How to Become a Music Therapist

by Kimberly on July 28, 2009 · 206 comments

So, you interested in music therapy? Think you have what it takes?

A music therapist’s training is fairly unique as it incorporates coursework in music (obviously!), psychology and therapy, anatomy and physiology, the biological, social and behavioral sciences, and disabilities. I like to say that, as a music therapist, I am a musician, scientist, and therapist rolled up in one.

Currently, there are over 70 colleges and universities in the states (and one in Canada) where you can receive music therapy training. Of those, over 30 also offer graduate music therapy programs.


Music Therapy Training

If you are being trained as a music therapist, you must first finish your basic collegiate coursework. Following that, you complete a six month clinical training internship at an approved training site. Finish your internship and you can sit for the national board certification exam administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Pass the exam and you are now a board certified music therapist, or “MT-BC.”

Types of Music Therapy Degrees

At the collegiate level, there are a couple of different types of program options available:

  1. Bachelor: This is your most basic training, often combining music therapy coursework with basic education classes (e.g. english, math, etc.).
  2. Equivalency: For students who have a Bachelor’s degree but want the music therapy training. Students in an equivalency program will only take classes they need to meet music therapy education requirements.
  3. Master’s Equivalency: Students in this program have a Bachelor’s degree but are not yet music therapists. In this program they will take graduate coursework on top of the music therapy training requirements. They will still need to complete an internship and, depending on the university, may or may not need a thesis. Graduates of a Master’s equivalency program may have an MM, MA, or MME degree (some colleges incorporate music therapy into their music education programs).
  4. Masters: The board-certified music therapist will be enrolled in this program. Simple, straight-forward graduate school. These programs offer the same degree options listed in #3.
  5. Doctorale: There are a small handful of schools that offer music therapy specific doctorale programs…but not many. However, music therapists have other options, the most common being a philosophy doctorate (PhD). Other music therapy “doctors” have earned an education (EdD) or a psychology doctorate (PsyD).

And that’s it. For more information about music therapy training, visit the American Music Therapy Association or the Certification Board for Music Therapists websites.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimberly May 27, 2016 at 7:46 am

Hi Patrick. Unfortunately I cannot answer your question specifically because it will depend on the school to which you apply! I recommend talking with the music therapy professor at the school of your interest. Regarding programs in Germany, this site may help you out: Good luck!

Tyler J. Khan July 11, 2016 at 7:55 am

Thanks for sharing your experience
It’s really helpful for me.

Sierra September 14, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Hi, I am a college student considering Music Therapy. I am thinking of changing my major to Psychology and Minoring in Music, with a focus on piano. Wold this give me the credentials I need to become a music therapist?

Mark February 14, 2017 at 4:35 am


I am very thankful for sharing your experience, because I was thinking about how to combine music and teaching – things I like the most in my life. So thank you very much, now I am motivated to do it.

Kylie March 26, 2017 at 10:08 pm

I am happy to read your article.
Thanks for share the article.
Thank you so much.

tomer April 2, 2018 at 8:28 am

very informative, thanks for sharing

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