How to become a Music Therapist. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about Music Therapist careers.
What does a Music Therapist do?
Music therapists use music and sound to help improve people’s emotional wellbeing, relieve stress and improve confidence.
As a music therapist, you would encourage clients to try different instruments and use their voices to explore sound and communicate through music, which can help them to:
- express themselves
- develop insight and create ways of relating to other people
- become aware of their feelings
- interact with other people more confidently
- bring about positive changes in their lives.
You would hold group and one-to-one therapy sessions, which would involve you and your clients playing, singing, listening and improvising together.
Your clients could include children or adults with learning disabilities, emotional or behavioural problems, speech and language difficulties, mental health problems, and those recovering from addictions.
You would work closely with other health care professionals such as nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and speech and language therapists.
Your typical working hours would be between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, although some jobs may involve evening or weekend sessions. Part-time and freelance work is common.
Depending on your client group, you could work in various settings such as schools, hospitals, prisons and day centres. You may need to travel between different locations during your working day.
How much does a Music Therapist earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Music therapists can earn between £27,500 to £36,200 a year.
- With experience, this can rise to around £48,600 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To work as a state-registered music therapist, you need to complete a Masters qualification accredited by the Association of Professional Music Therapists (APMT) and recognised by the Health Professions Council (HPC). Check the APMT and HPC websites for details of approved courses.
To get on to a Masters in Music Therapy, you will usually need a three-year diploma or graduateship from a college of music, or a degree in music from a university. You may be accepted with a degree in education or psychology, as long as you have a high standard of musical ability. Check with course providers for exact entry details.
Many institutions will also expect you to have experience of working with children, people with mental health issues or learning disabilities. You should contact the voluntary services coordinator at your local NHS Trust for information on voluntary opportunities.
- NHS Choices
With some NHS Trusts, you could start out as an assistant therapist. For this role, you may not need any qualifications, but relevant paid or voluntary experience would be useful (check NHS Jobs for vacancies).
- NHS Jobs
You may have an advantage if you have a background in an area such as teaching, community or social work. A career as a professional musician would also be helpful.
Training and Development
Once you are on an approved course, you will cover areas such as psychology, early infant development, psychodynamics, psychiatry, and the theory of music therapy. You will develop clinical music skills and attend work placements in hospitals, schools and other centres in the community, working with adults and children.
As a registered and practising music therapist, you will receive regular supervision from an experienced therapist who is trained as a supervisor.
You can keep your professional skills and knowledge up to date by attending short courses or workshops and becoming involved in research.
Skills and Knowledge
- excellent communication skills
- the ability to relate to people from all backgrounds
- a high level of musical ability and knowledge of different styles of music
- a genuine desire to help people
- a non-judgemental attitude
- creativity, intuition and imagination
- a flexible and adaptable approach
- patience and commitment
- emotional strength and the ability to cope with challenging situations
- respect for confidentiality
- an interest in psychology.
You will find most opportunities in the NHS – visit the NHS Jobs website for vacancies. You could also find work with local authorities, voluntary organisations, the Prison Service, or in private practice.
- NHS Jobs
Many posts are part-time or temporary, and often depend on organisations gaining funding for particular projects. This could mean that you combine work as a music therapist with another job role, or have more than one employer.
With experience, you could go on to lead a team of therapists or manage a music therapy unit.