If you are musically talented and passionate about your belief that music has the power to heal, you may want to consider a career as a music therapist.
What do music therapists do?
Music therapists use music and sound to help their clients relieve stress, grow in confidence, and improve their overall emotional well-being. Tasks may include:
- Meeting with new clients to develop a treatment plan
- Working with adults and children who have learning disabilities, drug addictions, speech and language impairments, mental health problems, etc.
- Encouraging clients to express themselves through music
- Conducting group and/or individual therapy sessions
- Supporting patients while they use music to explore their feelings, develop insight into their personal relationships, interact with other people with greater confidence, and live more positive lives
- Playing instruments, singing songs, and listening to music with clients.
Where and when do music therapists work?
- Most music therapists work a regular Monday-Friday schedule, although some work evening and weekend shifts, and part time hours are common. Some people work as music therapists in addition to another job.
- Music therapists typically work in specially designed music rooms.
- Music therapists typically work with the same clients on a regular basis.
- Most music therapists are employed by NHS, but there are jobs available in private practice. Additionally, a number of music therapists are self-employed.
- Depending on who they work for, music therapists can work at schools, hospitals, prisons, day centres, etc.
- Some music therapists travel to see their clients, while others work from a fixed location while their clients come to them.
- Music therapists who work for NHS (and some in private practice) coordinate care with other health professionals, including occupational therapists, psychologists, speech and language therapists, nurses, etc.
What do music therapists earn?
Music therapists who work for the NHS are part of the Agenda for Change pay system, starting in Band 6 with possible progression to Band 7. Pay in private practice is comparable to the NHS payscale.
What skills do music therapists need?
- Excellent musical ability
- Knowledge of different types and styles of music
- An interest in psychology
- Patience, empathy, and a true desire to help improve peoples lives
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- The ability to think outside of the box and come up with creative ways to help clients
- Excellent listening skills
- The ability to relate to different people from many backgrounds, and to listen to their stories in a non-judgmental way
- The ability to be positive and emotionally strong while working with others who are struggling
- The ability to work alone and as part of a team
What education and training are required?
- Music therapists must be registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC), and that requires a masters qualification accredited by both the HCPC and the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT). Courses will include things like:
Theory of music therapy
Early infant development
Youll also participate in work placements, where youll gain clinical experience.
- Before being accepted into an accredited masters programme, youll need a three-year diploma or graduateship in music. Some masters programmes will accept a degree in education or psychology if you have exceptional musical ability.
- Many employers will expect work experience in a relevant field, whether its paid or voluntary.
What are the professional development opportunities?
- Once youre registered with HCPC and able to start working, your first employer will provide on-the-job training with an experienced music therapist.
- You can keep up with new developments by participating in continuing education and taking short courses.
- As you gain experience, you could move into a management role – either supervising a team of music therapists or heading a department – or become involved in research. You could also participate in training other music therapists.
What is the job outlook?
According to Prospects, the job outlook for music therapists is good. There are about 600 music therapists registered with BAMT, and that number is expected to grow as demand for music therapy increases.
If you are excited by the idea of combining your love of music with your passion for helping others, a career as a music therapist could be just what youre looking for.