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Music Therapy M.A.

The music therapy program at Iowa is approved by the American Music Therapy Association and provides those course requirements necessary to become professionally certified as a Music Therapist. The program at Iowa has several distinct advantages:

  • The School of Music at Iowa has a long tradition of artistic excellence
  • Music therapy students receive a comprehensive education in music, and participate in a variety of performance opportunities including vocal and instrumental ensembles
  • The University of Iowa is a regional center for the arts and offers many exciting artistic events
  • The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics comprise the largest university-based teaching hospital in the United States. As a result, music therapy students learn about health care in a variety of interesting and unique treatment settings right on campus.

Students at Iowa enjoy benefits of a large university, such as comprehensive course offerings, extensive artistic opportunities, and large library holdings. At the same time, the music therapy classes are generally small in size (approximately 5 to 25 students per class) and are taught by professors in the music therapy and music education area. Music therapy students also have numerous opportunities to observe practicing clinicians as well as to learn clinical techniques through supervised practical experiences in health care settings. A program of outside speakers, typically practicing music therapists from a variety of clinical settings, broadens the students' knowledge of the profession at large. Students enjoy the fellowship of other students and a variety of workshops and pre-professional experiences through activities sponsored by the Student Music Therapy Club.

Our faculty's areas of research excellence include music perception and clinical rehabilitation of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, issues relating to older adults, clinical supervision, music in special education, music perception and cognition.

Master of Arts in Music Therapy (prior certification in Music Therapy)

Applicants who already hold professional certification as a music therapist take courses that focus on advanced clinical skills, advanced knowledge in areas of specialization, research methodology, and administrative aspects of music therapy. The hours required in the undergraduate curriculum's music therapy core courses and internship may not be included in the master's degree program in music therapy. As a culmination to graduate study, the student must complete a comprehensive examination and a clinical and/or research project (capstone project) in music therapy. A full-time student is likely to take 1 to 2 years of full-time study.

Degree Requirements

Combined Equivalency and M.A. in Music Therapy

Students may apply for a combined Equivalency and M.A. program. In this program, students complete both certification requirements and master's degree requirements. In this program, students must complete all undergraduate clinical requirements including the internship prior to application for graduation. Continuation in the graduate program requires a grade of at least a B in core music therapy courses taken in the first semester of the equivalency program. Advanced clinical courses require completion of undergraduate prerequisites in music therapy prior to enrollment. For example, three semesters of practicum must be completed before the student can enroll in graduate practicum. Completion of both the equivalency plus master's is likely to take between 2 to 3 years of full-time study.

Combined M.A. in Music Education and Equivalency Program

Students with an undergraduate degree in music education, and who are interested in graduate studies may work toward the M.A. in Music (concentration in Music Education) while completing the requirements for the equivalency program. Several courses required for the equivalency program are also requirements for the M.A. in Music Education. Applicants interested in this degree program should contact the director of Music Education for further information about that program. This arrangement is most applicable for those persons interested in employment in the public schools.

Applicant Qualifications

Applicants for graduate study must have successfully completed

  • An academic curriculum for the undergraduate music therapy degree or a certification “equivalency” program, OR
  • May enroll concurrently in the combined Equivalency and MA in Music Therapy program.

Those students who plan concurrent completion of the equivalency requirements with the master’s degree must complete all undergraduate clinical requirements prior to application for graduation. Advanced clinical courses require completion of undergraduate certification requirements in music therapy prior to enrollment (e.g., students must complete the sequence of three semesters of practicum, 25:94, as prerequisites to the proposed semester of graduate practicum).

The hours required in the undergraduate curriculum’s music therapy core courses and internship may not count toward semester hour requirements in the master’s degree program in music therapy. At least one-half of credit required must be in courses open to graduate students only. As a culmination to graduate study, the student must complete a comprehensive examination and a clinical and/or research project in music therapy.

