2 Serious Misconceptions About Masters Level Entry

First of all, join us for a remote discussion on Masters Level Entry – Just click here.

Music Therapy Masters Level Entry

Second of all, I highly recommend viewing this document which we covered in our first MLE talk.

There’s also this Powerpoint on the Masters Level Entry progress report from the 2014 national conference. It shows premises for MLE, different MLE models, a model that might be proposed, a SWOT analysis of that model. It’s the most recent document on MLE. Check it out.

There are these other documents that give you an idea about the history, the thoroughness of the sub-committee’s hard work, the rationale, the concerns… I couldn’t even begin to describe all the sections here, so just check them out:

2013 Review of MLE Powerpoint
MLE Core Considerations (2010)
MLE Moving Forward (2011)

Here are more Powerpoints that cover all sorts of concerns, questions, and forum reports.

THIRD of all, the body of colleagues who will eventually VOTE on MLE is the Assembly of Delegates. Here is a sample email you can copy/paste to your delegates, so they know where you stand:

Dear Assembly Delegate ______,

I appreciate the time and energy that you dedicate to hours of meetings at each national conference. I’m also thankful for your representation of our region’s hopes and desires for the future of music therapy.

When and if the time comes, and there is a motion on the table, please vote [IN FAVOR OF *OR* AGAINST] Masters Level Entry.


For your delegates’ emails in the Western Region, click here.
For your delegates’ emails in the Great Lakes Region, click here.
For your delegates’ emails in the Southwestern Region, click here.

For other regions, click here and scroll to your appropriate region’s delegates.

Fourth point’s a charm! 2 misconceptions that come up over and over in town hall meetings and both in-person and online discussions are:

1. If I’m just a bachelor’s degree music therapist, then I will lose my job. UNTRUE! If you are a bachelor’s degree music therapist, then you are grandfathered in you can keep your MT-BC. The current standard remains in place for you indefinitely, and you should NOT lose your job due to an MLE rollout. However! If you let your MT-BC lapse after MLE rolls out, then in order to obtain your MT-BC again you must have a masters degree. Make sense? I corrected this after getting some valuable feedback from my great colleague Lillieth Grand. Thanks for clarifying Lillie! [CORRECTED 6/1/15]

2. It’s a done-deal, and we’re headed for Masters Level Entry, because of decisions made by some small, arbitrary board. UNTRUE! There is a sub-committee for MLE that has done a tremendous amount of due diligence and hard work, obtaining stats, researching related fields, hosting town hall meetings at regional conferences. But the decision-making body is the Assembly of Delegates. They make the ultimate decision, and YOU are the one who votes them IN! So, make sure to take my third point seriously =)

*Special thanks to MLE sub-committee members, ETAB members, and everybody at AMTA for guidance in disseminating accurate information about MLE.

Be well, feel good, and make MUSIC! Kat

P.S. After reading the documents and reading the points above, what’s your take on MLE? Write us in a comment below!


  1. Thanks so much for yet another outreach to the grass roots folk about this question, the answer to which I am convinced might change music therapy as we know it today in terms of funding, and advocacy. I am even more convinced that we must move with great caution. Will we have enough masters programs for our future professionals? What about out-of-state tuition costs? Will there be a universally accepted curriculum so a student can transfer, without penalty, from one school to another if necessary? When will the internship occur? Will undergrads get sufficient practicum exposure early on to help them make the decision regarding whether music therapy is for them, or not? Which schools now offering the bachelors program will be willing to hire another professor in order to quality to offer the masters?

    • You’re welcome, Bobbi! There are many questions raised that the MLE sub-committee has done their best to answer. But there are many questions that we will not really know the answer to, unless MLE rolls out.

      It’s a tough call! Thanks for being part of our community. I hope you’re finding sunshine in Orange County on this dreary Memorial Day weekend =) Kat

      • Thanks so much for your response, Kat. We had some sun, and after a beautiful and moving Memorial Day service I am more grateful than ever for our MT pioneers serving our Wounded Warriors in the new program at Walter Reed, and all over the country.

        Looking forward to learning more about MLE and our future!

        Take care

  2. Hello
    I really appreciate your great work… I need this course to help me to understand the meaning of music therapy and how it helps the different kinds of people and how I can create a program depending on music therapy… I am a piano doctor my work depending on teaching and research so I need this course to open my mind about the strategy of music therapy and to make it as a part of my work and research…

    • Hi Heidi – Are you a DMA in piano performance? I’ve never heard of a piano doctor before!

      Welcome to our community. The text above is not describing a “course.” We are providing information on Masters Level Entry, and we are hosting discussions on that topic.

      What may help you more is answers to the question “What is Music Therapy” :: https://musictherapyed.com/what-is-music-therapy/

      Click the link and scroll down to see a TON of valuable information. Good luck! Kat

  3. Hi Kat,

    I had not heard of MLE before this time. Is the Masters degree to be specifically in Music Therapy?

    Thx for any information. 🙂


    • Hi Sharon – Yes the American Music Therapy Association has been putting together a giant proposal for MLE since 2010 or so. But the MLE in music therapy has been brought up many times since 1990 and before.

  4. I am so thankful to have a positive, reasonable space for meaningful discussion and education on this issue. Thank you.

    One concern I have is adequate preparation and education. My cousin is an OT and has expressed frustration with her own journey, which included MLE. Most predominately, she felt unprepared, unsupported, and misunderstood when she started her career. She felt like her employer expected competence because she had a masters degree, but she felt unprepared because her setting was completely new and she had very limited practica and internship experience—all of which occured in her 2 years of graduate school.

    From what I’ve read and gleaned from MLE forums, some models are looking into a general undergrad which may or may not include application based experience. Practica experiences were very important in my undergrad, and helped solidify my passion for the field of music therapy. My concern in dropping this aspect of undergraduate education is that 1) we know we have to see music therapy in action to understand it, so it may prolong education for those who are ultimately uninterested and exclude those who cannot wait or afford MLE, and 2) we will still be unprepared, but be expected to know more because we have masters degrees, thus creating potential for many ethical issues.

    I’m looking forward to the conversations. Thank you again for creating this space.

    Stephanie Hubbard, MT-BC

  5. I am realizing I have quite a few concerns about the prospect of MLE, and one additional concern I’ve been weighing heavily this morning is a sociocultural concern.

    Music therapy is already a largely white, largely female, profession. How does MLE impact the ability for our clients to see their own diversity reflected in their MT clinicians? Will we be excluding potentially incredible clinicians with diverse experiences (e.g., first or second generation immigrants, those from areas with limited access to music education, people with low socioeconomic status, people of color) in the name of MLE? Is that a form of institutional racism or classism?

    As a white woman, I highly value opportunities to learn from music therapists and music therapy educators who have different backgrounds than myself. Is there a way that we can respect and account for the diversity of our clients in this discussion?

    Thanks again for creating this space. It is so valuable to have a place for voices and concerns to be placed and heard.

    Stephanie Hubbard, MT-BC

  6. Hi Kat,
    I have been so tempted to apply for grad school and am hungry for the information, however I can’t justify going that much more in debt to not make any more money. I am a small business owner and fight for the rate I am currently receiving, so to raise those rates enough to reflect having a masters would be quite difficult.
    Also, we need more music therapists out there. I have had some difficulty finding a music therapist to hire (this is resolved now but took a while) and all I could say is we need more therapists! I’m afraid MLE will turn students away. I also agree with the previous comment that experience is SO important to have. I really feel as though a masters program should be decided by each individual.

  7. Hi! You wrote that there will be Granfathering into the Master’s requirement. Has a cut-off date been reached regarding the Grandfather rule? I’ve just been accepted into a Music Therapy Masters’ Program and will not appreciate spending all that money to continue my education when Grandfathering will be available.

    I did not hear of the Granfathering idea at the NER/AMTA conference back in April.

    Do you have more information regarding this?

    Thank so much for all the information you provide,

    • Yes it’s very simple. You do not have to worry about getting a masters if you have an MT-BC currently. And you may not have to worry about getting a master’s *anyway* if it never goes to a vote, or if it gets voted down. It’s all too early to know much just yet. Does that make sense?

