While music therapy involves taking some psychology course work, they are completely separate programs with distinct requirements. Psychology is considered a doctorate-level profession, while music therapy professionals require a bachelor's degree to be certified. If your career interests involve both a love of music and the ability to help people, without years of advanced course work, you should consider enrolling in a music therapy program that's designed to assist you in becoming board certified.

Professional Association Endorsements

One thing to consider in choosing what school to go to is whether that program is accredited or approved by the discipline's major professional organization. Not only does this ensure the program meets the minimum standards of professional training, it's often a requirement for licensure or certification. The American Psychological Association listed 375 accredited programs in its most recent annual report. The American Music Therapy Association lists more than 70 approved programs across the country on their website.

Psychology Course of Study

According to the APA, psychologists with doctoral degrees spend an average of seven years in education and training after they receive their undergraduate degrees, and are among the most highly trained of health-care professionals. An exact course of study is based on career interests and goals, and it includes areas like ethics, statistics, individual differences and the biological, cognitive-affective and social bases of behavior, and specific training in psychological assessment and therapy.

Music Therapy Course of Study

An AMTA-approved bachelor’s degree program is designed to cover three main areas: Musical Foundations, Clinical Foundations and Music Therapy Foundations and principles. Entry-level study includes both theory and technique, classroom studies and fieldwork in facilities serving individuals with disabilities in the community and on-campus clinics. In addition to required course work, individuals seeking certification are required to complete a 1200-hour internship at one of the internship-approved facilities before applying to take the certification exam. For individuals who already hold a bachelor's degree, some universities have degree equivalency programs that allow students to complete only the course work necessary for equivalent music therapy training, without necessarily earning a second baccalaureate degree as an alternative route to certification. While a bachelor’s degree is acceptable for certification, many music therapists go on to complete master’s or doctorate degrees as well.

Certification and Licensure

While the AMTA does set education and clinical training standards, it doesn't certify individuals as certified music therapists. The Certification Board for Music therapists is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies as the only organization that is qualified to issue Music Therapy-Board Certified status to practice music therapy in the United States. After obtaining initial certification, MT-CB therapists are required to renew their certifications every five years, either through retaking the exam or completing 100 recertification credits. Licensure, however, is handled by the state, and every state has different requirements. Individuals interested in pursuing licensure as a psychologist should check with their state's licensing board for specifics on that state's requirements. While certification has been the endorsement needed to practice music therapy, some states have recently begun requiring licensure for music therapists as well.

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