Do you love music? Do you believe it has the power to heal body, mind, and spirit? Do you have a desire to help people? Do you consider yourself to be musically skilled? Do you see yourself as empathetic? If your answer to the above questions is “yes” then it is time for you to seriously think about a career in music therapy. Music therapists work with patients, seeking to help improve their quality of life and bring about emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
This can be an extremely rewarding career as it enables you to make a real difference in people’s lives. Sometimes, a music therapist may be the only one who can bring about a positive change in people; for example, war veterans and terminally ill patients. Where medicine and counseling may no longer work, music therapy can be a saving grace. On the other hand, music therapy practitioners have to deal with emotional and physical exhaustion. While burnout is indeed a danger, overall music therapists report high levels of job satisfaction. As a music therapist, you could work with a diverse range of people, including children with special needs, recovering addicts, foster children, patients with serious illnesses or mental disorders, and prisoners.
Aspiring music therapists need to get the right education before they can enter the field. You will need a bachelor’s degree in music therapy or in music with a concentration in music therapy. The curriculum will cover music comprehension, psychology, general education, and social science. The American Music Therapy Association also requires you to complete 1,200 clinical hours, at least 900 of which must come from your supervised undergraduate internship. This includes interacting directly with patients, planning their treatment, and working with peers. After graduating, you will need to complete the national board certification exam and earn the MT-BC (Music Therapist – Board Certified) credential, which will certify you to practice professionally. For those who want to teach, research, or enhance their employability prospects, a master’s degree in music or music therapy comes next. Such a program will also allow you to specialize in a sub-field, such as music psychotherapy.
There are various reputed music therapy schools in the US. The world-class music therapy programs at Berklee College of Music make it a top choice for students. Kansas University offers accredited bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in music therapy, with an active music culture on campus. Other options for music therapy education include the University of Miami, Pacific University, and University of Georgia. The US is also home to a number of top music schools those who want to get a music-related degree. Northwestern University offers students practical experience through its relationships with 60 Chicago area schools and boasts a 100 percent employment rate for music education graduates. Jacksonville University gives students various performance, recording, and production opportunities. Other good music schools include Samford University, Arkansas State University, Oakwood University, and Grand Canyon University.
Those considering a degree in music may wonder whether it is worth the time, money, and effort. Unlike a law or business degree, studying music does not lead to a predefined career path. On the upside, this means you are not limited to any one profession. You can use the knowledge and skills acquired in a variety of roles: songwriter, composer, vocalist, musician, music producer, music agent, music therapist, and so on. Some graduates go on to seemingly unrelated jobs like teaching young children or working in an ad agency. Even here, the lessons learned in a music degree – discipline, creativity, teamwork – can prove invaluable. The downside is that working in the music industry can be tough, especially in the initial stages. Hours are long and, at the entry level, salaries can be low compared with other professions. Even the most talented professionals may have to struggle for years before making it big. It is important to keep these factors in mind when considering a music degree.