Become a Professional in Music Therapy
Writer Corinne Heline nailed it when she wrote that "The magic of "musical medicine" will come into its own. The application of such healing potencies will not be limited just to man's body and mind. It will be an agency for building and healing his soul as well."
Indeed, "musical medicine" has come into its own in the professional field of music therapy. The Arizona State University declares best the focus of music therapy, defining it as a health care and special education profession where engagement in active and receptive music making within the context of a therapeutic relationship helps a client achieve non-musical, therapeutic goals.
Featured Online Schools
Simply stated, music therapists use music to help others heal. By implementing a variety of instruments, songs, and styles, music therapists assist vast and different populations of patients to achieve their own non-musical, therapeutic goals. Whether in private practice, schools, long-term care facilities, hospitals—even correctional centers—music therapy and healing take place.
The field finds itself fitting into several industries, the perfect intersection of health care, special education, psychology, and performing arts. That intersection necessitates rigorous training and extensive education, both requisites for attaining the MT-BC (music therapist, board certified) credential. According to the Certification Board for Music Therapists, this credential exists "to identify music therapists who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to practice at the current level of the profession. The purpose of board certification in music therapy is to provide an objective national standard that can be used as a measure of professionalism by interested agencies, groups, and individuals."
The Best Online Bachelor's in Music Therapy Programs
The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia offers the B.M. degree in Music Therapy through their Hugh Hodgson School of Music. Students are first admitted to the university, then apply to the program and pass three music therapy courses prior to full acceptance into the degree program. The curriculum includes a strong emphasis in psychology and the social sciences.
Bonus: Study abroad opportunities in Italy, Hugh Hodgson School of Music Scholarships, the annual Music Therapy Musicale, Music Therapy Club, and the Music Therapy Student Association.
Located in Tempe, Arizona, ASU offers the B.M. in Music Therapy degree. The university provides supervised pre–clinical experiences for their music therapy students through the on–campus ASU Music Therapy Clinic. There are vast opportunities to perform clinical practice in nearby facilities including the Barrow Neurological Center, Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center, Hospice of the Valley, and Banner Medical Centers.
Bonus: Multiple scholarship opportunities available through the music department, including the Robert & Betty Isern Howery Scholarship.
Montclair State University
Since 1969, New Jersey’s Montclair State University has offered the Bachelor of Arts in Music Therapy degree through its John J. Cali School of Music. Acceptance into the program is rigorous: in addition to the standard audition and faculty interview, students must self–accompany (any genre allowed) on the piano or guitar. Majors have access to the on–campus David Ott Lab for Music and Health. The program offers specialized courses, too, such as the Introduction to Guided Imagery and Music, and courses in piano accompaniment and clinical improvisation.
Bonus: Music Therapy Training Group, several competitive scholarships and fellowships through the David Ott Music Therapy Fund.
Appalachian State University
Located in the Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State offers the B.M. in Music Therapy degree. All faculty teaching in this program are current MT–BC, which is a huge asset to the department. Freshmen hit the ground running with coursework, observations, and clinical training beginning in the first year. An audition with faculty, an interview, and the passing of Introduction to Music Therapy with a B– or better are all prerequisites for program acceptance. According to the website, "Nearly 100 percent of program graduates have passed the national board certification exam and achieved job placement in music therapy."
Bonus: Hayes Young Artist Competition, Hayes School of Music Intern Scholarship
A private Catholic college in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Immaculata University is a small school with a strong program that leads to a B.M. in Music Therapy degree. All faculty teaching in this department are full–time and carry the MT–BC credential. In addition to the standard audition, students must pass the piano and vocal proficiency, basic theory test, and demonstrate the ability to sing a pop, kids, or folk song and accompany themselves on the piano or guitar.
Bonus: Almira M. Doutt Memorial Scholarship, Jamaica Field Service Project, a 2–week supervised experience to provide music therapy to schools and medical centers, and MIP workshops twice a year.
Western Michigan University
Located in Kalamazoo, Michigan, WMU’s music therapy program is one of few of universities that incorporate principles of Neurologic Music Therapy in the student’s academic and clinical work. Students on the path to earning their B.M. in Music Therapy will find that the program stresses the clinical application of procedure and that observations begin in the first year at the on–campus clinic. Admissions to WMU involve demonstrating basic musicianship exams, aural skills, written theory, and the standard interviews and audition.
