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MT-BC: What constitutes a credentialed music therapist?

In its definition of music therapy, the American Music Therapy Association specifically notes that a “credentialed professional” performs music therapy interventions. What, then, are the qualifications for a credentialed music therapist? There are four main phases of music therapy training: academic coursework, internship, certification exam, and continuing education.

Academic Coursework

There are over 70 colleges/universities offering degrees in music therapy. Music therapy curriculums consist of coursework specific to music therapy, including clinical fieldwork experiences; general music (e.g. music theory, music history, vocal and instrumental training, ensemble participation, conducting, etc.); psychology and counseling; biological sciences and human development; special education; and university general education requirements. Degrees are available at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels; a bachelor’s degree is required for certification. Many schools also offer an undergraduate equivalency option for individuals who have already completed a baccalaureate degree in a related field; the equivalency option supplements previous training with music therapy courses and any other areas deficient from the first degree program.

There are currently two universities offering music therapy degrees in Michigan: Eastern Michigan University and Western Michigan University. Michigan State University was actually the first national university to offer a music therapy program – beginning in 1944 – but in 2009, they unfortunately announced that they were placing a moratorium on the program and are no longer accepting students.  [Note: More coming soon regarding the music therapy situation at MSU.]


Following undergraduate coursework, all prospective music therapists must complete an extensive, supervised clinical internship. Students may choose from a number of national internship sites ( serving a variety of clinical populations. Including pre-internship clinical fieldwork, a music therapy student must complete 1200 hours of clinical training. Consequently, most internships involve 1040 clinical hours during a six-month period. The majority of internships are unpaid, but some are able to offer a small stipend, assistance with meals and/or housing.

Certification Exam

The Certification Board for Music Therapists oversees the administration of the national music therapy certification exam, which may be taken after successful internship completion. MT-BC, meaning Music Therapist – Board Certified, is the current credential and an individual may use it upon passing the exam. Additionally, some music therapists may still use the RMT credential, meaning Registered Music Therapist, which is a credential used before the current MT-BC credential was established.

Continuing Education

To maintain their credential, all MT-BCs are required to participate in Continuing Music Therapy Education (CMTE) experiences. They need to complete 100 hours of CMTE participation during each five-year certification cycle. International, national, regional, and statewide conferences, workshops and other courses are available to meet this requirement.

Visit the CBMT website to find an MT-BC in your area!


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