that you have taken the time to learn what it takes to become a music therapist, and are as far along as you are in moving in that direction. You show passion and commitment. If you’re able to get an internship, you’ll gain great insight into this career field. You might also be able to find a music therapist who will allow you to shadow them for a day. Note that any school you apply to will want you to audition on your primary instrument. If that’s voice, be sure to continue with lessons, practice, performing. You might also consider a summer music program at a school where you’re interested in applying. While you won’t study music therapy, you will learn a lot about the school and their faculty, and they’ll learn about you as well. Check our Summer Music Camps & Programs section for possibilities.

  17. Lillian

    I’m currently a freshman (going on sophomore) in highschool and was wondering what highschool classes would help prepare me for going into music therapy. I am currently enrolled in band and music theory and animal science courses, along with biology. I don’t have room for any choral courses or I would take them. Thanks!

    • You’ll eventually need piano, voice, and guitar skills in order to become a certified music therapist. So as soon as you can start learning at least one, it will be helpful. You’ll be auditioning on your primary instrument whether it’s one of these or not, so keep up with lessons, practice, and performing on that one. Great to hear that you’ve started in on music theory. That will definitely help you once you get to college.

      Any opportunities you can find to shadow a music therapist as well as work with one or more of the populations that are more likely to use music therapy will also serve you in understanding the field you want to work in. That will also help you be taken more seriously by the schools you apply to.

      Read all the articles on MajoringInMusic.com about music therapy. If any of the schools we work with are schools you’d be interested in applying to, use the forms on their pages to ask specific questions about those schools after reading about their music therapy programs. Schools really like to hear from prospective students – it shows them you are a serious applicant.

  18. Renae

    I am a sophomore in high school and I am very interested in becoming a music therapist. I have played the piano since I was four years old (I am now 16), I am an agile singer, and I will be learning the guitar this summer. I was wondering if there are any math and science courses required for a degree in Music Therapy. I have taken Physical Science and Algebra I and I will be taking Biology and Geometry I this coming year. Are there any other courses in high school I will need to be accepted in to the program? Thanks! 🙂

    • Check the student handbooks of any of the schools you’re interested in, to see the kinds of classes you’ll be taking as a music therapist. Your focus will be on passing the voice, piano and guitar proficiencies; music theory, aural skills, music history and other musicianship classes; and internship experience. You will also take classes in biology, psychology, social and behavioral sciences, and general education classes.

      As a high school student, getting some music theory background, getting strong on your major instrument to prepare for your audition, shadowing a music therapist if you can, and getting experience working with children and other populations you might work with as a music therapist would all be quite useful.

  19. Andrew

    I’m currently about it finish my junior year in high school, and I’m hoping to major in Music Therapy. I’ve been playing Guitar, Mandolin, and Bass for about 5 years, and am just now starting to sing a little bit. I have no experience in classical guitar playing but know a good teacher who can help me out if need be. What can I start doing now to help prepare myself for auditions/interviews this coming fall and spring? Thanks!

    • Piano, guitar, and vocal proficiency are required for music therapy majors. The more you know before you go, the better. But you’ll also have the opportunity to take classes in each to prepare you to take proficiency exams in each area. Classical guitar in itself is not required.

      We have a number of audition articles on MajoringInMusic.com as well as this one: “Prepare to be a College Music Major” that are all worth taking time to read. Then check the audition requirements at any of the schools you’re interested in attending, so that you can start getting your audition repertoire ready.

      We highly recommend summer music programs to anyone considering majoring in any area of music. They provide wonderful opportunities to hone your skills, work with mentors, learn about specific music schools, and much more. There are still many openings in programs on our Summer Music Camps & Programs page.

  20. Shania

    I am junior in highschool and I played flute all three years in middle school l. I stopped in highschool due to mandatory marching band. I still play my flute and plan on taking a guitar class my senior year. I have a younger sister with autism and loves musical therapy so I want to get a degree for it also. I love helping others like her and music, but I’m unsure of my ability to get into a college such as Temple University.

