A professional music therapist holds a bachelor's degree or higher in music therapy from one of over 70 American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) approved college and university programs. The curriculum for the bachelor's degree is designed to impart entry level competencies in three main areas: musical foundations, clinical foundations, and music therapy foundations and principles as specified in the AMTA Professional Competencies. In addition to the academic coursework, the bachelor's degree requires 1200 hours of clinical training, including a supervised internship. Graduate degrees in Music Therapy focus on advanced clinical practice and research.
Upon completion of the bachelor's degree, music therapists are eligible to sit for the national board certification exam to obtain the credential MT-BC (Music Therapist - Board Certified) which is necessary for professional practice. The credential MT-BC is granted by a separate, accredited organization, the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT), to identify music therapists who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to practice at the current level of the profession. The purpose of board certification in music therapy is to provide an objective national standard that can be used as a measure of professionalism by interested agencies, groups, and individuals.
In addition, music therapists who currently hold the professional designations of ACMT, CMT or RMT are listed on the National Music Therapy Registry (NMTR) and are qualified to practice music therapy. For information on current holders of the ACMT, CMT or RMT designations, please contact the NMTR at (301) 562-9330.
Educational Requirements for Music Therapists: Listen to AMTA's Director of Professional Programs, Jane Creagan, MME, MT-BC, in a discussion with someone asking how they might become a music therapist.
Music therapists adhere to specific standards for clinical interventions and ethical conduct in professional practice, which are defined in the following AMTA documents:
The Scope of Music Therapy Practice (2015) broadly defines the range of responsibilities of a fully qualified music therapy professional with requisite education, clinical training, and board certification. Created and approved by the American Music Therapy Association and The Certification Board for Music Therapists, this document considers the contributions, interrelationships, and interdependencies of the CBMT Scope of Practice (2010), the CBMT Code of Professional Practice, the AMTA Standards for Education and Clinical Training, the AMTA Standards of Clinical Practice, the AMTA Professional Competencies, and the AMTA Code of Ethics.
The AMTA Standards of Clinical Practice for music therapy are defined as rules for measuring the quality of services. These Standards are designed to assist practicing music therapists and their employers in providing quality clinical interventions. The AMTA Standards of Clinical Practice undergo periodic revision to remain current with advances in the field.
The AMTA Code of Ethics define tenets of professional conduct for practicing music therapists. Because music therapists believe in the dignity and worth of every person and strive to establish and maintain high standards in public service, we require of ourselves the utmost in ethical behavior. The Code of Ethics is applicable to all those professional members holding the MT-BC credential or a professional designation of the National Music Therapy Registry (ACMT, CMT or RMT), and Professional Members of the American Music Therapy Association.
The AMTA Professional Competencies provide a definition of the current entry level skills of a music therapist who has completed either a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in music therapy. All AMTA approved bachelor's degree programs incorporate these competencies in their music therapy curriculum. As the clinical and research activities of music therapy expand, these competencies will be revised to reflect the growth of the professional knowledge base.