A music class with two people playing guitars, a student singing, and four students listening

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Music Therapy Overview

Are you passionate about music and interested in helping others? Then a music therapy degree from SMWC is the right fit for you. At The Woods, hands-on learning is valued. The small class sizes at SMWC mean you’ll receive continual support from your professors, all of whom have extensive clinical experience. Our degree programs provide the flexibility to lead you to the career of your dreams. With your professional advisors helping you along the way, you can mix and match majors and minors to get the perfect degree tailored to you and your career aspirations. Plus, you’ll graduate with a strong foundation in liberal arts.

This major requires auditions.

Our program is designed to prepare students for a career in music therapy by combining rigorous coursework with hands-on experience. Our music therapy program emphasizes a holistic approach to health and wellness, using music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs. At SMWC, you don’t have to wait until graduation to start getting practical experience. Beginning as early as your second semester freshman year, you will be able to start clinical experiences in the community with the supervision of the faculty. In addition to general education courses and course requirements, students must complete 1,200 hours of clinical experience (approximately 200 hours in practicum experience and approximately 1,000 hours in internship).


What is music therapy?
According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapists assess a person’s “emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities and cognitive skills through musical responses.” In addition, music therapists design music sessions based on client needs. Music therapy is a healthcare profession that uses music and musical experiences to maintain or improve a person’s functioning level and quality of life. This is a great career for people who think of themselves as creative musicians, abstract thinkers, supportive listeners, problem solvers, responsible communicators and energetic leaders.

A music therapist is an allied health professional trained to use musical, clinical and personal skills to help meet a patient’s needs. Additionally, a music therapist uses many instruments and techniques to help patients in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and psychiatric facilities.

Why get a degree in music therapy?
A degree in music therapy from SMWC provides you with an outlet to become a certified music therapist. Once you’ve successfully completed the academic and clinical requirements, you will be eligible to take the music therapy board examination administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Passing the examination leads to the professional credential MT-BC (Music Therapist-Board Certified).

This program also helps prepare students for the use of certain applications or techniques they will need as a music therapist, such as instrumental or vocal improvisation, receptive music listening, songwriting, song lyric discussion/analysis, music and imagery, music performance, learning through music, music and movement, music and other expressive arts.

What can you do with a degree in music therapy?
A music therapist can work with a wide range of populations in individual, small or large group settings and in a myriad of facilities. Music therapy can be used with individuals with:

  • Developmental disabilities
  • Mental health needs
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Physical disabilities
  • Chronic or terminal illnesses
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Dementia
  • Autism

In facilities such as:

  • Medical Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Nursing Homes
  • Assisted-living Facilities
  • Psychiatric Facilities/units
  • Pediatric Units
  • Rehabilitation Units
  • Private Homes

Check out our blog Careers you can have with music and music therapy degrees

What is the average annual salary of someone with a music degree?
With such a wide range of facilities available for a music therapist to work in, the salary range is vast. As you look at starting salaries, keep in mind the cost of living and opportunities to move with a career should factor into your decision. The average annual base salary of someone with a music degree is $53,802, according to Salary.com.

What support and resources are provided at SMWC?
The Learning Resource Center (LRC) provides exceptional, personalized learning resource services to encourage student success. The LRC offers help with a range of academic support services, including a writing center, tutoring, college success courses and more.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is routinely ranked by US News and World Report among the Best Regional Universities in the Midwest and the Best Value Schools. Our departments are also routinely ranked for their individual degree programs. See the SMWC Difference:

Proficiency Examinations

Music therapy majors must demonstrate music skills as outlined in the American Music Therapy Association Professional Competencies. In addition, music therapy majors must pass the Piano Proficiency Examination Part I and Part II, the Guitar/Voice Competency Examination Part I and Part II, and Professional Characteristics and Dispositions Gateway Assessment before beginning internships. Students are responsible for scheduling the Guitar/Voice Competency Examination with the music therapy faculty on the specified Music Therapy Proficiency Days offered twice a semester. Each examination can be taken no more than three times. Additional details regarding proficiency and competency examinations are located in the Music Area and Music Therapy Student Handbooks.