    • We suggest that you go back to the article, and click on the schools you see on the right side of the page (Temple is one of them). You’ll be directed to their school pages on MajoringInMusic.com. On the right side of the participating school pages, you’ll see links to their application and audition information. See what’s required. Then, if you still have questions, use the forms on any of the schools’ participating pages on MajoringInMusic.com (left side of the page). Ask any specific questions you have about their music therapy programs.

      If auditions are your concern, take a summer music program where you can get back into flute and start preparing yourself for auditions. See this: 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs to get started. It would also be helpful to work with a private teacher as soon as possible and in the fall as you start preparing to apply and audition. Look for someone who has a good track record in preparing students for successful auditions. Perhaps your music teacher at school could suggest someone.

      You have a wonderful career goal ahead of you and we hope you’ll find a school to support you in moving forward. Do also read this article about music therapy with children on the autism spectrum: Music Therapy for Children with Autism: A Rewarding Career Path.

  21. Stephanie

    I´m going on my second semester of senior year in high school. I am planning to go to a 4 year locally but they do not offer this degree. I just found out about this career path and I am very interested. The University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music offers a degree in music therapy. Is my best option to go to my planed university and then transfer?

  22. J.C.

    I am a freshman in college. I have participated in music (Band) throughout my life. I play a number of wind instruments, but flute is my primary instrument. I have a huge desire to help people and believe music therapy would allow me to link my passion to play music with my passion to help others. My concern is that I am not a guitar player or piano player and I am not a singer. I’ve always played wind instruments. Should this concern keep me from looking further and even at possibly transferring schools?

    • Yes, you would have to take classes to become proficient enough on piano, guitar, and voice to pass the proficiency exams necessary for becoming a music therapist. Take a look at the requirements and the classes offered at schools you would consider attending for music therapy. Also take a look at the Equivalency Program article on our website – if you don’t major in music therapy but major in another area of music, this is another way to approach music therapy. But you’ll still need guitar, voice, and keyboard proficiency. Also look for this article on our website: Therapeutic Music: Is This Your Calling? It is not to be confused with music therapy, but it is a way for a musician to use music for healing.

  23. Renee

    I am currently a nursing student but I would like to switch my major to music therapy. I have no music background but I do love music. I think this would be a better fit for me but I don’t know where to start. I also don’t want to go through schooling and then have a hard time finding a job. Any advice on what I could do or what my first step should be?

    • Read ALL of our articles on music therapy and then check out schools on our website that offer music therapy programs to get a realistic sense of what it takes to
      successfully apply and audition. You’ll see that a background in music is essential to enter this field and become credentialed in it.

  24. Hannah

    I am very interested in music therapy. I have had this vision in my head for a while. I have been playing percussion for eleven years now. Do I need to be proficient in percussion? Will I need guitar and piano lessons to go with what I already know?

    • Please read all of the music therapy articles on MajoringInMusic.com to learn more about this wonderful profession. You’ll learn that you’ll need piano, voice and guitar to become a credentialed music therapist.

  25. Lizzy

    I’m a sophomore in high school, and I have been taking piano for 4 years. I’m in my school chamber choir, and I’ve been in choirs, and musicals for years. I’ve also taken 2 years of voice lessons and am currently taking right now. I am self taught on guitar, and I play a variety other of string instruments also self taught. What does it mean to be “proficient on the guitar?” I’ve got the hang of piano, and singing, but I don’t know what more I should be learning on guitar on the meantime. Thank you!

    • You will need to be proficient on guitar, singing, and piano by the time you’re ready to graduate from a music therapy program in order to pass required exams and receive your music therapy credentials. Check out the required curriculum at music therapy schools to see that you’ll receive preparation as a music therapy undergraduate on all three. Also check out the application and audition requirements to see what you need to be prepared for by the time you reach your senior year.

    • Look at schools listed on this article, for starters. Check their application and audition requirements. Contact any you have questions about by using the forms on their pages on MajoringInMusic.com.