      HOWEVER! If MLE rolls out, and you allow your MT-BC to lapse after the roll-out, then in order to obtain the MT-BC again, you must have a Masters degree. Make sense? I corrected this after getting some valuable feedback from my great colleague Lillieth Grand. Thanks for clarifying Lillie! [CORRECTED 6/1/15]

      Thx, Kat

      • This information is very helpful. By “roll out” do you mean the date when the new rules would take effect (it looks like 2025) or when the decision is made (2015). I am finishing up an equivalency program right now and am trying to figure out if the MLE would effect me. I will probably have my MT-BC in fall 2016.

        • Kent ~
          If the MLE passes and it becomes a requirement to take the board certification exam, then everyone who has and maintains their MT-BC credential will not be required to go back and get a master’s degree. The message there is – don’t let your MT-BC lapse!!!
          If this passes, it does not effect ANY current MT-BC’s regardless of what degree level they hold. It would simply make a master’s degree required for anyone to be eligible to take the board certification exam.
          I hope this makes sense and helps!

  8. I am concerned about a reduction in services in the geriatric area that may occur because of MLE. According to the AMTA website, music therapists who serve the Seniors population are the lowest paid in the field. I see many nursing homes/AL centers put cost and profit margins above hiring and retaining trained, skilled staff. I know the work I do and have done for more than 15 years has a huge impact on the quality of life of those I serve. I was prepared to enter the field following my graduation and 9 month internship. This was because of the skills I came to University with and skills that were developed at University and during internship. I have continued to learn and stay current in order to provide best-practices music therapy services. I have learned to utilize technology that did not exist when I graduated. I had skills to lead groups when I graduated, and have continued to learn and improve in my leading, my repertoire, and musicianship each year. It was the right thing to do. I have done all of this without a master’s degree.

    I am concerned that by having MLE, we will price the baby-boom and following generations of geriatrics out of vital services while they live and suffer with AD, PD, CVA, and other age-related health concerns.

  9. Cathy, after 42 years in our profession, including serving clients in gerontology, intellectual disabilities, and psychiatry, your concerns resonate very loudly with me. I recently learned a piece of information which I had not encountered before. I serve (among others) a skilled facility with which I have a contract. The facility was sold. The new owners entered into an exclusive contract with a company to provide restorative care. Although we qualify under the MDS, the facility cannot be reimbursed for my services. They are paying me privately; they are also cutting my hours of service. With or without MLE, we have a difficult road ahead of us until we are seen as essential, along with the other therapies. The struggle to get the words “music therapy” on the MDS was long, hard, and not yet complete. Until we are on a parity with our professional colleagues in related disciplines, demand for our services, and our compensation, will suffer. Will MLE help? Let me be honest: It hasn’t happened, so we don’t know. I hope that it might.

  10. I am curious if those of us who are bachelor level trained and have several years of experience would be inclined to get the Masters and teach or supervise. Might we be in demand by universities as students? If so, what could that mean for our ability to get financial assistance/graduate assistantships? I have 19 years of experience in medical settings and am looking to get more education.

  11. I am pleased to hear the questions and responses so far. I look forward to participating in this.


  12. I may regret posting this, as I am not a music therapist. I have an BS in music education, and nearly completed a masters in music ed 20 years ago. I currently work with clients who have Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and senior populations. I also teach piano, and have quite a few students who are on the autistic spectrum. I would love to be able to have a music therapy degree, but will give some insights as to why I do not. After completing this list, it seems like money is the biggest reason I do not.
    When I completed my college degree 25 years ago, I don’t think I even knew that music therapy existed, nor did I know enough about life to realize that it has great power. Here are my reasons.

