I’m often asked, “how do you become a music therapist?”. I’ll tell you my story in brief. I earned a Bachelor of Music in music therapy at The University of Iowa. As a guitarist, I auditioned into the jazz studies program to start with, then applied to the music therapy program. After I was accepted, I began taking the required music therapy classes. Following all my coursework (see below for my list of classes), I completed a 6-month internship at The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. This included clinical rotations in behavioral health, pediatrics, palliative care, and neonatal intensive care. I was then eligible to take the certification exam, allowing me to use the credential MT-BC (music therapist, board certified).

how to become a music therapistAfter working for a couple years, I returned to The University of Iowa for a Master of Arts. This allowed me to dig deeper into research from multiple fields to develop a deeper understanding of how music can be effective in a therapeutic relationship. There are many wonderful music therapy programs, and The University of Iowa is among them. The reason I went there for both my undergraduate and graduate studies was a combination of respect for the faculty and proximity to my home. In-state tuition is always nice 🙂

There are, though, other methods of entry into the profession. Others might have a degree in another field – possibly in music, or possibly in a field that is somewhat related to music therapy. In this case, they likely went back to school for an equivalency or a master’s equivalency. With the former, one takes the required music and music therapy courses to meet the standards of the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Then they complete an internship and take the certification exam. A master’s equivalency includes the minimum requirements for clinical work, as well as additional coursework to also earn a master’s degree. This often includes advanced clinical training or research classes.

So if you’re wondering, “how do you become a music therapist?”, search for schools offering undergraduate, graduate, and equivalency programs, and check out my list of programs. Contact professors at those schools and see what is best option for your situation.


Music therapy class list for MY undergraduate degree
Disclaimer: Requirements for this program are always changing. Also, some classes that were not relevant to the degree program (electives and gen eds) have been excluded, and duplicates not listed. For example, if I took 4 semesters of guitar lessons, I’m only going to list it once.

Guitar Lessons
Group Piano Instruction I-III
Recital Attendance
Orientation to Music Therapy
Jazz Ensembles (several)
Musicianship and Theory I-IV
History of Music I-II
Jazz Band Techniques
History of Jazz
Music Foundations in Therapy I-II
Elementary Psychology
Psychology of Music
Movement for Performers
Voice Lessons
Basics of GarageBand
Music Therapy Practica I-III
Music Therapy Techniques for Adult Clients
Music Therapy Techniques for the Atypical Child
Music Therapy Techniques in Special Education
Music Research
Human Anatomy
Clinical Psychology
Abnormal Psychology
Child Development
Conducting Techniques
Music Therapy Senior Project
Manual Communication

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