10 Best Schools to Get a Music Therapy Degree
What are the best schools for studying Music Therapy? Here’s a brief overview of 10 of the best music therapy programs in the U.S. If you plan to earn your degree in Music Therapy, for either undergraduate or graduate, the schools and colleges listed here are all worth considering. They are not listed in any particular order. At the end, I’ll also mention several others worth looking at, plus a few international options.
Our picks for the best schools to get your music therapy degree:
- Berklee College of Music
- New York University
- Florida State University
- Montclair State University
- University of the Pacific
- Colorado State University
- Temple University
- Loyola University
- Radford University
- University of Kansas
Music Therapy Programs
Music Therapy has been around for a long time. Most people will be surprised to learn the use of music for healing was practiced during the 15th Century Ottoman Empire throughout Central Asia, the Mideast, Northern Africa and even in parts of Europe. Music Therapy is known to have existed in China as well, going back at least several thousands of years.
More recently, Music Therapy has been established as a clinical practice and academic field of study and research in the West and in America. There are now many excellent programs in Music Therapy, as we will discover. In the US, Music Therapy programs were first offered as a course of music studies in the 1940s. Since then there has been a steady acceptance of the practice as a field for academic pursuit and research.
According to Wikipedia: Music Therapy is an evidence-based clinical use of musical interventions to improve clients’ quality of life. Music Therapists use music and its many facets — physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual — to help clients improve their health in cognitive, motor, emotional, communicative, social, sensory, and educational domains by using both active and receptive music experiences.
Music is widely used as a tool to treat individual psychological and physical ailments and disabilities, and also to bond and heal groups and communities. The applications of Music Therapy are broad and diverse, which I will cover in more detail in a future article. For this post, the focus is on where you can study to become a Music Therapist.
To become a Music Therapist in the U.S., students must complete their degree in music therapy at a program approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). This program must include a clinical internship. The candidate must then pass the national examination offered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).
How to Choose a Music Therapy Program
All the schools included in my 10 best list have established programs, with graduates working in the field. When considering programs, begin by investigating a number of schools, and do some initial research into each. As you narrow down your options, you should try to visit any schools you are seriously considering, to speak directly with the faculty and students. They can give you perspective on what it’s really like to study there.
Some students choose a program based on the specific faculty teaching there. Location and cost are almost always a factor in choosing a school, as are scholarship awards. As you do your research, take careful notes to help you compare the different programs’ plusses and minuses.
Keep track of who you speak with at each school, in case questions come up afterward and you want to consult with them further. Take advantage of opportunities to network with industry professionals while researching the colleges. Some schools have short summer programs, which can be a great way to find out what it’s like to study there.
Ultimately, choosing the right program for you shouldn’t depend on any top 10 list. There are many good programs I couldn’t include here. The important thing is the training you receive should prepare you to work in the field. Listen to the opinions of Teachers and other professionals, but in the end, you should make the decision based on what feels right for you.
Berklee’s program is music-centric, and tailored to students with interest in contemporary music forms such as Jazz, Blues, Popular Music, Rap, and Hip-Hop. This makes the program unique, since other programs have a Classical foundation.
10 Top Schools for Music Therapy
Organizing a “Top 10” list for anything is an incredibly difficult and complex undertaking. It’s really hard to decide which schools to include or leave out. For my list, I considered different factors, such as size of the program, reputation, location, facilities, faculty, costs, alumni success, length of operation, affiliations, degrees offered, and so on. I also solicited opinions from Music Therapy practitioners and my fellow Professors.
I wanted to provide a sampling of excellent programs as a starting point for students to help with their initial research. Over time, programs can change, so I tried to make the information as up-to-date as possible for our current 2019-2020 academic year. At the end, I’ve also included some additional schools not included in the list, but also worthy of consideration, plus a few international programs. The link to each school is also provided. Schools aren’t listed in any particular order.
