Music Therapy Equivalency Program

Music Therapy Equivalency Program

If you didn’t major in music therapy as an undergrad, the music therapy equivalency program offered at many of the schools providing music therapy training allows you to gain the competencies necessary for becoming a certified music therapist. Since music therapy is often a profession that isn’t discovered until students are partway through college –– or even long afterwards — the equivalency program is designed to remedy the gap in training.

If you have a bachelor’s degree in music

According to the American Music Therapy Association, students complete “only the required coursework necessary to satisfy professional competencies in music therapy without necessarily earning a second baccalaureate degree. The equivalency program consists of all core music therapy courses at the undergraduate level, all clinical training requirements including the internship, plus any related coursework in science and psychology (i.e. anatomy, abnormal psychology, and other related courses).”

Note that students or graduates who received a BA instead of a BM in music may need to spend additional time taking music credits they’re missing.

If you do NOT have a bachelor’s degree in music

Many music therapy schools require an undergraduate degree in music to qualify for the music therapy equivalency program. There are some that will accept students with a degree in education or psychology plus a minor in music or a strong background in music. Since every school implements its music therapy program differently, make no assumptions. Check the AMTA website to see which schools will allow you to apply with your background.

Additional considerations

  • Some schools offer the equivalency program as a certification-only option, which means students won’t qualify for school-based financial aid.
  • The music therapy equivalency program is implemented in conjunction with a master’s-level music therapy degree program at a number of schools (“combined equivalency master’s”).
  • To get an idea of how your background compares to that of someone with a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, look at your transcript in comparison to the AMTA Professional Competencies.
  • After reading the websites of schools you’re interested in, if you are unsure about how to proceed, contact the program director of those schools. If those schools are on (see sidebar on this article), you can use the forms on their pages to ask your questions.
  • At the present time, only one school, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, offers a distance music therapy equivalency program; see more information in sidebar.
  • Most music therapy programs require an audition to qualify for the equivalency program.

These participating schools on offer music therapy programs:

Arizona State University School of Music
Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Baldwin Wallace University
Conservatory of Music

Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s, equivalency program

Belmont University School of Music
Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s, equivalency program

Berklee College of Music
Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s, equivalency program

Colorado State University
School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s, combined equivalency master’s, master’s, online master’s

East Carolina University School of Music
Music therapy program offered: bachelor’s

Florida State University College of Music
Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s, master’s, PhD., and equivalency programs

Mary Pappert School of Music, Duquesne University
Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s

Southern Methodist University
Meadows School of the Arts

Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s

Temple University
Boyer College of Music & Dance

Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s, combined equivalency master’s, master’s, Ph.D.

University of Miami Frost School of Music
Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate in music education with music therapy emphasis.

University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music
Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s, two-year MA (requires an undergraduate degree in Music Therapy or acceptable equivalent) and three-year + Internship MA (undergraduate degree in Psychology, Special Education or other acceptable equivalent plus a strong music background).

Valparaiso University
Music therapy programs offered: bachelor’s

Link Here for More Information
about Music Therapy


  1. Naej

    Hello I graduated with a Bachelor in Psychology and I am interested in the music psychology program. Will I have a harder time getting into a program because I didn’t major in music ?

    • In the U.S., the Equivalency Program acts as a bridge between what a non-music therapy music major learns and what a music therapy major learns. Look at the application requirements at schools with Equivalency Programs. You’ll see that an undergraduate degree in an area of music is required. Occasionally there are exceptions made by some schools for applicants who did not major in music but who have very strong backgrounds in music. Note that music therapy is more than music + psychology.

      You might find additional options here: Music for Comfort or Healing

  2. Kate

    I am part-way through getting my bachelors degree in nursing. Is there a program, or any other way to easily switch over to becoming a music therapist once I finish my bachelor’s degree?

    • You would either need to have an undergraduate degree in Music Therapy or have majored in another area of music and taken the Equivalency Program in order to qualify to become a music therapist.

      We encourage you to read this article to learn about other ways of using music for therapeutic and healing purposes: Music for Comfort or Healing.

  3. Melanie

    I’m currently a sophomore in college that is interested in pursing a career in music therapy. My primary instrument is not one of the instruments traditionally used in music therapy, but I have become interested in learning how to play piano and guitar. As for my vocal background, I participated in choir in elementary and middle school. The school I attend currently does not have a music therapy program, but I was thinking of majoring in music and minoring in psychology. I plan on attending graduate school eventually, but I was wondering what would I have to do to achieve this. Thank you!

    • If you major in music, you can take a music therapy equivalency program at schools that offer it. You can see several of these linked right on this article. A minor in psychology would be a great background for becoming a music therapist. All music therapy students must reach a required level of proficiency on guitar, keyboards, and voice in order to gain their music therapy credentials, regardless of their primary instrument. So getting some experience as you go through college will set you up well for when you graduate and take an equivalency program. Note that many of the equivalency programs do lead into a master’s degree.

  4. Grayson

    Hi, thank you for all the information here. I’m wondering, what courses would I have to take in order to get a music therapy certification? I hold a BME in music education, I’ve been a vocal music teacher for 5 years in the public schools, and I’m proficient on piano and guitar. Is there any way I could test out of some of the requirements?

    • Look at websites of schools you’d be interested in attending. View the required classes. Then contact the admissions director at those schools to see whether there are any classes you can exempt. Chances are you’ll be able to test out of the piano and guitar components.

