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Music Therapy School Courses: Music Therapist University and College Degree Programs

Music therapy schools, colleges and universities train students how to use the physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual aspects of music to help clients heal and improve their state of health. Music therapy can be used to treat a variety of conditions and medical problems, and can also help to reduce stress, build self-esteem and increase learning rates. Students who complete music therapy degree programs and attend a music therapy university receive both classroom and hands-on training in the field, and may also work with clients to create, compose and listen to different types of music as part of a therapy session.

Choosing a Music Therapy School

Students interested in attending music therapy schools and completing a music therapy degree must consider the following when choosing a music therapy university or college:

  • Types of music therapy internships available
  • Education and background of professors
  • Accreditation by the American Music Therapy Association
  • Opportunities available for performing different types of music
  • Length of clinical training

What to Expect when Attending a Music Therapy School

Most music therapy degree programs are designed with both classroom and clinical training so that the student can learn basic and advanced skills in the field. Students attending music therapist schools and universities may be involved with the following types of activities:

  • Spending time practicing and performing with different types of instruments
  • Learning how to create customized patient treatment programs
  • Working with patients of different ages and cultural backgrounds
  • Creating structured musical activities to address certain health problems or conditions
  • Learning how to work with people who have disabilities
  • Working with groups of patients, as well as individuals under the supervision of a professional music therapist

Many music therapy courses are designed to train students how to work with different age groups and address specific types of illnesses. Music therapists are often responsible for working with adults and children with developmental disabilities, speech and hearing impairments, mental retardation and psychiatric disorders. They must have a thorough understanding about these illnesses and conditions in order to create an effective music therapy program.

Training Requirements for a Music Therapy Degree

Music therapy majors attending music therapy universities, colleges and music therapy schools typically complete an undergraduate curriculum in the fields of music therapy, psychology, social and behavioral sciences, music and disabilities. Students who are interested in entry level positions after graduation may be able to take on-campus clinical and practical application courses during their final year of study at the music therapy university.

Advanced music therapy programs teach students how to create and implement a music therapy treatment plan, evaluate patient records and progress, and make clinical changes as needed. Students who complete an AMTA-approved academic training program and internship are eligible to sit for the certification exam administered by the Certification Board of Music Therapists, Inc. Students who pass this exam earn the Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC) credential.

Types of Music Therapy Courses

A bachelor's music therapy degree program typically consists of 120 semester hours or its equivalent, and requires students to complete the following types of music therapy courses:

  • Music History and Literature
  • Music Theory
  • Composition and Arranging
  • Functional Piano, Guitar and Voice
  • Principles of Therapy
  • Normal Human Development
  • Exceptionality and Psychopathology
  • Music Therapy Foundations and Principles
  • Music Therapy Research
  • Influence of Music on Behavior
  • Music Therapy Assessment and Evaluation
  • Music Therapy Methods and Techniques

Music therapy degree programs are very specialized degree programs and are only available from just over 70 music therapy colleges and universities approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). The bachelor's music therapy degree program can be more than four years in length and includes 1200 hours of clinical training.

Students who wish to complete a master's degree in music therapy will need to take an advanced music therapy course and other courses available through just 30 AMTA-approved degree programs. Master's music therapy course work typically consists of advanced competencies in music therapy and research, theory and practical applications. Some music therapy colleges and universities also offer doctoral degrees in music therapy, including clinical administration, supervision and clinical practice training.

Careers After Music Therapy School

Students who complete music therapy programs or a music therapy degree at an accredited music therapy school can pursue a music therapist career as soon as they receive their credentials. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies music therapist under recreational therapists, and reports that the median annual wages of recreational therapists were $38,370 in May 2008. Music therapists can work at general hospitals, state government health centers, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, nursing care facilities or in community care facilities for the elderly, among other locations.

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