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Music Therapist Job Description, Career as a Music Therapist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Bachelor’s degree and certification

Average Salary $70,000 per year

Job Outlook Very good

Basic Job Description

Music therapists direct therapeutic music activities prescribed to patients as a form of mental and physical health care. Therapy performed with music created by therapists can help patients to restore and maintain mental health, increase comprehension abilities, improve physical abilities and improve their overall well being. Music therapists will coordinate activities using music that will cater to a patient’s individual needs. Music therapy can incorporate the use of instrumental or vocal activities into a patient’s daily life to give them a feeling of accomplishment, and feel that they have contributed to a piece of work with their own talent. Some therapy may also include groups of people to help patient’s work with others and feel part of a group creating a project through teamwork. Music therapy will also help to relax patients and make them better aware of conscious feelings and emotions. The objective of a therapist is to observe a patient’s physical or mental state and construct a plan involving music that will stimulate their mind and relax their body.

Education and Training Requirements

In order to work as a music therapist, a Bachelor’s degree in music or recreation therapy is required. Once the degree is completed, a student must complete a program to become certified in their state through the American Music Therapy Association. Once the examination and clinical classes are completed for the program, a therapist will have to take a state administered test through the Certification Board for Music Therapists to become certified. Once a certification has been obtained, the therapist will have to keep it renewed every 5 years.

Training requirements vary according to each state, but most music therapists will be required to do on-the-job training with a therapist, working as an intern or apprentice, in order to gain hands-on experience and accumulate a specific number of training hours to qualify for certification.

Getting the Job

In order to land a full time job as a music therapist, the therapist will first have to become certified according to state ruling. From there, most music therapists will use their internship or apprenticeship experience to find jobs in hospitals, mental health institutions, physical therapy clinics, or other clinical departments to work with patients who could benefit from music therapy.

The ideal candidate will have a passion for music and display a wide range of knowledge on music and its background. Most therapists will know the basics on playing several different instruments in order to teach patients how to read music and play basic notes.

Aside from being well educated and passionate about music, the ideal therapist will have a passion for working with mentally and physically disabled people and helping them improve their quality of life through music. Music therapists must show extreme patience and feel comfortable working with patients who may be difficult to understand or be frustrated with their current state. The overall objective for the therapist is to help them get past any negative feelings and use music as a therapy to give them a more positive outlook on life.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Music therapy jobs are continually on the rise as more medical establishments seek to provide educational or artistic therapy to patients without the use of medication. Research has shown through music therapy practices that the therapy is effective for a wide variety of patients, and because of this, many health establishments are willing to add a music therapist to their team.

Most music therapists will start off working in a school and directing a class for disabled students. Once a therapist has gained experience working in the field, they can move on to working in hospitals or clinics where they can develop and direct a music therapy program that coordinates therapy classes according to assessments done on patients to find out their needs. The therapist will schedule meetings and classes with patients, whether they are group or one-on-one, to make sure all the patients who will benefit from the therapy will get an opportunity each day.

Some music therapist may advance their career by supervising and managing an entire department of music therapists, or working to conduct research on effective methods of music therapy. There are many advancement opportunities for music therapists, as research will always need to be done in a field that is growing so quickly.

Working Conditions and Environment

Music therapists primarily work in a school classroom or hospital setting. Most of their time will be spent conducting and coordinating classes with students, and planning lessons for each group. This involves observing the progress and personal needs of each student and keeping records of which students benefit from which type of therapy.

Due to the fact that many music therapists work with mentally or physically disabled patients, the therapist will have to be able to continue working under stressful situations if patients get out of hand or are not willing to cooperate. They will also have to be patient and know how to quickly keep a class under control if things become difficult.

There may be some physical activity involved as well. Some patients may need help getting in and out of wheelchairs, or help with properly using an instrument or other musical device.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary for a music therapist is about $70,000 per year. Salaries vary according to where a therapist works. A therapist working in a grade school may make significantly less than a therapist running a program at a hospital or medical institution. Most teaching and therapy jobs also provide excellent benefit packages with full health insurance, vacation time and sick leave.

Aside from financial benefits, most therapists who are passionate about their job find the greatest benefit to be going to work each day knowing they are working with music they love and helping patients discover a passion for music while improving their quality of life. The best music therapist is one who is truly passionate about what they do.

Where to Go for More Information

Certification Board for Music Therapists
506 E. Lancaster Ave., Suite 102
Downingtown, PA 19335
(800) 765-2268

American Music Therapy Association, Inc.
8455 Colesville Rd., Suite 1000
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 589-3300

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts