Online PhD in Music Therapy

Candidates of a Ph.D. program in ,music therapy must possess a background in music as well as science. The breadth of the necessary scientific background includes psychology and biology as well as social and behavioral sciences. Generally, Ph.D. candidates have already earned a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field. Students who are an exception to this rule are accepted into the doctoral program under the contingency that missing requirements be completed. In order to become a certified music therapist, students must complete academic training and fulfill internship obligations approved by the American Music Therapy Association. Because such certification is available after obtaining an undergraduate degree, many graduate students have professional experience as music therapists, and in some cases, such experience is required for admission into a doctoral program.

Postgraduate work in music therapy melds the study of professional practice with research inquiry. Students who seek a doctoral degree can expect to gain a higher competency in research, theory development, clinical practice, supervision, or post secondary teaching — depending on the student's field of specialty and/or the purpose of the degree program. Many doctoral degree programs focus on preparing a student for the career field that best suits the individual's skill set. The course of study usually concludes with a substantial work of original research.

About Online PhD Programs in Music Therapy

Currently, there are no fully online PhD programs in music therapy. However, music therapists who wish to advance their education entirely online have the option to pursue a doctorate in education or psychology. Yet another option is to participate in an on-campus program that offers online courses in addition to traditional courses. Because music therapy requires performance evaluation and field research, many classes must occur within an academically or clinically monitored environment.

Year One:

  • Research in Music Psychotherapy: Students will critically examine the foundational research on the use of music in psychotherapy with emphasis on qualitative literature.
  • Research in Music Medicine: Students will critically examine the foundational research on the use of music in medicine with emphasis on quantitative literature.
  • Theory Development in Music Therapy:Students will examine the nature of theory and the theorizing process specific to music therapy. Emphasis will be placed on comparing existing theories, and the course will culminate with the student making his own theory based on practice and research.

Year Two:

  • Advanced Topics in Music Psychotherapy: Students will examine the practice, research, and theory of music in psychotherapy across various areas of specialization.
  • Advanced Topics in Music Medicine: Students will examine the practice, research and theory in music used for medicinal purposes across various areas of specialization.
  • Models of Clinical Supervision in Music Therapy: Students will explore the effects of music and music therapy techniques as a form of supervision.

Students will generally spend a portion of a semester developing dissertation proposals. Once the dissertation committee approves the dissertation proposal, the student will then spend a minimum of two semesters conducting supervised research for the dissertation.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Music Therapy

A PhD in music therapy allows students to further explore the effects of music on the human mind. Students will be exposed to advanced research techniques and will formulate and test hypotheses through clinical trials. In terms of career advancement, a PhD in music therapy provides the experience and knowledge demanded of higher paying jobs. A Ph.D. study can also support an individual's pursuit of a particular specialization.

Years of work experience or the postgraduate equivalent is generally required to study music therapy at the highest level. For many students, such a time commitment is unfeasible. The biggest attribute of gaining a PhD in music therapy is the advancement in career and in pay-scale, but for those who are content working as music therapists, there is little reason to invest the time and money needed to obtain a degree that is designed for research, specialization, or post secondary instruction.

Application & Admission Requirements

Potential students who are seeking to enter a PhD program in music therapy must hold a bachelor's degree in music therapy or an equivalent. Because there are so few doctoral programs in the United States for this particular topic, the admission requirements for many PhD programs in music therapy are rather demanding. Many programs ask that students have a master's degree and/or 5 years of work experience as a music therapist.

In addition to the candidate's extensive background in music therapy, he or she must also pass an interview and audition stage. Candidates are generally asked to play the piano and/or guitar for this evaluation. In addition to these final stages, the candidate must provide letters of recommendation, an essay, a scholarly body of work (published or unpublished), and receive high marks on any required entrance exams.

Career Options & Job Market

Music therapists use music to develop individualized treatment and interventions for patients of all ages and ability levels. Music therapy can be designed to suit the needs of any patient, but the most common work environments for recreational therapists are nursing homes, schools, hospitals and, research institutions. Depending on the client, music therapy sessions can address social, communicative, emotional, physical, cognitive, sensory and even spiritual problems.

Currently, the median income for a music therapist is $39,410 per year. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the job market for music therapists is expected to grow at an average rate of 17% until 2020. However, if a music therapist earns his Ph.D. and joins the ranks of other medical researchers, his salary would increase to a median of $76,700. Another option for a music therapist with a Ph.D. is to become a post secondary instructor, a position that pays an average salary of $62,050 per year.

Where to Find Information

  • American Music Therapy AssociationThe leading resource for Music Therapy in the U.S., this organization promotes high standards among music therapists and also offers learning opportunities for those who are established and/or growing in their careers.
  • Certification Board of Music TherapyThe CBMT is the only board that offers national certification to practice music therapy in the United States, and it also offers re-certification programs that are designed to measure or enhance the knowledge of existing music therapists.
  • Directory of AMTA-Certified Schools and Programs Provided by the AMTA, this directory aids students in finding the right program to begin or grow a career in music therapy.

How to Get Funding

In the United States, there are various outlets for funding a Ph.D. program. But in addition to federal loans and financial aid, some universities offer full funding for their doctoral programs. For potential music therapy students, theSteinhardt Department at NYU is one such example.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. The Unsubsidized Stafford Loan for graduate students is not need-based. Any eligible student can acquire this low-interest loan while pursuing a Ph.D. The maximum loan available is $12,000 per academic year, and there is a fixed interest rate of 6.80%.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. Because the Federal Perkins loan is need-based, students must first complete the FASFA before applying. This low-interest loan can pay a maximum of $8,000 per year at an interest rate of 5.0%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Your campus is a great place to start searching for financial aid options. In addition to university-based scholarships, the financial aid program at each university should be up-to-date with government-based aid.

Essential Advice

  • Before applying for a PhD program in music therapy, potential students should first seek the advice of a professor, mentor, or colleague who has participated in a similar program. All the statistics in the world cannot compare to a trusted personal opinion. Additionally, gaining insight into the pros and cons of earning a Ph.D. could help you gain a competitive advantage during your studies.
  • Before applying to a particular program, research the funding options provided by the university. Although a fully funded program may significantly reduce costs, you may need supplemental income in order to maintain your lifestyle or provide for your family. Choosing a program that aligns with your budget is a cornerstone of a healthy investment.
  • Begin prepared as soon as possible. Though the interview process is a common requirement for all doctoral candidates, those studying music therapy must undergo a unique series of auditions. Be sure to allot enough time for the lengthy application process, any necessary entrance exams, as well as practice for your audition pieces. You may also need to practice your interview skills.
  • Take this step with a specific goal in mind. The most fruitful endeavors are those that are guided by consistent, true values. Keep your ideals at the forefront of your mind, whether you want to advance your career or research a specific avenue of music therapy.