  26. Lisseth

    I am currently a freahman in a community college, majoring in music for vocals. Would I have to change my major to become a music therapist?

    • You would need to transfer to a 4-year school offering music therapy, or major in another area of music and then take the equivalency program (another couple of years) to qualify. Since voice, guitar, and keyboards are all required for music therapy, being a vocal major at this time will be helpful. Be sure to check carefully the websites of schools you may transfer to in order to insure that you’re taking the right classes at community college. See this article for guidelines.

  27. Maddison

    I am currently a sophomore in high school. I am really interested in psychology yet I still want to do something with instrumental music (I have been playing the flute for about 6 and a half years). I am not looking into vocal music at all. Would music therapy still be a good path for me?

    • Music therapy could be a great fit for you. Be sure to read all the other articles on MajoringInMusic.com to learn more about this wonderful profession. Note that you’ll need to become proficient enough on keyboards, voice, and guitar to pass the exams required to become a music therapist. Learning some piano technique as soon as possible will be helpful if you do pursue music therapy as well as any other area of music.

  28. Paul

    I have graduate and law degrees. I will soon be retiring in two years and I am seriously considering becoming a music therapist. I am also a graduate of LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts in NYC. I am proficient on the violin, drums, and the piano, but I haven’t yet figured out how to play the guitar even with two years worth of lessons. Will this be a problem for me?

    • Please read the MajoringInMusic.com article, Equivalency Program in Music Therapy, which details how to become a music therapist if you did not receive an undergraduate degree in music therapy. Note that you will be required to pass proficiency exams in voice, piano, and guitar in order to become certified in music therapy, and that as a part of any music therapy program you would need to take classes to prepare to meet the proficiency levels required.

  29. Krystal

    I have a BME degree (instrumental-piano major) and psychology minor. I have taught Music Ed K-12 (including directing both bands and choirs for over twenty years in the school systems). I have a TDI therapy dog and have recently become a certified Hospice Volunteer at the local hospital. I am interested in a career change as a music therapist. Are there any programs that include TDI dogs? I am looking for advice on how best to pursue this avenue. Also, with my education and background do I need to attend a program for two years or are there other options that would be within @one year? I live in Michigan. Would the online programs be my best choice?

  30. Nicholas

    I am currently a freshman in college and a Psychology major. I am thinking of switching to Music Education, but I would like to work as a Music Therapist as well. Either way, I am open to any suggestions you may have and would like any advice.

    • Stay tuned for our upcoming article on music therapy Equivalency Programs. These are programs that bridge the gap between the music therapy curriculum and the undergraduate music curriculum not in music therapy. Most music therapy programs that offer the Equivalency Program want you to have an undergraduate degree in music (music ed will work); some will admit students who have a music minor. Since all music therapy programs are different, you’ll have to check each program out individually.

  31. Caroline

    I am a high school senior, and I am thinking about becoming a music therapist. Would you recommend being proficient in guitar, piano, and vocal before starting college?
    Thanks.

    • To graduate as a music therapist, you will need to pass proficiency exams on piano, guitar, and voice. But focus now on preparing for your audition on your primary instrument to get accepted. Once your auditions are over, it will serve you well to start working on at least one of the three music therapy instruments, knowing that you will also have lessons in college to ready you for the proficiency exams.

  32. V.J.

    I am getting closer to graduating with a degree in Music Performance and a Studio Art Minor. I’m starting to realize maybe I would like to be a part of music and/or art therapy. Is there any way for me to accomplish this as a career?

    • Yes. Look at schools with Music Therapy Equivalency Programs – you can start by clicking on the schools on the side of this page and reading about what they offer. Also, read our other articles to get even more familiar with this wonderful career field.

  33. Angela

    I am a Junior Music Therapy Major. I am very interested in working in a NICU upon graduating with my bachelors, I was wondering if there was any certification or masters program that could help give me a boost into that specific field of work? Or any way to gain experience in that specific area in the meantime.

