While music therapy has been an established profession in the United States since the 1950s, many people remain unaware of the breadth of career opportunities available to music therapists. I remember hearing about music therapy for the first time in my second year of undergraduate studies in classical voice. One of my instructors introduced me to the field after I expressed uncertainty about my career after college. She knew that I had a strong interest in both music and psychology and suggested that I research music therapy as a career.
Seven years later, I am so grateful to have chosen this career path, and I want more people to know about music therapy. You may be wondering why music therapy is such a great profession, so I have put together the top 5 reasons I believe being a music therapist is the best job ever!
5 Reasons You Should Be a Music Therapist:
1. You want to help people. Music therapy allows you to make a difference in people’s lives, and music therapists have the best secret weapon there is when it comes to doing this. Music therapists are specifically trained to use music to help people develop coping tools, learn new skills, induce relaxation, manage pain, and address many other concerns. I know that music has helped me get through difficult times, and I also find it satisfying to know that my training and skills can directly bring change and comfort to others seeking help.
2. You love learning music, and you don’t want to stop learning. Music therapists have extensive training on one instrument, but because music therapists tend to use music that their clients prefer, they learn to play many styles of music, such as pop, hip hop, blues, metal, and rock. Music therapy can be used with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds, which leads music therapists to learn music in many languages and music from different regions of the world. As they learn and work in the field, music therapists also learn to play many different instruments. If you would enjoy being a lifelong learner of music across genres and styles, then you would enjoy being a music therapist.
3. You want a career in music, but you don’t want to teach or perform. Let’s be honest: Sometimes we pick careers from a process of elimination. You might want music to be a part of your career but might not want to perform or teach as a profession. If this describes you, then it might be worth looking into music therapy. Music therapists spend significant parts of their day engaging in music-making through singing, playing instruments, and writing songs with their clients. This provides a great balance of using your musical skills regularly without having to work in performance or educational settings, which might be stressful or unfulfilling for some.
4. You want a career in music that provides stability and opportunity. All careers in music can give you a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction, but you might be concerned about the job opportunities and stability of these careers. I think a career in music therapy can be both satisfying and stable because music therapists can work in numerous settings and capacities. Many music therapists practice in schools, medical and psychiatric treatment facilities, and rehabilitation and nursing homes among others. Aside from clinical work, music therapists can also work as researchers, administrators, educators, and consultants, such as teaching music therapy courses at a university or working as a clinical supervisor.
5. You enjoy working with people. While some music therapists practice independently, many work in settings alongside other health professionals. I have worked with art therapists, drama therapists, dance/movement therapists, recreation therapists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, counselors, social workers, and teachers. Interdisciplinary treatment allows for an exchange of knowledge and broadens each team member’s perspective on health and wellness. I have enjoyed working with and leading sessions with many of these individuals, and it feels rewarding to be a part of a team that works together to improve the consumer’s quality of life.
If any of this sounds appealing, I encourage you to research music therapy as a possible career for you. The American Music Therapy Association has information about education and careers in music therapy. The Institute for Therapy through the Arts can also be a great place to introduce yourself to music therapy through our internship and volunteer programs. Enjoy your career search and exploration, and I hope you join me and other music therapists in the awesome work that we do!