Admission Requirements
  1. Minimum grade point average of 3.0.
  2. Must be a certified music therapist, or in the process of completing certification requirements through the equivalency program. A 3.0 grade-point average must be achieved during the first semester of music therapy equivalency courses in order to continue in the master’s program.
  3. Three letters of recommendation
  4. A term paper or research paper completed in prior academic work that demonstrates scholarly accomplishments and potential.
  5. A 3-page essay by candidates outlining
    • why they are interested in graduate study in music therapy
    • their scholarly and personal characteristics that contribute to potential success as a clinician or music therapy instructor
  6. Because we plan to limit enrollment to only 10 students, we will determine the final selection of students (from those who have successfully fulfilled the requirements 1-5 noted above) by conducting a phone or on-campus interview.
  7. Students enrolling in the equivalency program must demonstrate adequate functional skills on folk guitar and functional piano by passing a competency test in each of these areas. Students who fall short of the basic competency will be required to complete instruction in these areas as part of their equivalency program.
Enrollment Limits

In order to provide high-quality and individualized instruction, we limit enrollment of active (that is, students enrolled in classes on campus and students actively working on the capstone project from off campus) master’s candidates to 10 students in any academic year. We will admit additional students into the equivalency program without the master’s degree. As slots open up in the master’s program, students enrolled in the equivalency-only program because of limits on the enrollment in the master’s program, and who are making good progress in core courses in the major, can be considered for admittance to the master’s program.

Students should clearly indicate in their application whether they wish to apply for

  1. the equivalency program only,
  2. the combined equivalency and M.A. program, or
  3. the M.A. program for certified music therapist. Students interested in the combined equivalency and M.A. in Music Education should apply to the Music Education area and specify their interest in concurrent enrollment in the equivalency program.
Residence Requirements

A minimum of 24 s.h. after admission to the Master’s program must be completed at the University of Iowa, of which, 8 must be completed on campus.

Capstone Project

In the field of music therapy, research papers and presentations are the primary outcome for graduate and post-graduate scholarship. In lieu of a formal thesis, we require a capstone project, which is typically a written, clinical project, or conference presentation. This can either be an independent project, or a collaborative project. However, in the case of collaboration, the individual must be able to demonstrate adequate contribution to the project (that is equivalent to the scholarship required for an independent project or first authorship on a paper), and this plan must be approved by the major project advisor as suitable for the capstone project. Students begin the initial planning of the project in research seminar and complete the project in subsequent semesters as independent study with the direction of the advisor. The final outcome of the capstone project is due to the major advisor at the time of completion of the required internship for those students in the equivalency program, and by the final semester of enrollment for M.A. student with prior certification.

Final Examination

The master’s degree requires a written final examination. Such an examination will not duplicate course examinations. It will be evaluated by an examining committee consisting of at least three members of the graduate faculty, two of whom are from music therapy or music education. Criteria for judgment are outlined in the School of Music graduate student’s handbook.

Grade Requirements

Grade requirements will reflect those of the School of Music. In addition, students must achieve a grade of “B-” or higher in all core music therapy courses in the equivalency program in order for them to count toward professional certification.

Transfer of Credits

Students may transfer up to 6 s.h. from another accredited university (if accepted by the registrar) of credits not required for undergraduate degree completion.


Because the assistantship in music therapy requires some clinical supervision, it will be available only to applicants who have already completed undergraduate programs and certification requirements in music therapy. Students interested in the combined equivalency program and M.A. in Music Education should contact the head of Music Education for information about assistantships in that area.

Applicants should contact the Office of Financial Aid for information regarding other sources of financial support (e.g., work study, loans, etc.)

Doctoral Studies in Music Therapy

Doctoral studies in Music Therapy at Iowa are completed within the Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education (Ph.D.).  Information about degree requirements, application procedures, and application procedures can be found at this link:  Course requirements listed under the degree requirements for the Ph.D. in Music Education are modified to emphasize content relevant to Music Therapy.  Dr. Gfeller and Dr. Cohen will co-advise students on curricular requirements, examinations, and other academic matters.

Application Requirements

Doctoral applicants interested in the Music Therapy emphasis must hold or be qualified for the MT-BC exam (as opposed to teacher certification), and must have a minimum of two years of successful clinical experience as a music therapists (as opposed to music teaching experience). 

Teaching Assistantships

A limited number of teaching assistantships are available to Music Therapy doctoral students who hold a MT-BC.  Teaching assistants gain experience in clinical supervision and instruction of core music therapy courses.  


For more information on the graduate Music Therapy Program, please contact:

Dr. Abbey Dvorak
Director of Music Therapy Program

Music Therapy Faculty