  34. Faith

    I’m a senior in high school planning on studying music. I would love to teach piano to people with special needs and I’m interested in music therapy. A BA in Music Therapy is not offered at the college I am hoping to attend. Would getting a BA in music with piano as my main instrument and taking courses outside my major to help me in entering a music therapy equivalency program (perhaps taking voice, guitar, psychology, anatomy and biology?) or getting a BM in piano pedagogy be better? Are there ways to teach special needs people without a specific therapy or behaviorist degree? Can you enter an equivalency program in music therapy WHILE getting a bachelors or do you have to wait until completing a bachelors? Thank you!

    • Music therapy does not have teaching piano or any other instrument as its end goal. Read more articles on this website about music therapy to discover what it does qualify you to do. Talk with special education programs about your interest as well as the piano pedagogy program you’ve mentioned. As for questions about music therapy, a BA in music or a BM in piano pedagogy should both satisfy the requirement for applying to music therapy equivalency programs. Look at the schools on the side of this article for starters, and check their application information. You must have a bachelor’s degree to be considered for the equivalency program.

  35. Luis

    I recently received a Bachelors degree in Theatre and Communication arts and am looking into equivalency programs for music therapy. Knowing that I did not major in either psychology or music, is my best option to go into an undergraduate Music Therapy program? Or, since I have already completed my Gen ed credits, could I simply take psychology and music courses to then apply and complete for an equivalency program? Also, what would you consider to be the best option for me in this case?

    • The music therapy equivalency programs we’re aware of require you to have an undergraduate degree in an area of music. However, it never hurts to discuss your situation with administrators of programs you’re interested in. They may be able to give more specific guidance.

  36. Elizabeth

    I’m currently finishing my bachelors degree in psychology and want to attend graduate school for music therapy! I was wondering if there are any schools that offer graduate programs online? Maybe even doctorate level programs? Thanks for the help!

    • Read articles on MajoringInMusic.com and you’ll see that music therapy programs expect you to have a bachelor’s degree in music therapy or some area of music in order to move forward. For those with a bachelor’s in an area of music other than music therapy, there are equivalency programs to bring you up to speed. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is the only online equivalency program we’re aware of.

  37. Seif

    I’ve graduated with a psychology B.A from France, and now I’m pursuing my studies with a clinical psychology MSc. program.
    I play guitar with passion, self-taught and never studied anything relevant to the musical field: What should I do then to become a music therapist?

  38. Vrushali

    I am currently pursuing my integrated Masters degree in the Pure sciences in a recognized institute in India and will acquire a Masters in Neuroscience degree 3 years from now. I have learnt Indian Classical music and also do know techniques of Western Vocals and the piano. Music is an ardent passion of mine and I pursue it on a regular basis. Without having a professional degree in Music or Psychology, how do I go towards the Music therapy field thereafter?

    • You would have to check the admission requirements at any schools you’d be interested in attending. Our understanding is that you must have at least an undergraduate degree or the equivalent in any area of music to be able to take the Equivalency Program in Music Therapy.

  39. Akshita

    Hi! I’m doing my bachelors in psychology and I really want to pursue music therapy! I’m learning to play the guitar but I don’t have a singing voice. Am I eligible for a degree in music therapy or is voice proficiency mandatory??

    • You’ll need to pass a vocal proficiency test (as well as tests on keyboards and guitar) to get credentialed as a music therapist. Most music therapy schools offer a 2-year Equivalency Program for those with a bachelor’s degree in music who want to become music therapists. These are often tied in to master’s programs. Check with music therapy schools you’d be interested in attending to see if you’d have to take the full 4-year undergraduate program in music therapy.

  40. Emily

    I am a sophomore in college and am currently majoring in psychology at a community college. I have a passion for music and a passion for health & wellness, so I thought music therapy would be a great career path for me. However, the university I have had my heart set on does not have a music therapy program. Would double majoring in psychology and music theory in undergrad and then completing a music therapy program at a university that offers it for graduate school be a good way to go? Or could I double major in psychology and music theory and then enter a music therapy school? Are there schools just for music therapy? Advice?

