Music Therapy degree requirements
Becoming a music therapist is not as simple as majoring in music and minoring in psychology or vice-versa. Some professionals say a minor in psychology can be beneficial for entering the field. However, a student with a major in psychology and minor in music is not eligible to sit for the certification exam.
by Caitlin Peterkin
“A bachelor’s degree in psychology or music that is not music therapy or that is offered by a school not accredited in music therapy does not prepare a student for the professional practice of music therapy, ” says Dr. Cathy McKinney, Music Therapy Program Director at .
According to the (AMTA), curriculum for a music therapy degree includes coursework in music therapy, psychology, music, biological, social and behavioral sciences, disabling conditions, and general studies. Piano, guitar, and vocal proficiency are expected and are the most frequently used in therapy.
Students in a music therapy program also receive clinical experience outside of the classroom, typically partnering with on-campus clinics or facilities serving individuals with special needs in the community.
So do I need a master’s degree?
Most experts say that currently, a master’s degree in music therapy is not necessary if you earned your bachelor’s in music therapy.
Lalene Kay, director of the Cleveland Music Therapy Consortium (consisting of, The College of Wooster, and Cleveland State University), says there are some hospitals and facilities that prefer master’s-level training for supervisory and manager-level positions. “Some music therapists will consider graduate work and explore a master’s in music therapy, ” she adds, “or look to other areas to strengthen their skills, knowledge and abilities in a population-specific focus such as Master’s in Social Work, Communication Disorders, Child Life, Gerontology, Neuroscience, Psychology, Counseling, Early Childhood Education, to name a few.”
Others believe advance training in music therapy is now more important than ever, particularly to become more competitive in the market. “The American Music Therapy Association is in the process of determining whether or not to require a minimum of a master’s degree, ” says Dr. William Davis, director of the undergraduate program in music therapy at and chair and director of graduate studies in music for the department. “This is likely to happen within the next 10 years or so.”
Dr. Darlene Brooks, director of music therapy at, believes students should consider a master’s degree shortly after their internship. “The bachelor’s degree serves as an excellent foundation for the young music therapist to work with clients in a general way, ” she says. “The needs of clients extend beyond what the bachelor’s music therapist can provide, and the master’s degree is needed in order to understand the depth and breadth of practice.”
The Conservatory of Music (COM) is one of seven schools and colleges at University of the Pacific. It is located on the school’s main campus in Stockton, California.
COM is the first accredited professional music school on the west coast and a charter member of the National Association of Schools of Music (1928). It offers 11 different degree...
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