    1. There is not a degree program where I live. As a grown up with the responsibilities of raising two children, I can’t afford to pick up and move to study something that I have a passion for.
    2. I can’t justify the college expenses. Would the expense of another degree give me a significant pay raise? In my research in my metropolitan area, I don’t see the funding available for music therapy.
    3. Lack of education in those who hire–I am frequently called a music therapist by the clients that I serve. NO amount of correcting and explaining makes a bit of difference to the activities directors or administrators. While I am paid what is typical for an entertaining artist in my area, it would not justify paying for more education.
    4. Time involved to get degree would result in not only spending money for college, but would also prohibit me from taking on work that gives me a decent income. When I was an undergraduate, and I was getting my BS in music ed, I had to take an entire semester off of working, so that I could complete my student teaching. Perhaps I am wrong, but it appears to be the same for becoming a music therapist.
    5. While my musicianship skills, music theory skills, improvisation, songwriting and business skills, and passion for helping people by using music are strong, it would take years for me to get a degree in music therapy. Since I am already working with seniors and special needs, what would be the point? I can self educate, and I do. If there were a way to get an online degree, AND it would result in more pay, it would make sense. From my research, I don’t think I would make any more money than I am currently earning.

    6.Something that I consider a huge advantage, is that I don’t have to generate paperwork for what I am earning. As an educator, I was trained to plan, assess, and set goals. While I am constantly assessing, and evaluating, and adapting my activities based on the needs and goals of the group or individuals, I don’t have to write it out, and turn it in.

    After reading the powerpoint, I can totally understand why an undergraduate student would feel ill-prepared, and burnout quickly after entering the field. It is too bad that there cannot be differing levels of degree programs that are graduated in certification. Nursing programs for examples of CNA, LPN, RN, Masters of Nursing, Nurse practitioners.

    I had hoped that having a masters degree program for becoming a music therapist, would mean that I might be able to get the degree in a year or two, with my current music degree. It would be nice to have some guidance/reassurance about what I am doing. After reading the proposals,it doesn’t appear that would be the case. I can only imagine that fewer and fewer people would enter into this field because of the time/money constraints. This results in fewer people in the industry, which leads to even more ignorance and awareness. The end result being that fewer are served.

    I am not an AMTA member, because I don’t qualify. I am not an undergrad student, nor am I a professional who is board certified. Therefore it is unlikely that anyone would ever see this perspective unless I posted.

    • Hi Lea! I’m really glad you posted, because your perspective MATTERS. It’s important for us to see many different angles, including the views of those who “would-have-been-an-MT.” Thank you for posting. I’m going to respond to some of your points here:

      1. You can get a masters in music therapy online at Berklee College of Music, St Mary College of the Woods, Colorado State, and there might be others.

      2. I hear you on that.

      3. We’re always having to educate, but we’re not the only industry in this circumstance. I hear you.

      4. Perhaps, and I’m not sure on this one. It’s a valid concern.

      5. I can’t argue with your research, and I don’t have enough information in this area.

      6. I would say that the paperwork is imperative in order to appropriately treat. The documentation allows us to follow progress, speak to other professionals with the same language, compare our notes with other professionals, get insurance reimbursement, generate reports to stakeholders, and more. But from an efficiency perspective, I understand your concern.

      I like your idea of differing levels of degree programs!

      Last but not least, you absolutely ARE qualified to be a member of AMTA. You do not have to be a student, you do not have to be board-certified. Your opinion DOES matter, and we appreciate you sharing! Kat

  13. I want to thank Lea for posting and teach out to thank you for your work with people and your diligence in identifying yourself. I would love to offer to connect, and I know there are many music therapists who may feel the same way. I believe you can join AMTA as a friend of the profession, but I’d also encourage you to share your story with regional AMTA delegates regardless of whether you’re a member. Thank you for sharing. I will also share this story with my regional delegates.

    Lea’s post has me thinking about who else we might exclude from our profession–talented, passionate musicians and music educators who cannot justify the expense (money, time, stress, etc.) for further education that may or may not align with their experience level. I actually think this is a problem now, and I wonder whether it would be amplified with MLE.

    Stephanie Hubbard, MT-BC

  14. Nice work with this Kat! I especially like that you included a sample letter to the delegates.
    Thanks for all you and your team do.