  5. Chrystal

    I have been interested in music since the 1st grade and have been in choirs and singing programs ever since. I have graduated college with a B.L.S. in Music and Psychology. However, it was focused strictly on vocals. I am interested in becoming a music therapist. I read in your other articles that I would need to learn how to play at least a guitar and piano. I have access to teach myself both of them. My question is, in order to become a music therapist, do I need to be professionally taught both instruments or can I teach myself the instruments?

    • To become a music therapist, you will be required to demonstrate your proficiency in voice, keyboards and guitar. Music therapy programs including Equivalency Programs for those with a bachelor’s degree in an area of music other than music therapy, are geared toward helping you meet the necessary qualifications. The American Music Therapy Association spells out what they’re looking for under “AMTA Professional Competencies” on their website.

  6. Longy is delighted to collaborate with the Music for Healing and Transition Program™, Inc. this summer to offer an intensive, scientifically-based summer institute, through which musicians can become Certified Music Practitioners (CMPs)®. Students will gain in-person experience with teachers and medical professionals in the historic, cosmopolitan, and intellectually stimulating city of Cambridge – right across the river from Boston.

  7. Brianna

    I would like to finish my Bachelor’s in Music Education and am curious if there are any schools that do Bachelor’s in Music Therapy that have online courses? I’ve seen one that does the Master’s program online but no Bachelor’s as of yet.
    Please let me know!

  8. Shirley

    I am currently doing my undergrad majoring in family studies and minoring in music. What would be the best way to go about trying to get a masters in music therapy? Would it be possible?

    • Many schools will require you to have majored in music rather than minored in order to proceed with their Equivalency Program. Best thing to do is to look at websites of schools you’re interested in, check out their requirements for their Equivalency Programs, and then contact them directly if you don’t find the information you need. Also find out if there are classes you could take now or even when you graduate to be considered for their Equivalency Program.

  9. Allison

    Hello I’m a junior in high school. I’m interested in persuing a degree in Music Therapy through a equivalency program such as the University of Miami’s program. I want to get an undergraduate degree in Music Performance with a minor in Psychology. Is this is a good choice to become more proficient in music and guitar skills in order to take the board exam? Thanks.

    • If you know you want to be a music therapist, you could look for an undergraduate program that offers a major in music therapy. Look at the links on all of our music therapy articles to get started. But if you think you may also want to be a performer in addition to being a music therapist, the plan you have should work well for you. It could also open the door to other career options such as teaching music on the K-12 level (you’ll need to take a program offered by many universities to get the pedagogical training for this). If you do take an Equivalency Program after you graduate from your undergrad program, you’ll probably want to look for an Equivalency Program that leads to a master’s degree.

  10. Lisa

    I am very much dismayed at the requirements and stringent degree pre-requisites it now takes to “become” a music therapist. I have been a lifelong musician, and for years, have performed as a soloist and in groups, not needing to previously have a degree.

    I have previously taken college courses years ago in music theory and music business, and now I find out that in order to even be any kind of music practitioner you need the bachelors in Music Therapy at the very least. This not only costs over $40,000 but is tough when you’re older to travel daily to school without an online option there. I know my local college music therapy course here would be around $40-50,000, which is impossible for me to consider.

    I would appreciate your comments on this!

    • Music therapists must complete a comprehensive course of study in music, biology, psychology, and social and behavioral sciences. Regardless of their primary instrument, they must also become proficient enough on other instruments: singing, piano, guitar. These have been shown to be the most useful instruments in music therapy. And music therapists must be qualified to work with people with physical, emotional, cognitive, and social/behavioral problems and those who might be on the Autism Spectrum, have Alzheimer’s Disease, or are dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Music Therapy training is geared toward helping students become adept at working with these populations. You can learn more by viewing articles on this website and by visiting the website of the American Music Therapy Association. The training in Music Therapy also includes a lengthy internship. And you’re right – more often than not these days, a master’s in Music Therapy is required in order to work in a number of settings.

      Another option would be the Music for Healing and Transition work – you can learn more about therapeutic music here.

      • Rosie

        I would like to echo the sentiment that the requirements are very stringent. As a mature student at 50 I am back to the drawing board as to pre requisites for music therapy qualification. I was a Registered Nurse. For 15 years up to the birth of my third child. I have taught music together classes to 0-5 year olds for ten years. I have taken private singing lessons since the age of 16 and am in auditioned choral groups with singers who have masters in music, who teach music for a living. I took piano lessons to Grade 7 in the U.K. And teach both piano and singing privately. I am regretting not taking a music degree from the outset and wish my experience counted for credentials. I am going to take an undergrad, and wonder if an online degree in Psychology or in Human Development and Family Studies would be best to lead towards a potential degree in music therapy.

  11. Derek

    Hello and thank you for the info. I received my undergrad in multidisciplinary studies from Stony Brook University with concentrations in music, history and sociology (a few psych and education classes too).I currently write and perform music of different styles and have been largely focusing on electronic music production (which seems to have it’s own niche in the therapeutic community, binaural beats, meditative music, trance, etc.) I was wondering what courses/courses of action would be required to pursue a combined equivalency Masters degree in music therapy with my current background and skills. Perhaps a meeting with the head of the department/program? I imagine requirements vary based on the school. Any information would be helpful and much appreciated.

    • Start by looking at the schools we work with that are linked on this article. Check their application requirements. Some will require that you were a music major as an undergraduate. Others won’t. Use the forms on the participating school pages to ask the question you’ve asked us below. You can then visit the American Music Therapy Association’s website to look for other schools. And yes, a follow up with the music therapy department chair could be helpful but make sure you do your homework first by seeing what you can learn from their websites.

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