Why Music Therapy is a Good Career Alternative for Musicians

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Looking for a career where you can use your music skills and education in a stable and lucrative profession? Perhaps you should consider music therapy.

Looking for a career where you can use your music skills and education in a stable, lucrative profession? Perhaps you should consider Music Therapy.

As a musician you probably want to make some kind of impact on the world. You may have spent years studying music, or might be planning to, but the life of a full-time professional musician can be filled with doubt and uncertainty. But, what if there was a career option allowing you to utilise your music skills and education within a stable profession while also helping other people? Music therapy might just offer that opportunity.

What is Music Therapy?

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA)—not to be confused with the American Massage Therapy Association—defines music therapy as the “clinical and evidence-based use of music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.” Music therapists assess the physical and emotional health, cognitive skills, social functioning, and communication abilities of patients and clients. They then design treatment plans that utilise sessions of music listening, songwriting, performance and improvisation, and discussion in order to aid in the treatment and management of their conditions.

Why Should You Consider Becoming a Music Therapist?

1. It’s A Practical Application of Your Musical Education

According to the AMTA, approximately 45% of the curriculum of music therapist degree programs involves music education in areas such as theory, composition, history, conducting and performance, while the rest focuses on clinical foundations (15%), music therapy (15%), and general studies (25%).

This means that if you music therapy might be a viable option particularly if you are a high school graduate looking to study music in college, or if you already have a music degree and are trying to figure out how to turn it into a lucrative profession.

2. It’s A Growing and Stable Profession

Music therapy is still an emerging discipline around the world. As of 2013, CNN reported that there were approximately 5,000 certified music therapists in the US. Considering the broad range of applications of music therapy to the treatment of various diseases, this number will undoubtedly grow to meet increasing demand. Notable classical and jazz musicians such as Paul Nordoff and Stanley Jordan have also gotten involved in music therapy.

As of 2014, the AMTA reports that the average salary of music therapists it surveyed was $50,808 and that surveyed professionals reported a range of salaries from $20,000 to $200,000, with the variance accounted for by location, experience, training, full-time or part-time employment and so on. Very recently the National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded $20 million towards the Sound Health Initiative; a music study initiative undertaken jointly by the NIH, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts, to explore the applicability for music in neuroscience and in the treatment of neurological disorders.

Therefore, it seems clear that music therapy, as a field of practice and research, is expanding and offers a great deal of scope for professional growth.

3. It Allows You To Help People

Music therapy offers a way to make a very real positive impact on people’s lives by improving their quality of life as well as treating medical conditions. Essentially, this means that you can learn to use music to aid in the treatment of people with a broad range of physical and mental ailments. While it should come as no surprise that listening to music can be used to treat pain, stress and anxiety, music therapy is also currently being used to treat a variety of diseases, from PTSD to Parkinson’s disease.

How Do You Become a Music Therapist?

In order to become a music therapist you need to get a MT-BC (Music Therapist—Board Certified) credential by taking an examination administered by the Central Board of Music Therapists. In order to be eligible for the examination you normally have a Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from a university recognized by the AMTA and the requisite fieldwork and practical training.

However, if you already have a Bachelor’s degree in some other field, especially a degree in a related field such as music, psychology, biology, or education, you could complete an equivalency program from one of the AMTA-recognized universities to accrue the credits necessary to be eligible for the MT-BC examination. Additionally, there are also Master’s and Doctorate degree programs in music therapy that you could pursue if you are interested in research.

Conclusion

Music therapy offers career opportunities for musicians, particularly young musicians, looking to apply their music study in a practical setting while also making a positive social impact.  Therefore, if you’re a trained musician, or a high school graduate looking to study music in college, who also wants to find a stable profession outside of the stresses and instability of the life of a professional full-time musician, you might want to look into music therapy.

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