  15. Hi Kat!

    Thank you for posting this. I have one question, while I have heard talk of grandfathering for current MT-BCs I also have never heard that this would be indefinite. Can you point me to your source or resource for this fact? Even when the MT-BC credential was introduced in 1986 the grandfathering period ends in 2020 (??-I believe). While I could be mistaken I did want to clarify what you presented above.

    Looking forward to the ongoing discussion.


    • For example, let’s say you have been a practicing bachelors level MT-BC since 2014. You will *never* be required to obtain a masters to practice… UNLESS you allow your MT-BC to lapse after the rollout! In that case in order to re-obtain your MT-BC, you will need a masters degree. Make sense?

      Second example, let’s say you are a practicing bachelors level MT-BC starting after the proposed MLE year (sometime in the future which would be determined by the proposal they might or might not pass through the Assembly of Delegates). If the proposal passes for that particular year into the future, then YES it would be required for you to have a masters to practice music therapy.

      I corrected this after getting some valuable feedback from my great colleague Lillieth Grand. Thanks for clarifying Lillie! [CORRECTED 6/1/15]

  16. After listening to the discussion today, I have two thoughts to contribute.

    (1) The concerns expressed about early exposure to clinical music therapy
    environments in a student’s education could be my own. A student will enter
    the academic arena wondering if his or her choice is the right one. I believe
    that question needs to be addressed in the first semester, with videos,
    speakers, attendance at Conferences when possible, and observations, all
    leading to classroom discussions.

    (2) The economics of this question seem to be on everyone’s short list, and they
    are most certainly on mine. Funding for music therapy is so scant that many
    students cannot live on what they would make. Add the debt from obtaining
    a masters degree, and many will simply walk away. As a private practitioner
    I recently had my hours cut at a facility I have served for decades. New
    owners entered into a contract with a restorative care company providing
    OT, PT, and SLP services. The contract stipulates that their company must
    receive all the restorative care hours allowed on the MDS. This leaves musid
    therapy out of the mix completely. We are simply not fully funded. Until we
    solve the lack of funding, we may not be seeing new professionals burning
    out quickly because of the clinical environment. They may be burning out
    because they cannot pay the rent, their student debt, the car payment, and
    go to the grocery store on a music therapist’s salary.

    I don’t think licensure is the answer in certain states. The political environ-
    ment may simply not be appropriate to push for licensure.

    Thanks for a very informative experience

    Best wishes,
    Bobbi Adler

  17. I think the economic perspective is very imperative to this conversation, especially since as a nation there is such a big push to make higher education more affordable through various programs, this seems it would be moving in the opposite direction. I have been an MT-BC for 13 years and am still carrying a large amount of debt from my undergrad. At this stage in the game, as much as I’d love to get a Master’s it seems like a ludicrous idea unless some rich relative I don’t know about leaves me some money! The amount I make as a MT-BC, plus now having a family and thinking about my child’s educational future to save for makes it completely cost prohibitive. Until MT’s can secure higher reimbursement rates I fear this will prevent many from pursuing a Master’s in music therapy and be more likely to pursue SLP, OT or PT for higher reimbursement rates once they complete their Masters degrees and still use their musical skills in those professions.

  18. Thank you for posting the info on MLE. I know this has been tossed around a lot over the past few years. I am torn over this as I understand the undergrad can only touch the surface of what we do and it can be overwhelming for new therapaist starting out thinking they don’t know enough but would this limit our number of thrapaist or prevent some from pursuing the degree because it will require 6+ years of study.
    As an employer there is an extremely high demand for therapisy at this time and not enough to cover all of their needs. If we switch to MLE we will be limiting those in need of services because we won’t have the therapisy available to provide it.

    I know other similar professions have been looked at as far as their requirements and I wonder if the teaching ones were considered. Before I went into therapy I got my Music Ed teaching license and they way it worked in Ohio was you received your 2 yr license and continued on with the last round of Praxis that involved more observations once you had a teaching job. If that was passed you received your 5yr license and you had 5 years to get and complete your Masters

    Not only did this allow the teachers to save for grad school they also had real life experience so when working in their masters they could better apply it to their current situation.

    Thank you again for the info and keeping us updated on where things stand

    All the best, Heather Palmer

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