Bonus: Student Music Therapist’s Association, Performance–based scholarships, and a Brain Lab.
The Tallahassee–based Florida State University demands 123 credits towards the B.M. in Music Therapy. The school collaborates with Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare to provide a comprehensive Medical Music Therapy program. The school also serves as a national training site for music therapy interns.
Bonus: College of Music scholarships, out–of–state tuition reduction scholarships, and The Little Ones Music Play program through the FSU Institute for Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy.
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN
Students pursuing the B.M. in Music Therapy degree at the University of Minnesota have access to premiere training facilities around the Twin Cities and at the university’s medical center as well as the on–campus clinic. Out of the 128 credits required for the degree, 78 must come from coursework in music.
Bonus: Merit–based scholarships available, and a Music Therapy Student Association.
Utah State, a public research university in Logan, Utah, provides a path to a B.S. in Music Therapy degree to interested and qualified students through the school’s Caine College of the Arts.
Incoming freshmen must successfully complete a 3–part audition process in the fall prior to starting at the university. Students must self–accompany and explain their interest in becoming a music therapist, as well as play a variety of tunes, interview, and audition live.
Bonus: CCA and Music Department scholarships, Music Therapy Association, Muses Concert by Music Therapy majors, and 20 facilities in Cache Valley.
Eastern Michigan University
Located east of Ann Arbor in Ypsilanti, Eastern Michigan University has been educating and training music therapists since 1976. The Bachelor of Music Therapy degree requires 40 credit hours as a music therapy concentration (out of 124 total credits for the degree). Admissions requirements include an interview for the music therapy program as well as the applied music program, a 3–page typed essay on why they want to enter this field, as well as sight singing, playing the piano, auditioning on their primary instrument, and interviewing with the program director. Students will enjoy training at the EMU Music Therapy Center that opened in 2008.
Bonus: Multiple scholarship opportunities for music department scholarships in addition to specific Music Therapy scholarships.
Cleveland State University
Students who obtain the B.M. in Music Therapy degree from Cleveland State do so under the tutelage of faculty who all hold the MT–BC distinction. The university offers a complete menu of symposia, lectures, panels, trainings, and events on campus.
Out of the 46 credits required for the degree, one requisite class is ethnomusicology. In addition to writing a personal essay and demonstrating the ability to self–accompany on piano or guitar, Cleveland State’s music therapy program bears the unique feature of requiring at least one music therapy observation and summary with the application.
Bonus: The Cleveland Student Music Therapists — the purpose of this organization is to provide a forum in which students may share their ideas about music therapy. It is open to all music therapy majors within the Cleveland Music Therapy Consortium.
University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL
The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami provides a path to the B.M. in Music Therapy degree. According to the university, "the curriculum for the Bachelor of Music degree in Music Therapy is built upon the clinical and research paradigm known as Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT). This model utilizes scientific evidence regarding human perception and production of music to treat disorders of the human nervous system, such as autism, mental illness, or Parkinson’s disease. The NMT approach is becoming increasingly recognized and accepted by the medical community and is currently only available at seven universities nation–wide."
Bonus: The Ress Family Hospital Performance Project brings student musicians from the Frost School of Music into local hospitals.
Located in a suburb of Rochester, New York, Nazareth College is a coed, private, religiously independent school. Students interested in earning the B.M. in Music Therapy degree will complete 128 credits and be just one class short of a minor in Psychology when they finish the degree (of course, they can always opt to take that one class and make the minor official). All seven faculty are MT–BC. Clinical observations begin on day one of freshman year. Students gain experience conducting sessions in community health care and education settings as well as the on–campus Music Therapy Clinic, which is part of the College’s York Wellness and Rehabilitation Institute.
Bonus: Performance–based scholarships
An all–women’s college in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Converse’s course of study in Music Therapy culminates in the Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy degree. In addition to the standard audition and interview on your primary instrument, "the music therapy audition requires that you sing a memorized song ’with therapeutic intention’ while accompanying yourself with either piano or guitar." The college has a unique partnership with Spartanburg Regional Health System to provide clinical experiences for students.
Bonus: Musicians Helping Others, a student–led organization includes music therapy majors and interested students who want to share the power of music for health and well–being.
Students attending the University of Kansas for their music therapy education have two degree paths to choose from: the Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy or the Bachelor of Music Education in Music Therapy. Most of the large faculty holds the MT–BC distinction. Students have access to clinical training and observations at the on–campus music therapy clinic as well as locations within the city of Lawrence, KS and surrounding communities.