    • Most music therapy schools offer an Equivalency Program for people who have majored in music but not music therapy as an undergraduate. These programs are often tied in to a master’s degree and may take about 2 years. So getting a bachelor’s degree in music theory would be good; you could minor in psychology if double majoring proves to be too much. Read all of our music therapy articles (including the comments) to learn more.

    • A lot depends on your credentials (Bachelor’s? Master’s?) and where you work. But check the website of the American Music Therapy Association for more specific information.

  41. Emilee

    I am currently finishing my junior year of high school, and I ultimately want to become a music therapist. However, only one of the colleges I’m looking at offers an undergraduate music therapy program, and I don’t feel that it’s the best fit for me as a school. I am aware that if I major in a non-music therapy, music-related field in my undergrad studies I could be eligible to take a degree equivalency program in grad school, and have already decided to minor in Psychology and possibly Geriatric Health in addition to the music major. I’m really stuck on which music major to choose, though. Would a Vocal Performance major best prepare me for a degree equivalency program, or would a General Music major be best?

    • Sounds like you’ve done your research. Since you’ll need to audition, plan to focus on whatever you can audition strongest with. Look at required courses for both majors – what appeals most to you? Note that you will have to pass proficiencies in voice, keyboards and guitar before getting credentialed as a music therapist.

  42. alexis

    I want to be an musical therapist. I love helping people but need more help with the music. What things can I do to get there, what college should I choose, how long will it take .

    • You’ll find answers to all of your questions by reading the articles about music therapy on MajoringInMusic.com – in fact, they’re all listed on the article you sent your comment from, as are schools we work with that offer music therapy programs. The American Music Therapy Association is also linked there as well, and you can find more information on their website.

  43. wendy

    I’m a sophomore in college and I was planning on majoring in psychology and minoring in music. I was hoping to get a Master’s in music therapy at Illinois state . Would I be able eligible?

    • Music therapy has more of a music emphasis than a psychology emphasis, with required proficiencies in voice, piano, and guitar. You may find that there are numerous classes you’ll have to take before being able to enter a graduate program in music therapy. Look at the Master of Music in Music Therapy information on Illinois State’s website. Then contact the school directly.

  44. Joe

    I received a bachelors in music from a SUNY conservatory and then received my masters in music education from teachers college. I’ve taught k-5 elementary music at a public charter school for the past 5 years. I’m looking to learn more about music therapy as well as professional opportunities to share music with others!

    • We suggest you read all of the articles on MajoringInMusic.com about music therapy to learn more about careers in this field as well as how to enter music therapy with a music degree other than music therapy. Check out programs listed on the right side of each article. A few of these offer online music therapy programs as well – take a look at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and Colorado State U. by clicking on their links.

  45. April

    I am a high school senior this year and I am going to a college that does not offer a major in Music Therapy. In fact there are no schools in my state that offer a major in Music Therapy. Therefore I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Music. Will it still be possible for me to become a music therapist when I am able to attend a school that has an actual Music Therapy program seeing as this has been my goal since the seventh grade?

    • It really depends on the school you apply to. You can start by checking participating schools on MajoringInMusic.com that offer music therapy, to see whether the combination of major and minor you describe will prepare you for their Equivalency Programs. Feel free to use the forms on their participating school pages to ask them your questions.

  46. Judy

    I’m really interested in taking up music therapy as a degree. I’ve been learning the piano since young and now I hold a diploma (dipLCM) in piano. I’m a senior in high school and I’m from Singapore. I dont know how to play the guitar yet but I want to learn the guitar after my high school graduating exams in november this year. I have 10 months of holidays before I attend university next year fall. Im going to use the time to develop my guitar skills. I havent really sang in public before but I think I have an acceptable singing voice and I’m planning to practise my singing by serving in church. Im also volunteering at a school for children with special needs (particularly autism) on a weekly basis for over a year. Do you think my proficiency in piano is enough to be accepted into a university that offers a bachelor’s degree in music therapy?

    • To gain entry into a music therapy program, you will need to audition on an instrument (or voice) just like any prospective music major. If accepted, lessons on guitar, piano, and voice are included in the curriculum, but it’s helpful to know at least one (which you do) before starting the program. You will need to be proficient enough on all three by end of the program in order to pass the proficiency exams required to become a credentialed music therapist (at least that’s the way it works in the U.S.).

  47. A.J. G.

    Hello! I’ve done my research, I’m going to see a music therapist in my area within this month and I am a senior in high school who has been accepted to Temple University for Music Therapy as well as a couple other schools. I really want to go to Temple and I asked about their program from the people themselves but I really still don’t know. I just feel like there’s still not enough I know about their program but does anyone on this site have experience with the Temple Music Therapy program and can directly vouch for it?

    • We hope others will speak up, too. In the meantime, we can tell you that Temple’s music therapy programs are well-established, and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). Music therapists including the program director have been wonderful about contributing to articles on our website to help prospective music therapists get a good sense of what the field is about. When we referred a family with a child on the autism spectrum to one of their recent graduates, the parents and child were really happy with the therapist’s skills, manner, and professionalism.

      • A.J. G.

        Thank you very much! I am nearly convinced that Temple is where I will take my education. I just wanted some confirmation from other sources. It is my dream school, and I am very excited to study this unique area of music.

  48. nallely

    I am currently taking music classes at a community college in Southern California. I am confused on what classes to take to obtain a degree in music therapy? Can I major in music and get a degree in Music Therapy as a masters?

    • If you don’t get a music therapy degree as an undergraduate but instead major in some other area of music, you can take an equivalency program in music therapy. Many of the schools with music therapy programs do offer this. It typically takes 1 1/2 – 2 years, and it prepares you to go on into a master’s degree program in music therapy. We suggest you read the other music therapy articles on MajoringInMusic.com to learn more.

  49. Mallory

    Can I do a voice performance degree with a psychology minor in preparation for graduate school for music therapy?

    • If you don’t major in music therapy, you will need to take the equivalency program most schools with music therapy programs offer. Having a degree in voice performance and a minor in psychology will set you up well for taking an equivalency program. Some of these programs are combined with master’s programs. But every school is different. Check out the application/audition requirements at some of the schools you might want to go to for music therapy. You’ll see that voice proficiency is one of the requirements for getting a degree in music therapy. So are guitar and keyboard proficiency.

  50. Mallory

    I am a health studies major with a minor in voice performance. However, I am deeply considering switching my major because I want to pursue a music therapy career. Should I major in voice performance and do a psychology minor or should I double major with both voice performance and psychology? Obviously after my undergraduate I would pursue a school with a music therapy program. Thank you for your help!

    • An undergraduate degree in a non-music therapy field of music will prepare you to take the equivalency program (typically 2 years, sometimes paired with a master’s degree) offers by most schools with music therapy programs. So whether you minor in psychology or double major shouldn’t matter as much as your grades and whether you have the required background to apply. Check the websites of music therapy schools you’d be interested in attending, to see what that would entail. You’ll see that an audition for the equivalency program is required, and may include accompanying yourself singing on piano and guitar.

  51. Kara

    I’m an eighth grader and trying to look into my future. I’ve always had a love for music, since I’ve been singing for three years, made it into state-wide choirs, been studying piano for a few months, and took violin lessons from the age of 4-9. Do I need to learn guitar to be a music therapist, or can i substitute guitar with violin? If I need to learn guitar, when should I start? Can I have just a simple understanding of keys and note reading, or do I need to be an expert?

    • Wow, you are really thinking ahead! Yes, you will need to be proficient enough on guitar – as well as voice and piano – to become a credentialed music therapist. Classes in all three areas are included in the college music therapy curriculum. You can check the audition requirements of different music therapy programs to get a sense of what you’ll need to prepare by the time you are a senior in high school and getting ready for auditions. You’ll see that an audition on your main instrument plus an interview with music therapy faculty is required at most schools.

