AMTS’ guide to being a music therapist

Getting trained as a music therapist requires a long-term commitment and good preparation. This is one of the most common question asked by people we have met – “How do I become a music therapist?”

1. You need to be able to play an instrument.

Most postgraduate admissions require at least Grade 8 standard for your main instrument, and intermediate competency on piano and/or guitar. Undergraduate programs in US might have lower requirements, so check early with the institution to be sure. If you don’t satisfy that criteria, you need to start by getting some basic lessons on guitar, piano, and voice!

2. Where should I study?

Many institutions offer music therapy courses. AMTS adopts a neutral stance towards the course. As long as you are eligible to register as a music therapist from the country of training, it is considered a recognised course. You can locate the institutions from some selected countries: USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. There have been local scholarships awarded to music therapists for studies from NCSS. We are looking into having local postgraduate training. To stay informed when we launch the course, complete the survey here.

3. Masters or Undergraduate?

It depends on when you decide to pursue music therapy. If you are looking to do a masters course, it is strongly encouraged that you have taken psychology units in your undergraduate studies. If you are a career switcher, you may often progress to the Masters training directly.

*Some postgraduate programmes in USA are in fact advanced training (i.e requiring you to have a  undergraduate degree in MT). As mentioned, it depends on your budget, your preference. There is no ‘better’ school over another. However Masters graduates will generally command a higher pay locally due to payscale pegged to qualifications.

4. Attend our public events.

Best way to meet many music therapists working in varied settings. Feel free to ask us questions about our experiences studying and working. We have an event coming up on November 22 as well as the annual Music Therapy Day in April 2015. For events, please check out our Calendar.

5. Arrange for an observation / volunteering opportunity

We work in many places. If you look at our sidebar, you may contact any of the workplaces directly for an observation. Music therapists are not able to help you arrange for an observation at their workplace. The term ‘Clinical Internship’ are for current MT students fulfilling their practicum hours.

Please state you are looking for observation / volunteering opportunity. That clears up a lot of confusion for administration and us!

6. Read music therapy blogs.

There are plenty of great music therapy bloggers out there who write about their work. Google them and find out what they do. It is a great way to learn about understand the profession. If you are inclined to be more research oriented, you may look up PubMed or to read more scholarly writings.

7. Work on Personal Growth

Finally, music therapists require skills of reflexive and critical thinking throughout the training and in their professional work. During the audition/interview you will inadvertently get questions regarding yourself, your values, and plans in life. Do you know yourself well enough? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a person? Do you really know why you want to be a music therapist?

8. Job Prospects?

We have one of the highest percentage of full-time music therapists around Asia and the world. Although we are not yet a recognized profession by the AHPC, organisations and institutions are extremely supportive of the work. This is due in large part to the rigorous practical and research training we receive. We need more local music therapists to return to fill jobs and start projects with interested organisations.

– Evelyn Lee, RMT

Special thanks to Ashley Spears and Melanie Kwan for their additional input!


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