Located in Boston, Berklee has one of the largest and most respected Music Therapy programs. Berklee’s program is music-centric and tailored to students with interest in contemporary music forms such as Jazz, Blues, Popular Music, Rap, and Hip-Hop. This makes the program unique since other programs have a Classical foundation. Students benefit from close proximity to Boston’s “Medical Campus,” with over 50 sites where students can complete their clinical requirements in respected facilities such as Children’s Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, McLean Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Perkins School for the Blind, and in local nursing homes.
Berklee also offers options for visually impaired students, study abroad, and scholarship assistance. The program leads to a Bachelor of Music (B.M.) and board certification as a Music Therapist.
NYU/Steinhardt school in New York City offers a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Music Therapy. Students completing the program are eligible for board certification in Music Therapy and are also eligible for NY State licensure as a Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT). Students have access to the NYU Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy, which focuses on research into creative and developmental processes of Music Therapy, offers resources and training for Music Therapists, and prepares students for teaching music to all ages including those with and without disabilities.
For credentialed Music Therapists with an area of clinical specialization who want to develop research skills, NYU also offers a Ph.D. in Music Education with a specialization in Music Therapy. NYU’s programs have a strong emphasis on personal and professional growth and development for Music Therapists. Students may study full or part-time in NYU’s program.
Located in Florida’s state capitol, Tallahassee, FSU offers Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Music Therapy, plus a Ph.D. in Music Education with a concentrate in Music Therapy. The program was established during the 1950s, and also offers a Music Therapy Equivalency training program for students with a Bachelor of Music, allowing students to complete the required coursework and clinical internship to become board certified in about one and one-half years.
Located in Montclair, NJ, very close to New York City. As part of the John J. Cali School of Music, Montclair has offered Bachelors (BA) and Masters (MA) Degrees in Music Therapy since 1969. The BA takes four and one-half years with all coursework and clinical training. The six-month full-time supervised internship can be completed at over 150 approved sites across the US. They accept students into the program on all instruments, including voice.
A unique feature of the Cali School Music Therapy program is the David Ott Laboratory, where students can gain a practical understanding of resources such as computer hardware for recording and organization of data, iPod for music storage and retrieval, the Somatron (for vibro-acoustic experiences), and a variety of musical instruments. Students at the Ott Laboratory conduct research into physiological outcomes of music therapy and publish results in scientific journals.
Located in Forest Grove, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. Offers a Bachelor of Music Therapy (BMT) program. A five-year course of study including a year-long internship leads to students sitting for the national board certification exam. Students must develop musical proficiency in voice, piano, guitar, and percussion while taking courses in psychology, neuroscience, anatomy, and health care practice. During their internship, students increase their experience while working alongside a professional Music Therapist.
Temple was the first university in the US to offer a PhD in Music Therapy. Temple’s PhD program allows students to earn course credits through intensive retreats combined with online courses, and offers students the opportunity to study abroad at their campus in Tokyo, Japan.
Located in Fort Collins, in northern Colorado. CSU offers an undergraduate degree (BM) in Music Therapy, a Master of Music (MM) with a specialization in Music Therapy for board-certified Music Therapists, an Equivalency program for students seeking to earn a Masters with an undergraduate degree in music, plus an online Masters program.
Besides courses in music theory, music history, performance, and research techniques, students in the undergrad program take required courses in psychology, neuroscience, and medical terminology. The graduate program emphasizes advanced training in evidence-based clinical skills and research. The CSU Music Therapy Clinic offers Music Therapy services to populations with a range of needs and serves as a training site where students are supervised by board-certified Music Therapist as they complete assessments, treatment plans, and document patient progress. Colorado State University is the only university in the Central Rocky Mountain region offering degrees in Music Therapy.
Located in Philadelphia, housed in the Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple offers undergraduate and graduate programs in Music Therapy. Students earn a BM, a Master of Music Therapy (MMT) with or without equivalency, and can also earn a Ph.D. For the Bachelors’s, students can choose either a traditional (Classical) or Jazz Concentration. Along with music, there is a focus on general education and clinical studies, which is both theoretical and applied in the laboratory setting.
