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Music Therapist

Jun 2023
Career of the Month

Key Facts

Starter Salary
Experienced Salary
Working Hours
37-39 hours a week


Music therapists use active participation in music to develop a relationship with their clients; they help them to become more self-aware and to bring about changes in their behaviour and emotional well-being. Both the therapist and their client take an active part in sessions, they may play instruments, sing or listen to music. The idea is not to teach but to encourage people to use music and play instruments to communicate their feelings. They will plan and review sessions to monitor the progress of the client.

Therapists work with all ages from young children to the elderly; they work with people with mental health issues, behavioural problems, autism, prisoners and more. Therapists can work in education, the health service, prison service and private practice, often working with small groups but also with individuals. Music therapists are non-judgemental, are patient, have good listening skills and work well with others.

What it takes

What it takes:

Skills and knowledge you'll need

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of psychology
  • knowledge of music and the ability to play an instrument
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to work well with others
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • customer service skills
  • to enjoy working with other people
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • active listening skills
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • a desire to help people
  • concentration skills
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • a good memory
  • Restrictions:
  • pass enhanced background checks

Day to day

Day to day:

Depending on where you work, you may help clients:

  • express themselves through sound and music
  • develop insight and creating ways of relating to other people
  • become aware of their feelings
  • interact with other people more confidently
  • bring about positive changes in their lives

You could work in a therapy clinic, in a prison, in an NHS or private hospital or at a school.

You will need

  • Highly proficient on at least one musical instrument
  • A GCSE (4+/A*-C) (or equivalent) in English
  • A GCSE (4+/A*-C) (or equivalent) in maths
  • Experience working with people with needs
  • A degree in music

You may need

  • An A-level (or equivalent) in psychology
  • An A-level (or equivalent) in music
  • A GCSE (4+/A*-C) (or equivalent) in music

Academic and Vocational Notes

You must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and a member of the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT). This means that you must hold a validated Master’s course that is approved by both organisations. Experience of work or volunteering in an area such as mental health, education, social services or special needs will help to get onto the postgraduate course. Ideally entry is with a first degree in music, but it is sometimes possible to apply for these courses with a degree from another, related area, such as education or psychology; to apply you must also demonstrate a high level of musicianship.

Work Based Training Notes

Registration with the Health and Care Professions Council requires regular renewal; this can be achieved through a range of activities including attending short courses and seminars. It is possible to progress to more senior management roles. You may become self-employed. There are also opportunities to carry out research and teaching roles in higher education.

Other Routes

Whilst these are the usual routes to this career, there can be alternatives. You will be able to discuss these with your adviser.

To learn more about getting into a career in Music Therapy, take a look at our article - Career Focus of the Month: Music Therapist

Some data provided by NCS. May contain public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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