What is the Job of a Music Therapist?

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Written By Tanya

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Music therapy is not like other music careers. It doesn’t require recording soundtracks for movies or perfecting the acoustics of a theater.

Music therapy, on the other hand, requires that you work in small groups or one-on-one to provide therapy that aids people in healing and recovery.

Are you interested in learning more about music therapy? Find out how to become one and what degree is required. Continue reading for more information.

What does it mean to be a music therapist?

A music therapist is a recreational therapist that helps people with disabilities, injuries, and illnesses. These professionals need to have a degree in order to use evidence-based techniques to improve their clients’ lives.

Every music therapy session is different, depending on the therapist and the intervention they use. However, the overall goal of music therapy is to help people meet their specific goals in the areas that are physical, emotional and cognitive.

Music therapists can combine their love for music and love of people. Individuals of all abilities and ages can be worked with. You may work with people with severe disabilities or young children and their caregivers.

There are many different work environments. One possibility is that you have your own office where you work. Clients could be seen in your studio or home. You could also travel to different locations for group sessions at residential treatment sites.

You may also have the opportunity to work in a clinic or visit a nursing home.

Music therapists can work in daycares or schools, especially for those with disabilities. Music therapy is a great option for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other similar conditions.

What does a music therapist do?

Simply put, a music therapist uses music in order to engage and rehabilitate people with a variety of conditions.

Music therapy isn’t just about playing a CD to help a patient calm down. This is why therapists must develop a customized treatment plan to meet each patient’s individual needs.

This plan could involve creating or sourcing music, engaging in dancing or other movements while listening and encouraging client or patient participation.

Music therapy is available to people with many different needs. It can be used for anyone who has a mental disorder, a physical injury or a condition that requires continuous therapy.

You’ll present specific music to your clients and also create activities that go with it. You may discuss lyrics with clients, assist them in visualizing imagery, or lead movement or dancing sessions.

Many music therapists are also musicians. Some college programs even require electives in instrumental subjects.

This aspect of your education will be most enjoyable if you are already a skilled player or just like to pluck the strings occasionally. This career offers many perks, including the opportunity to share your passion for music with clients.

After many years of working in music therapy settings, you are qualified to teach others. Additional certifications or degrees are often required for music therapist educators.

Teaching others how to give therapy could be your highest point in your career. This can be more lucrative than lower-level jobs. However, there is not much advancement beyond a professorship.

Music Therapy Career

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the industry of recreational therapy will grow at a faster rate than the average over the next eight year. In the United States, there were approximately 19,800 recreational therapists as of 2018.

Projections indicate that employment levels will be around 21,200 by 2028. This means that a career in music therapy might be a good option if you are considering pursuing a career in this field.

You will need to register for a clinical experience while you are still in school. This allows you to work with real clients. This experience will help you plan your career and determine where you want work.

Your career can be further developed by joining the American Music Therapy Association or similar professional associations. You might also find other opportunities through the Board Certified professional association.

You can’t always expect to earn the highest salary when you first start in this field. In the first four years of your employment, you will likely earn a lower income as a music therapist.

Salary for Music Therapist

It is difficult to find out the exact salaries of music therapists. This type of job falls under the umbrella of recreational therapy. However, the BLS provides figures on median salary and job outlooks for this sector.

The median hourly wage for a recreational therapist, for example, is $23.18. This is equivalent to a salary of $49 220 per annum.

According to Payscale professionals, the hourly wage for a Board Certified music therapist is $22.99 an hour. It is worth noting, however, that more than half of respondents stated they were in their “early career” stage at this rate.

On the other side, more experienced therapists can make as much as $31.12 per hour. Location also affects the salary.

Payscale, for instance, reports that Massachusetts music therapists make more than those in Arizona.

Music Therapist Degree

Music therapists must have a degree in music therapy and, in some states, a board-certified credential.

You will need to go to college and take the Certification Board of Musical Therapists exam. You will need to recertify under the Board’s Continuing Music Therapy Education (CMTE).

These are the steps to follow to become a music therapist.


Music therapists must have a background in psychology, biology, and behavioral sciences. They also need to be able to take general courses and pursue career-specific courses.

The AMTA requires that your curriculum include 1200 hours of clinical work, which must be completed by fieldwork, such as an internship in education or healthcare.

There are degrees available at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Higher-level degrees are offered by some schools, including doctoral options. You’ll learn about topics such as:

  • Music foundations
  • Clinical foundations
  • Music therapy
  • General education

These are some schools that offer music therapy degrees:

Berklee College of Music -Bachelor of Music Therapy: For a complete introduction to the profession, you’ll be taking both the required therapy classes and instrumental classes.

Biola University – Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy: Biola’s program combines music therapy coursework and interdisciplinary study with Biola’s psychology department. According to the university’s website, however, approval of this program is still pending.

Loyola University -Master of Music Therapy(MMT) The Master’s degree in Music Therapy includes research, theory, and multi-cultural issues.

The university also notes that Loyola’s MMT course is supported by the AMTA. You will need to be Board Certified in order to earn this degree. Or you can choose the equivalency option.

You want to find out more about universities and colleges that offer music therapy programs? Click the button below to request information about any of these schools. [Edit: Tool removed]


You may still be able to take the exam even if your state does not require the Music Therapist Board Certified (MTBC) credential.

The license shows passion for your profession. This license also proves that you are committed to furthering your education in order to help your clients in any way possible.

You will need to have completed your academic and clinical training before you can sit for the exam. You’ll feel ready to take the written exam because most degree programs include this aspect.

The written exam can be taken at any of the many testing locations in the US and around the globe. The exam costs $325 and includes the exam fee as well as a processing fee.


You will need to earn 100 recertification credits each five years in order to keep your certification.

The CBMT also explains that you will have to pay an annual maintenance fee for certification. You should also know that Board Certification is required by some universities if you wish to obtain a higher-level education.

This is the job description for a Music Therapist

Music therapy can be lucrative regardless of what instrument you use or who your clients are. There are many career options.

There are many opportunities to discover your niche, whether it’s starting your own therapy practice or working with hospitals, daycares, special programs, elderly care homes, and hospitals.

You may also be able to benefit from professional associations and special educational programs. Our educational resources can help you get a degree and certification to be a music therapist.

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