Temple was the first university in the US to offer a Ph.D. in Music Therapy. Temple’s Ph.D. program allows students to earn course credits through intensive retreats combined with online courses and offers students the opportunity to study abroad at their campus in Tokyo, Japan. As with most schools on my list, Temple’s Music Therapy programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).
Housed in the College of Music and Media, Loyola offers Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Music Therapy. Loyola is one of the oldest Music Therapy programs in the US, founded in 1957. Students completing their Bachelor can apply for licensure in the following states: Connecticut, Georgia, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin. There are talent-based scholarships available for both graduate and undergraduate applicants.
Located in Radford, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. Offers a Bachelor of Music (BM) degree in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, with a Concentration in Music Therapy. The four-year program provides an intensive study of music, combined with an in-depth understanding of the behavioral and natural sciences, including psychology, anatomy, physiology, and sociology. Prior to graduation, students complete a six-month internship at an AMTA approved facility under a board-certified Music Therapist, after which they are eligible to take the exam for certification. The internship can be completed anywhere in the US.
Located in Lawrence, in northeast Kansas. The School of Music offers Music Therapy undergraduate and graduate degrees; a Bachelor of Music (BM) and a Masters of Music Education/Music Therapy (MME), respectively. There is also a Ph.D. in Music Therapy. All applicants must audition on one of the following instruments: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, trumpet, French horn, trombone, euphonium, tuba, percussion, violin, viola, cello, double bass, harp, organ (and church music), piano, or voice. Besides courses in Music Therapy, students take courses in musicology, history, composition, and music theory.
Also Worthy of Mention
The following schools are also worth a look.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lesley has an on-campus and a low-residency online program for students to earn a Master of Arts (MA) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Music Therapy Concentrate.
Anna Maria College
A private Catholic liberal arts college located in Paxton, Massachusetts, Anna Maria College’s Music Therapy program was the first in New England. The Bachelor’s degree program (BM) prepares students for clinical practice after graduation. Approved by the American Music Therapy Association, graduates are qualified to sit for the board certification exam.
Located on Long Island, just outside of New York City, offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Music Therapy. They also have a dual degree-program allowing students to earn nine credits toward a Masters Degree (MS) during their senior year of undergraduate studies.
In addition to the many schools in the US offering Music Therapy degrees, prospective students interested in studying abroad might consider the following international options.
Laurier (Canada): Located in Waterloo, Ontario, offers a Bachelor of Music Therapy (BMT) and also a Masters (MMT).
Aalborg: (Denmark): Has a PhD program as well as an undergraduate degree. Houses the Center for Documentation and Research in Music Therapy. Associated with the International Music Therapy Assessment Consortium (IMTAC), a collaboration between international universities and Music Therapy providers.
ArtEZ University of the Arts (Netherlands): In the heart of Holland, Enschede. Offers undergraduate options only.
Nordoff-Robbins (UK): Nordoff Robbins is an independent charity organization in the United Kingdom that runs the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre in London and Music Therapy outreach projects. It also offers postgraduate training courses in Music Therapy and has a research program with public courses and conferences.
University of Melbourne (Australia): Offers a Masters Degree in Creative Arts and Music Therapy. The first offered in Australia, established in 1978. Students take courses in music psychology, music and health, and music and spirituality.
In researching and organizing this list, I was impressed by the many excellent programs around the country. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) is a helpful resource if you are looking for more information on Music Therapy careers and study.
Remember that there are many outstanding schools that are not on this short list. Do your own research and then plan to visit the schools you are most interested in.
Be sure to speak with current professionals in the field to see what they recommend. Talk to graduates of the programs you are considering, find out what they are doing now, and ask them how they feel about the training they received. For talented musicians who want to work with patients in a clinical setting, or conduct meaningful research into the art of healing with music, earning a degree and certification in Music Therapy will be a necessary and worthy investment in terms of gaining the specialized knowledge and techniques for a career as a licensed Music Therapist.
- “Music Therapy.” Wikipedia. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
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