  52. Alex

    I am currently a sophomore in high school and am looking at a music therapy career. I was wondering if there were classes I could take next year that would benefit and increase my chances of majoring in music therapy in college. I am already planning on taking AP music theory and AP Psychology. Also what schools that offer music therapy as a major are on the east coast?

    • You will need to become proficient on guitar, voice, and keyboards before you can become a music therapist. If you are not already studying at least one of these, now’s the time to begin. See if you can find a local music therapist to talk with, and if possible, to shadow for a day. Getting as much insight into this profession will be invaluable.

  53. Alexandra

    I’m a junior living in Austin, Texas. I play guitar, piano, sing, and feel like I have found my career niche. Living in Texas, I wanted to know what college encompassed the best musical therapy program. Also what minor would compliment a musical therapy major? Thank you-

    • You’ve chosen a wonderful profession to pursue! We do not rank schools because we strongly believe that it’s essential to consider which schools to apply to based on your criteria for “right fit.” We have several articles on MajoringInMusic.com that address this; check “Which Music School is Best for Me?” to get started.

      If you’re committed to staying in Texas to get your undergraduate degree in music therapy, you can visit the American Music Therapy’s website to find out about the schools in your state that offer music therapy. Whether you would be able to minor in another field in conjunction with music therapy really depends on the school you choose. The music therapy curriculum is already chock full of music, psychology, internships, and other classes required to get a degree, and you’ll be needing to pass proficiency tests in voice, piano, and guitar as well.

  54. Taryn

    I am a junior in high school looking at my options for college. I would like to major in music therapy, but the university I was planning on going to doesn’t offer it as a major (BYU Provo). I was thinking I could go there for two years to get my gen eds and perhaps major in music and minor in psychology, then transfer over to Temple University in Philly to finish up the classes required specifically for that? Would that work, or should I take a different route? Thanks so much!

    • Every music therapy program is a little different, so we suggest you use the form on Temple Boyer College of Music & Dance’s participating school page on this website to ask your questions directly to them. Read the other music therapy articles on MajoringInMusic.com to also learn about the Equivalency program that most music therapy programs offer. Remember that you will need to pass proficiency tests in voice, guitar and piano to become a music therapist, so it’s a good idea to start lessons on at least one of those now. Let us know how it goes!

  55. Tiffany

    I am completing my bachelor degree in music education and I I want to pursue a degree and career in music therapy. What is the next step I should take?

    • Look at the schools on this list to start with, and click to see their requirements for their Equivalency Programs. Use the forms on the left side of their participating school pages on this site to ask any specific questions about their programs that would help you decide whether any are the right fit for you. You’ll also see that some have Equivalency distance programs available.

  56. Morgan

    I am very interested in becoming a music therapist, but my school does not offer that program. Without switching schools, what is my best option to major in to be qualified?

    • A music or music-related field will prepare you to take the Equivalency Program offered by most schools with music therapy programs. Read more about this in our music therapy articles.

  57. HaEun Kim

    Is there any other degree I can get rather than Music Therapy to become a music therapist? Do I have to do a equivalency program if I major in psychology?

    • Most equivalency programs require a music-related bachelor’s degree. Look at requirements at specific schools you may be interested in. Remember that you’ll need to be proficient in voice, guitar, and piano to become a credentialed music therapist.

    • Most schools say that an undergraduate degree in music or a music-related field will qualify you. However, we suggest you pose your question directly to any schools where you might be interested in taking the equivalency program. Schools may differ in their approach. Also, they may suggest you take some specific classes as an undergraduate, especially since you’ll need to pass proficiency exams in voice, guitar and keyboards to become a credentialed music therapist.

  58. Mark

    I’m pursuing my degree in BA Music and Minor in psychology. How will I combine these two program to become a music therapist?
    Thank you

    • Check out schools with music therapy programs that offer equivalency programs. This will help prevent having to get another bachelor’s degree. Equivalency programs typically take two years.

      Start by looking at the schools participating on MajoringInMusic.com and feel free to ask them specific questions about their programs by filling out the forms right on their pages. Save them — and yourself — time by reading about their programs first.

We Invite Your Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *