Music therapist

Healthcare
Care

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would use music and sound to help improve people's emotional wellbeing, relieve stress and improve their confidence.

You would use your musical ability and knowledge of different styles of music to encourage people to explore sound and music.

Music therapy can help them to:

  • Express themselves
  • Develop insight and find ways of relating to other people
  • Become aware of their feelings
  • Interact with other people more confidently
  • Bring about positive changes in their lives

Your clients could include children or adults with:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Emotional or behavioural problems
  • Speech and language difficulties
  • Mental health problems

You might also work with people recovering from addictions.

Before starting the music therapy, you would agree on a programme of activity with your client which you would review at regular intervals.

You would hold group and one-to-one therapy sessions. These sessions would involve you and your clients playing musical instruments, singing, listening and improvising together.

You would check the effectiveness of the programme and write case notes and reports. Sometimes people may find the therapy difficult or upsetting and you might have to deal with challenging situations.

Many music therapists work in the NHS, although there are opportunities for private practice. You could also be self-employed as a freelance music therapist.

If you work in the NHS, you would work closely with other health care professionals such as nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and speech and language therapists. 

You can see more about this role in the National Health Service on the Music therapist page on the NHSScotland Careers website

Working conditions

Hours

Your typical working hours would be between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, although some jobs may involve evening or weekend sessions. Part-time and freelance work is common.

Environment

Your work would usually take place in a specially equipped music room. You would normally see the same client or clients, in the same place at the same time each week. Depending on the client group you were working with, you could work in various settings such as schools, hospitals, prisons and day centres.

Travel

You may need to travel between different locations during your working day.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Listening to people
  • Explaining things
  • Caring for people
  • Coping with pressure
  • Being creative

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on Apprenticeships.scot.

Qualifications

You would need an an honours degree (SCQF level 10) or postgraduate qualification (SCQF level 11) in music therapy accredited by the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT).

There is currently only one BAMT-recognised postgraduate music therapy qualification (SCQF level 11) offered in Scotland.

To enter the MSc in Music Therapy (Nordoff Robbins, Edinburgh) requires: 

  • an honours degree (SCQF level 10)
  • practical musical skills on at least one instrument
  • and experience in a community, education or health setting

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science subjects
  • Music
  • Social subjects such as psychology and care

You will also need

To be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

A high standard of practical musicianship, normally of Grade 8 standard and flexibility on at least one instrument; for singleline instrumentalists or singers, proficiency on an harmonic instrument is also required.

Once you have completed your postgraduate course you gain UK state registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which you need to work in the National Health Service (NHS) or with a local authority. 

Once qualified, registered music therapists are eligible for full membership of the British Association of Music Therapy (BAMT). 

Helpful to have

  • Qualifications and experience in music, psychology, health, education and community work
  • To have completed short courses with the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT)
  • Ability to play more than one musical instrument