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Music Therapists

At a Glance

  • Often play multiple instruments as well as sing
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree
  • Work with a variety of clients, including those with special needs
  • Usually work 40 hours a week

Career summary

Music therapists plan and carry out treatments and activities for patients. They use music to help patients improve their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Music therapists work with clients with social, physical, emotional, and mental disorders and problems. They interview clients to gather information. Then they set up treatment that may involve singing, moving, listening to, or creating music and rhythms.

Music therapists work in a variety of settings, including:

Music therapists work with a variety of clients, including children, the elderly, and those with psychiatric issues. The goal of therapy sessions is to help individual clients grow stronger and use what they learn through music in their daily lives. This may mean that music therapists help a client deal with a difficult time in their life. Or it may mean helping a person grow physically stronger.

Music therapists keep detailed records about each therapy session. They often work with other care providers, such as social workers.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to music therapists.

Common work activities

Music therapists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, music therapists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Music therapists frequently:

It is important for music therapists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for music therapists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Music therapists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a music therapist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

You must have a bachelor's degree in music therapy or a degree equivalency program in music therapy for this occupation.

As an undergraduate student, you take courses in several areas of music. Courses include music history and applied music, where you concentrate on one or more instruments or singing. You also take courses in psychology, counseling techniques, assessment, and evaluation. Some programs offer courses about working with specific age groups, such as youth or the elderly. Others also offer courses about specific conditions, such as developmental disabilities or mental illness. As an undergraduate student you also do field work in facilities that serve individuals with special needs.

Many schools offer graduate degrees in music therapy. Typically they take two to five years to complete after you receive a bachelor's degree. People with graduate degrees in music therapy may become administrators or professors.

On-the-job training

As an undergraduate student you must complete a practicum. This means you observe music therapists as they work with patients. You also create treatment plans, write reports, and eventually participate in therapy sessions. Professional music therapists supervise your work closely. You may do your practicum at a mental health clinic, nursing home, school, or other organization.

Through a practicum, you learn firsthand what it is like to be a music therapist. You learn to apply your course work to real-life situations. A practicum also gives you experience that you can use to apply for jobs after you receive your bachelor's degree.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers require at least a bachelor’s degree. Employers also prefer applicants who have work experience. Internships and volunteer work are good ways to get experience. Some employers hire graduates who completed internships in their agency. Employers also look for people who are dedicated and have excellent communication skills.

Many new music therapists begin work with an experienced therapist who has an established practice and clientele.


Some states require music therapists to be licensed. Requirements vary by state.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Currently, there is no specific statewide wage information available for music therapists. However, this occupation is part of the larger group called "recreational therapists."

Recreational therapists (SOC 29-1125)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $20.39 $23.33 $27.63 $33.62 $40.03
Monthly $3,534 $4,043 $4,788 $5,826 $6,937
Yearly $42,400 $48,530 $57,460 $69,930 $83,270
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $22.34 $26.08 $30.37 $38.40 $45.94
Monthly $3,872 $4,520 $5,263 $6,655 $7,961
Yearly $46,473 $54,229 $63,171 $79,869 $95,550
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $18.89 $21.50 $24.06 $27.54 $32.18
Monthly $3,274 $3,726 $4,170 $4,773 $5,577
Yearly $39,301 $44,723 $50,040 $57,280 $66,927
    Vancouver Hourly $16.75 $19.00 $32.89 $36.75 $39.11
Monthly $2,903 $3,293 $5,700 $6,369 $6,778
Yearly $34,838 $39,500 $68,412 $76,436 $81,343
United States Hourly $14.23 $17.90 $23.01 $29.63 $37.04
Monthly $2,466 $3,102 $3,988 $5,135 $6,419
Yearly $29,590 $37,220 $47,860 $61,630 $77,050

Wages vary by employer, area of the country, and the therapists' level of experience.

Music therapists who work full time often receive benefits. Common benefits include health insurance, sick leave, and paid vacation.

National wage information is not available specifically for music therapists. However, they are part of the larger group of "recreational therapists."

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

#Currently, there is no specific statewide outlook information available for music therapists. However, this occupation is part of the larger group called "recreational therapists.”

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Recreational Therapists (SOC 29-1125)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 203 18.7% 16.1% 19
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 10 0.0% 8.6% 1
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 16 6.3% 14.1% 1
    King County 68 29.4% 19.6% 8
    Pierce County 32 31.3% 15.2% 4
    Snohomish County 12 25.0% 12.4% 1
    Spokane County 44 15.9% 13.9% 4
United States 19,800 7.1% 5.2% 1,100

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be about average. The growth of the aging population will increase the need for music therapists. Rehabilitation, home health care, and programs for those with disabilities will create the most jobs. Job opportunities in hospitals will decline, as services shift to outpatient settings.

This occupation is very small so the total number of job openings will be low. However, some openings will occur as current therapists retire or leave this occupation for other reasons.

Employment and outlook information is not available specifically for music therapists. However, they are part of the larger group of "recreational therapists."

Other resources

American Music Therapy Association (external link)
8455 Colesville Road, Suite 1000
Silver Spring, MD 20910


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational clusters