Is a Music Therapy Degree Right for You?

Music therapy is the practice of using music to improve a client’s overall health, including their physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being. The degree combines music performance and theory with concepts in development, clinical practice, and psychology. A bachelor’s degree in music therapy is for you if you have a passion for music but also wish to apply your music knowledge in a clinical setting.

The bachelor’s degree equips students with the clinical, theoretical, and research knowledge they need to be an effective music therapist. Also, the best music therapy programs will include an internship so students can more readily pursue a music therapy credential through the The Certificate Board for Music Therapists.

Advice for Earning Your Music Therapy Degree Online

Students looking to earn a music therapy bachelors degree online should know that very few programs are offered 100% at a distance. That’s because students must typically gain clinical experience working with patients before they can graduate from the program. In fact, some online programs in music therapy are only open to those who already have a bachelor’s degree in music, like the Music Therapy Equivalency Distance Program offered by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Students should expect any other online degree in music therapy to incorporate site-based clinical practice, even if the majority of the program is delivered over the Internet. In addition, students are advised to enroll in a music therapy program that has been approved by the AMTA. The AMTA website offers a helpful directory of approved music therapy schools here that allows students to search for schools in their area at different degree levels.

Required Courses

Music therapy degree programs offer a range of classes focusing on performance skills and music expertise as well as courses addressing the therapeutic process. Students can also expect to take a curriculum of general education classes in math, science, humanities, and social sciences. Key classes in the music therapy portion of the curriculum might include:

  • Psychology of Music
  • The Clinical Experience
  • Music in Recreation and Special Education
  • Clinical Improvisation
  • Songwriting in Music Therapy

Common Career Paths

Some potential careers for those with a bachelor’s degree in music therapy include:

Recreational (Music) Therapists

  • Expected Growth: 17 %
  • Average Annual Salary: $44,655

Recreational therapists plan and engage in recreational activities design to rehabilitate people with physical or emotional disabilities or ailments. They work in a variety of settings, from schools to rehab centers, and use a range of activities, from arts and crafts to sports. Music therapists are specifically trained to use music a therapeutic device. The above salary and employment growth figures were gathered from the BLS, and represent mean incomes. Actual salaries can vary greatly based on your experience, education level, and other factors.

Special Education Teachers

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $59,495

Special education teachers work in schools with children who are disabled, either emotionally, physically, or mentally, or students who have difficulty learning in a traditional classroom. They evaluate their students’ strengths and struggles in order to modify lessons to meet their needs. With a music therapy degree, you can work in a special education program providing music activities and lessons geared toward students with special needs. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Independence Music Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 21 %
  • Average Hourly Wage: $21.48

Like other self-enrichment teachers, independent music teachers are usually self-employed. However, some might work on a contract basis with schools or colleges. With a music therapy degree, some graduates teach lessons in vocal performance, piano, guitar, or another instrument. And, a bachelor’s degree in music therapy can be helpful in establishing a niche working with students with special needs. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Postsecondary Teachers

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $80,615

Many students use their bachelor’s degree in music therapy as a stepping stone into graduate study, completing a master’s degree or even a doctorate in music therapy or a related area. These students often pursue careers as college instructors and professors, where they teach courses in music therapy and continue to pursue independent research in specific areas of interest.

People who choose this career path typically work for a period of time as a music therapist, conduct research projects, and successfully publish research papers in scholarly journals related to the therapy. Most colleges and universities prefer to hire postsecondary teachers who hold a Ph.D. and are leading academics in the field. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Musicians and Singers

  • Expected Growth: 10%
  • Average Hourly Wage: $34.26

Some music therapy students pursue careers as musicians or singers, either to supplement their incomes by recording or performing live music or as a second job. Some musicians perform at arenas, clubs, and music venues, but others work in religious organizations or performing arts companies. While musicians and singers don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree to make a living in music, a formal education often helps them excel in one or more instruments or in vocal performance. Figures above were provided by the BLS.


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