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Music Therapist: Job Description, Income and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a music therapist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, certification and job duties to see if this career is right for you.

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A music therapist focuses on musical remedies to treat those suffering from a variety of issues. An undergraduate degree in music therapy or an applicable field at minimum must be earned, in addition to certification, to work in this field.

Essential Information

Music therapists work with patients by encouraging them to play, listen or move to music as part of a rehabilitation program. They can work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, retirement homes or mental health centers. To become a music therapist, one must typically have a bachelor's degree in music therapy and pass a certification exam to become a Music Therapist - Board Certified (MT-BC).

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements MT-BC certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 12% for all recreational therapists
Median Annual Salary (2016)** $39,607

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

Job Description for a Music Therapist

Usually working as part of a therapy team, music therapists use music as part of a patient's comprehensive therapeutic treatment plan. They work with children, adults or the elderly, assessing a patient's mental or physical disorders and disabilities before developing a therapeutic treatment plan. Music therapy can be administered in groups or on an individual basis to address emotional and physical needs.

Income Information for a Music Therapist

Payscale.com found that the median annual salary for a music therapist was $39,607 as of January 2016. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not currently have a listing specifically for music therapists, it does report that recreational therapists often use music therapy with their patients. In May 2015, the BLS noted that the average annual salary of recreational therapists was $47,790.

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Educational Requirements for a Music Therapist

Becoming a music therapist requires a bachelor's degree. If the degree is in music therapy, coursework includes classes such as music theory, therapy techniques, biology, psychology and human development. If the bachelor's degree is in another area of study, a student must complete additional undergraduate coursework in music therapy. Coursework also includes a practicum that involves using music therapy techniques in a clinical setting for 1,200 hours.

Upon degree completion, a student must take a certification exam to become a Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC), which is administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Certification is required to practice. Recertification is required within five years of becoming a MT-BC.

A master's degree is available in music theory to students who have completed a bachelor's degree and certification requirements. Coursework includes specialization in a specific therapeutic technique, patient population, administration, education or research. A doctorate degree in music therapy is also available at some postsecondary institutions.

Music therapy necessitates a bachelor's degree or higher in order to work in the field, as well as passing a certifying exam like other therapists. Music therapists can work in a number of clinical settings, or be self-employed. Income varies on where they work and how many patients they have, as well as their degree level.

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