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Music Therapist

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Career Description: Uses music or musical activities to treat patients suffering from mental, physical, and/or emotional ailments.

Salary: $24,000 to $80,000+

Music Therapist Jobs

About This Music Career

The Music Therapist works with nurses, teachers, physical therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and/or family members to restore a patient's health. He or she uses different forms of music as therapy for patients who have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities or illnesses. This is one of the most popluar music industry careers today.

The Music Therapist helps patients by planning musical activities for groups or individuals like teaching a group of elderly patients a new song to help those are withdrawn to remember and reminisce about their younger days. Another example would be for the Music Therapist to teach a blind child how to play an instrument, giving him or her a sense of accomplishment.

In addition, the Music Therapist is responsible for selecting pieces to be used as background music in certain rooms in a facility to evoke a reaction or maybe sooth, depending on the situation. On the other hand, the Music Therapist in a hospital might put together a group of patients to sing or play instruments in a type of "mini" concert for a group of other patients or hospital staff.

Music Therapists attend conferences to discuss patient's needs and progress – of which even the slightest amount is a great feat. The Therapist hopes to make a connection with his or her patient through music and have the patient become healthier - emotionally, mentally, and/or physically.

Depending on experience, education, and the responsibilities of the individual, the Music Therapist may earn different amounts. Therapist earnings are also dependent on the size, prestige, and geographic location of the specific facility and job. All things considered, a Music Therapist just starting out can earn between $24,000 and $39,000 per year. On the other hand, a more experienced Therapist at a larger institution or facility may command a salary of $35,000 to $54,000 or more per year. Supervisors in the field of music therapy can earn salaries of $80,000 and up.

Due to the increasing number of health-care facilities, this field of music therapy is wide open, with more positions than there are Music Therapists. Therefore, a qualified individual should have no problem finding a job, and individuals can work in a variety of locations including hospitals, psychiatric facilities, outpatient clinics, mental health centers, nursing homes, correctional facilities, schools, and more.

From a Music Therapist role, one can move up to supervisory or administrative positions, which may or may not require additional training and education. Other Music Therapists move into research or university teaching. All of these advancing positions may limit contact with the patients themselves. However, many Therapists go into private practice and consulting, which gives them the ability to continue working with patients, after working in institutions or facilities for a period of time.

Education and Training
A bachelor's degrees in music therapy is required, and there are many different and colleges that offer this degree program (get music education info here). Relevant courses usually include music theory, voice studies, instrument lessons, psychology, sociology, and biology. If an individual plans to work in a public school system, he or she must also have a teaching degree. With that said, many positions require a master's degree. Also, Music Therapists must go through a six-month long internship before they obtain their licenses.

Special Requirements
To practice therapy, Music Therapists must be licensed by the state in which they practice. Certification is also available and can be obtained through the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). The board requires competition of academic and clinical training approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). This is in addition to passing a national, written examination.

Experience, Skills, and Personality
To be successful and to "reach" patients, a good Music Therapist must be able to work with handicapped and/or disabled people, while maintaining patience, compassion, and emotional stability from start to finish. In addition, a Music Therapist must be able to play the piano and/or guitar – the ability to play other instruments is a plus. Not only knowing how to play is good enough, however, because the Music Therapist must also be able to teach others to either play an instrument or sing. And of course, a good knowledge of music is essential. Before becoming a Music Therapist, an individual usually works at a health facility or school as a summer job or as a volunteer, which gives them the opportunity to gain useful experience.

Unions and Associations
Music Therapists may belong to two associations - the National Association for Music Therapy, Inc. and the American Association for Music Therapy. Both of these organizations help place qualified Music Therapists into various positions and act as liaisons for colleges and their music therapy programs.

Suggestions for Getting Started

  • Check with college job placement offices because facilities or schools looking for Music Therapists will send a list of openings to music schools and colleges, traditional colleges and universities.
  • Check with the National Association for Music Therapy, Inc. and the American Association for Music Therapy for registration and placement services.
  • Check with your state employment service for any positions made available through the federal government.
  • Check out openings online.
  • Contact state employment services for information on civil service positions.