Music therapist

Music therapists work with people of all ages. Using music, they help people to interact with others, express their feelings, relieve stress and build confidence. Music therapy creates opportunities for people to make positive changes to their physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

To work in the NHS, music therapists must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a course that could lead to a career as a music therapist, useful subjects include:

  • Music
  • Psychology
  • Care
  • Human Biology
  • Maths
  • English

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college, or a new job with NHSScotland.


Foundation Apprenticeships

Start your journey to becoming a music therapist by taking a relevant Foundation Apprenticeship. Find out more about the Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare.

College and university

To become a music therapist, you’ll need to complete a relevant postgraduate degree programme.

To get on to the course, you’ll likely need an undergraduate degree in Music. However, you might also be considered if you have a lot of music experience along with a degree in:

  • Psychology
  • Teaching
  • Nursing
  • Social work
  • Performing arts
  • Occupational Therapy

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you gain the degree entry qualifications you need.

In Scotland, you can do a postgraduate programme in Music Therapy at Queen Margaret University. This pre-registration programme takes 2 years full-time.

For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work.

The role

As a music therapist, you will use a variety of musical instruments and styles to help people with:

  • emotional or mental health problems
  • life-limiting conditions
  • physical illness

You’ll work with individuals or groups of people, depending on the needs of the person.

What you’ll do

Some of the typical tasks of a music therapist include:

  • helping people to develop insights into personal and social issues
  • enabling people to communicate and interact with others in different ways
  • providing opportunities for people to learn new skills or new ways of thinking and behaving
  • writing reports to record therapeutic activities and document client progress

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • creativity
  • communication
  • caring
  • teamwork
  • building relationships with people
  • persuading and motivating people

Who you’ll work with

Music therapists work with other healthcare, social services, and education professionals, including:

  • psychologists
  • nurses
  • healthcare support workers
  • social workers
  • teachers
  • art therapists
  • dramatherapists

Working environment

You could work in:

  • hospitals
  • schools
  • the community
  • health centres

Useful information

To work as a music therapist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

Music therapy has been a regulated healthcare profession since 1999. There are more than 4,400 registered arts therapists in the UK including art, drama, and music therapists.

Learning and development

During your career, you’ll be expected to keep your skills and knowledge up to date through Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

The British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT) provides information about relevant:

  • courses
  • conferences
  • seminars

Career progression

You may choose to specialise by working with specific client groups, such as:

  • children and young people
  • older people
  • offenders

You could also decide to become a specialist in a particular area, such as neuro-disability or palliative care.

As an experienced practitioner, you could become a senior or consultant music therapist, managing the work of a team of therapists.

Your progression could include becoming the head of an arts therapy department. In this role, you’ll be coordinating the work of therapists from other disciplines such as dramatherapy or art therapy.

In more senior roles, there may also be opportunities to train other music therapists.

Professional bodies

Once you’ve become a qualified music therapist, you can become a member of: