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Online Degrees in Music Therapy by Program Level

Dec 04, 2019

Learn about online degrees in music therapy. Get information on master's and doctoral degrees, program requirements, course descriptions, as well as career prospects, to make an informed decision about your education.

Essential Information

Online programs in music therapy are typically available only at the graduate levels. Master's programs are fairly common, though they may require a combination of on-campus and distance learning coursework. In addition, applicants to these programs often need to have a bachelor's degree in music therapy, internship experience and certification in the field.

Online Ph.D. programs in music therapy are rare. However, a few schools offer related programs with music therapy concentrations; program titles might include expressive therapy or music education. Similar to master's programs, applicants may need to be credentialed music therapists.

Both master's and doctoral programs are research-intensive. Master's-level students often need to complete a thesis or final project in order to graduate, while doctoral programs typically culminate in a dissertation.

Master's Degree Programs in Music Therapy

While only a bachelor's degree is required to become a music therapist, master's degree programs are typically the lowest degree level offered online. Online master's degree programs in music therapy are often designed for experienced music therapists who wish to further their education. Programs focus on developing advanced research and clinical practice skills. Since music therapists work in healthcare settings and use music to assess and treat patients, coursework is heavily focused on the application of music to clinical settings.

Prospective students looking to study music therapy online should already hold bachelor's degrees in music therapy and should have completed an internship or fieldwork experience as part of their bachelor's degree programs. Alternatively, a degree equivalency program, which includes only music therapy training, may be sufficient for individuals who already hold bachelor's degrees in other fields. Prospective students should also be approved by the Certification Board for Music Therapists, though some programs may accept students who are listed as non-board-certified music therapists on the National Music Therapy Registry.

Program Information and Requirements

Online master's degree programs in music therapy typically require around 30 units to complete. Depending on how many courses a student takes each semester, these programs can take 1-3 years to finish. Some programs can be completed fully online, while others require minimal on-campus visits. Students need a computer with Internet access so they can view assignments and course materials through an online software platform.

List of Common Music Therapy Courses

Programs may offer thesis and non-thesis options. Toward the end of their program, students must either complete an original research project or pass a comprehensive exam. Common coursework requirements include both research and clinical topics.

Research Methods in Music Therapy

Students familiarize themselves with reviewing literature, designing studies and analyzing research results. The course may also cover developing an area of focus and writing reports on research findings, as well as ethical considerations in research.

Music Therapy and Technology

This course introduces students to technology used in the music therapy field. Students examine ways that technology can be applied in clinical practice and research.

Clinical Music Therapy

In this course, students learn how to implement music therapy techniques in a clinical setting. Some programs may deliver this course as a practicum that must be completed in person at an approved location.


Ph.D. Programs in Music Therapy

Students interested in furthering their music therapy education beyond the master's degree level may consider pursuing a Ph.D. Some Ph.D. programs are specifically in music therapy, while others offer music therapy study options within a broader discipline, such as expressive therapies. Programs typically require a master's degree and 3-5 years of professional experience as a clinical music therapist. As with the master's degree programs, board certification or eligibility for board certification is a common requirement for admission. Ph.D. programs in music therapy are heavily research-oriented and aim to prepare students to become leaders in the field and make new research contributions.

Program Information and Requirements

Depending on whether or not a dissertation is required, Ph.D. programs in music therapy can be completed in as little as three years. It is very difficult to find Ph.D. programs in music therapy that can be completed fully online. However, there are programs that allow a combination of online and on-campus courses. Online courses are delivered through online software, such as Blackboard. Students taking online courses probably won't need anything more than the typical requirements of a computer with Internet access and word processing software. Several intensive residencies or retreats that take place on campus may be required throughout the program.

List of Common Music Therapy Courses

In addition to coursework requirements, some programs require the completion of a dissertation and an oral defense. A preliminary exam may help a potential student qualify for candidacy before they submit a dissertation proposal and begin dissertation research. Coursework focuses on developing teaching and research skills.

Music Therapy Research

Students are given insight as to the foundational and efficacy research that has contributed to the field of music therapy. Students may examine research in a specific area of music therapy, such as music medicine and/or music psychotherapy.

Clinical Supervision in Music Therapy

In this course, students explore different methods of supervision that may be employed when teaching undergraduate students or overseeing a professional practice. The course examines behavioral, humanistic and psychodynamic models for supervision.

Music Therapy Apprenticeship

Students may participate in a research and/or teaching apprenticeship. A research apprenticeship involves assisting faculty members with designing studies, conducting research, writing reports and submitting results for publication. In a teaching apprenticeship, students assist faculty members with undergraduate teaching and supervision duties, such as hosting seminars and reviewing lesson plans.


Career information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of recreational therapists, which includes music therapists, is expected to grow 7% over the 2018-2028 decade. Job prospects are expected to be best for certified therapists and those who work with the elderly. The American Music Therapy Association conducted a salary survey for music therapists in 2014, which revealed that music therapists earned an average salary of about $50,808. As of November 2019, Payscale.com reported a median annual salary of $41,499 for music therapists.

Continuing Education Information

Board-certified music therapists must renew their certification every five years. The Certification Board for Music Therapists has two options for renewal: therapists can either take an exam or complete 100 re-certification credits. Acceptable types of re-certification credits include continuing music therapy education courses, professional development activities and professional service activities.

Online programs in music therapy are available at the graduate degree level, master's degrees being the most common. These online programs are typically completed in 1-3 years, and some require a combination of online coursework and minimal on-campus visits.

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