Bonus: General music department scholarships, and a Music Therapy Student Association.
Rockville Centre, NY
A private Catholic college located in the town of Rockville Centre on Long Island, Molloy College is the only college in the NYC area with an AMTA–approved program. Students may pursue the B.S. in Music Therapy or a dual degree (B.S./M.S.). More than half of their faculty in the music therapy program bear the MT–BC distinction. Molloy is home to The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy, which gives students instant access to clinical training and observation.
Bonus: Evelyn Selesky Memorial Scholarship, and the Music Therapy Club.
Purdue University - Fort Wayne
Almost all the faculty in the music therapy program at IPFW bear the MT–BC credential. The school has the only undergraduate music therapy degree program in a public university in Indiana. The clinical training portion of the degree program utilizes an on–site clinic and provides numerous opportunities for supervised work in health care facilities in and around Fort Wayne.
Bonus: Performance scholarships
Located in Waverly, Iowa, Wartburg is a four–year private school affiliated with the Lutheran (ELCA) church, and the college offers the only music therapy degree in the state. Students begin the curriculum in semester one. Students have a choice between the B.M. in Music Therapy degree or the Bachelor of Music Education in Music Therapy degree. All majors have access to the Bachman Fine Arts Center, which houses a music therapy facility and observation laboratory, and students gain experience at this center as well as 30 other partnered sites in the surrounding area. The school boasts 100% job placement for graduates of the program.
Seattle Pacific University
A private liberal arts university with a Methodist affiliation, SPU requires more variety in the audition process, which requires students do a standard performance on their primary instrument, play piano and guitar while singing with a strong voice, write a brief essay outlining both personal and professional interests, and interview with the program director and the music department faculty. All faculty who teach in the music therapy program hold the MT–BC distinction. Students will earn a B.A. and choose among three emphases: Physical Therapy and Exercise, Psychology, or Special Education.
Bonus: Various scholarships are available through the music department.
Online Bachelor's in Music Therapy Programs Ranking Guidelines
There are scores of undergraduate music therapy programs across the country, and many of them have had their curriculum approved by the American Music Therapy Association. Still, we wanted to find the best programs available. What is it that makes a program go from "meeting expectations" to "exceeding expectations?".
How To Become a Music Therapist
In order to become a music therapist, students first need to have a degree in music therapy or some sort of equivalency degree or certification. (This article will focus explicitly on the pursuit of a traditional undergraduate, bachelor"s degree and the best schools for that pursuit.)
Most preparation programs provide a combination of academic and clinical preparation. It is common for many universities to advertise that their program takes "four years, plus a six-month internship." Thus, students embarking on this path should realize that this isn"t a standard four-year degree. Following the successful completion of undergraduate coursework and clinical training, candidates are then eligible to sit for the national board exam and receive the MT-BC status.
Characteristics of Solid Music Therapy Programs
Strong curriculum—AMTA approved should be a given, and all the schools on the list below have AMTA-approved curriculum.
Types of degrees
It should be noted that each college or university has its own path towards different degrees in music therapy. It seems that the most common degree is the Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in Music Therapy, but you"ll also find a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Music Therapy, a Bachelor of Music Education (B.M.E.) in Music Therapy, and even the B.M.T. degree (Bachelor of Music Therapy).
Rigorous admissions requirements
It takes the right kind of person to become a music therapist. You can"t only be a skilled musician; you must also have compassion as well as keen observation skills. Likewise, you can"t only be a talented therapist; you need to be able to lead songs and perform music. With that in mind, we favored programs that required more than the standard music school audition for admission into the music department or music therapy program.
The more MT-BC on staff, the stronger the program. The MT-BC credential is one that requires recertification, so having faculty members keep their certification current suggests that those faculty members are staying current in the field.
Proximity to training facilities
It is critical for music therapy students to have access to clinical opportunities. The closer, the better, whether the opportunity affords itself through an on-campus clinic, a hospital within walking distance from the university, or a school near the campus community.
Is the school affordable? Well, that answer varies from family to family, but any school becomes more affordable when it offers scholarships, so we"ve noted which programs provide scholarship opportunities.
Programs and offerings
Another item that falls under this category includes unique programs and offerings. Does the school have any study abroad opportunities to music therapy students, any special programming that distinguishes these from other music majors? We also considered the added benefits of these programs when compiling the list.