Attitudes of Undergraduate Music Therapy Students Regarding Master’s Level Entry

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Attitudes of Undergraduate Music Therapy Students Regarding Master’s Level Entry Bryan L. Hawk
MMT Candidate
Drury University

Review of Literature
To date there is a significant lack of research regarding the opinions of Undergraduate Music Therapy students concerning the requirements of a Master’s Degree for entry-level positions. When the Certification Board for Music Therapist (CBMT) was established in the 1980’s, this provided employers with assurance that we are qualified professionals. Every profession arrives at a crossroad in a certain point of its development (AMTA, 2011a). The crossroad that undergraduate music therapists have come to concerns the level of education required for entry-level positions in the field. In the history of education and clinical training in the music therapy profession, a baccalaureate degree in music therapy (or it’s equivalent) has been required for entry into the field. Looking at various health professions, it is evident that music therapy is one of the few remaining professions where entry level at the bachelor’s level. As the profession is now considering the possibility of moving to requiring a master’s degree in music therapy as a minimum requirement for professional entry, many questions have been raised in relation to what a master’s entry educational program might look like. This also raises many questions to the issues this would cause to institutions to have to completely restructure their curricula (AMTA, 2011b). There is a lack of research that surveys the opinions of undergraduate music therapy students concerning the Master’s level entry requirements. In a study performed by Groene and Pembrook (2000) titled Curricular Issues in Music Therapy: A Survey of Collegiate Faculty, a survey was constructed to address three main concerns: (a) new knowledge and skills needed to be an effective music therapist in the next decade; (b) views regarding competency-based assessment; and (c) clinical training practices and potential changes. The most important of the results received concerned the addition and deletion of coursework to adapt to the new changes in the entry-level requirements that are being debated on. The question on the survey that caused the least agreement between respondents pertained to the concept of mandating continuing education requirements for college music therapy faculty. Many suggested that maintaining Board Certification status already addresses the issue but others worried about adding this requirement to the heavy load sustained by music therapy students and faculty. This relates to the study, just for the shear fact that a massive amount of change in curriculum would have to occur to make the new entry level possible to achieve, ultimately leaving it to question. While considering the transition to master’s level entry positions, there are points that support and oppose the transition. In 2011, AMTA released “Master’s Level, Moving Forward”, stating that nearly two-thirds of AMTA approved degree programs offer master’s degrees and the broad body of knowledge continues to grow across the clinical populations and clinical settings. There has been a national trend in recent years for universities to add master’s degree programs in order to provide the advanced training necessary for the therapist to take the central role in meeting client needs in diverse settings. With the master’s degree as entry-level, the vision for the future practice of music therapy acknowledges that the music therapist increasingly will take a central and independent role in client treatment planning. There also comes anticipated challenges in this consideration of entry-level requirements; the concern that bachelor’s level music therapists will lose jobs to master’s level music therapist, and the confusion about the grandfathering process that will be attached to the proposed changes (2011a, 2011b). In a survey of master’s level music therapists conducted by Wyatt and...