The University of Alabama offers a bachelor of music degree in music therapy, but no graduate degree at this time. However, for people who already hold a degree in music, there is a qualification program for certification examination, approved by the American Music Therapy Association. Eligibility for the qualification program consists of having earned a music degree in a school of music affiliated with the National Association of Schools of Music, of demonstrating current skills and competencies in musical performance and accompaniment, and of acceptance following an interview with a professional music therapist. In certain cases, a person who holds a bachelors degree in a related field which includes a minor in music may be admitted to this program.
A qualification student then completes the coursework and internship necessary to become eligible to take the Board Certification exam, without actually completing another bachelor’s degree from the University. Many successful music therapists have begun their careers in this way.
Because of the number of courses involved and the need to build clinical skills, our qualification program will typically require two academic years plus internship; all music therapy curricula, including qualification programs, require a full-time, six-month internship. There are no summer course offerings. There are no correspondence or distance learning options. Credits for non-music therapy courses may be earned at any accredited university, but music therapy courses must be taken at UA. Typical schedules for qualification students will be about 6-12 hours per term (see the example of typical requirements and sequences).
Internship sites are scattered around the country; there are several in Alabama, but only one person at a time usually is accepted to intern at these sites, so a person needs to be prepared to spend this six-month period out of state. Also, it is quite rare for an internship to offer even a small stipend, so students must prepare financially in advance to get through this time. Completion of the courses and of the internship qualify a person to sit for the Board Certification examination in music therapy.
Prospective therapy students often wonder what personality characteristics are good indicators of success in this field. A real commitment to helping people, plus the musical and academic dedication necessary to complete a music major are essential, of course. Stability, objectivity, and a strong sense of humor are necessary for balance and perspective. The people with whom we work generally respond best to a person who has a strong sense of values, but who can refrain from judging others and focus on solutions.
Application forms for admission to the university can be obtained by phoning 1-800-933-BAMA or can be copied from the UA website. Qualification students apply as undergraduates, requesting Irregular Post Graduate (IPG) status. Sometimes lending institutions need a letter from me to verify that a person is entering a new field before they will certify a student loan; this is not a problem, once you have been admitted to the program.
However, if a full-time master’s/qualification program would meet your needs better, I urge you to contact one of the universities already offering this degree program. Completion of this type program takes longer than completing our undergraduate qualification program. Until a master’s becomes available here at Alabama, Alabama residents wishing to go to Florida State or the University of Georgia (the two nearest state-supported schools offering masters’ in therapy) are eligible for the Academic Common Market, a regional program which cancels out-of-state tuition for graduate students wishing to concentrate in a field unavailable in their home states. Information on the Common Market is available from the web or from each university.