Music Therapy is a Growing Profession Thanks to Proposed NC Licenses

This North Carolina bill would create a commission of Healing Arts to approve state licenses.

It can be a major challenge to break into the music therapy industry. Despite its low numbers, there are so many challenges that get in the way of becoming a licensed professional. However, North Carolina bill 557 would create a Healing Arts Commission to approve state licenses. Once passed, this bill would let more music therapists earn jobs in their desired field, without needing to leave the state.

This article will explain:

  • The need for North Carolina’s Bill 557
  • A description of how a music therapist can get licensed
  • What the bill is and will do
  • The importance of House Bill 557
Man sits on couch while his therapist sits opposite of him, holding a clipboard.
There are 25,000 music therapists in the United States and 200,000 standard therapists. Making music therapy a more accessible position would help additional patients get treatment for their ailments.

There are not Enough Music Therapists

As of 2021, there are roughly 25,000 music therapists currently employed in the United States. Compared to the nearly 200,000 therapists in America, music therapy is not a saturated job pool. The quantity of music therapists has increased by 32% since 2004. This number doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon, as an additional 30,000 music therapist positions are expected to be filled by 2029.

It can be challenging to become a licensed music therapist. To become a music therapist, you have to take specialized courses from the American Music Therapy Association and earn a bachelor’s degree in music therapy. Unfortunately only 80 colleges within the United States have Music Therapy bachelor’s programs,making it near impossible to find a specialized program for students. Thankfully, prospective music therapists are able to major in psychology or another directly related subject.

Music Therapy Education Programs

Music therapy college programs are incredibly niche, but if you can find one, it ends up looking like a normal psychology or music degree, but combined. Students must take classes about musical composition, theory, history, as well as psychological studies like therapeutic practices and mental illnesses. This is in addition to specific courses in music therapy.

Essentially, earning a bachelor’s degree in music therapy is very difficult. Not only do you have to find one of the few universities in the country that offers the major, but also do the work of three majors.


After earning a degree, prospective therapists must become board and state certified. The board exam covers a wide array of topics such as patient safety, patient referrals, making treatment plans, documenting treatment goals and progress, and ethical codes. Once you pass this exam, you are a nationally licensed music therapist. You will need to get recertified every five years to ensure that you are still qualified.

The final step to being allowed to practice music therapy is becoming state licensed. Unfortunately, not every state has licensure or job opportunities, leaving large gaps of the country without professional music therapists. This is where North Carolina’s proposed bill comes in.

Front of North Carolina government building.
House bill 557 would create a Healing Arts Commission to regulate music therapists, reflexologists, and naturopathic doctors in the state of North Carolina. Image courtesy of Charlotte Business Journal.

House Bill 557

North Carolina has two colleges where students can achieve bachelor’s degrees in music therapy. However, it is nearly impossible to find employment in the area of music therapy within the state. Only 100 people are employed as music therapists in North Carolina.

House bill 557 proposes that a Healing Arts Commission be made to regulate music therapists, reflexologists, and naturopathic doctors. This commission would handle licensing and regulation for the three professions.

Why does this matter?

Reflexology, naturopathic doctors, and music therapists all have national boards where practitioners can become certified. However, North Carolina and many states do not have boards to become state certified. North Carolina’s 557 bill would allow music therapists to find places of employment in areas that previously had no opportunities for music therapy.

Reflexologists and music therapists are told that they need to have a specific degree to practice in North Carolina, a certification that has little to do with their actual practice. This commission would allow music therapists and reflexologists to become officially licensed by the state without having to jump through unnecessary hoops.

Because there are so few music therapists already in the state of North Carolina, this bill would allow more people to get licensed, more music therapists the ability to legally practice, and prevent therapists from moving out of state for better job opportunities.

If this bill is passed, this would set a precedent for music therapists and any members of the Healing Arts professions. If more people can get licensed, there are more job openings. And if there are more job openings for music therapists, more patients can receive additional treatment that is scientifically proven to help.

Getting licensed is important

Even if having a degree in Music therapy is a great start, becoming licensed shows that music therapists can actually get jobs and become professionals. Being licensed is like having a badge of honor, a badge that says “I know my stuff, and I earned my right to practice.”

More employers are willing to hire licensed professionals and they are willing to pay more to people with licenses. In the engineering profession, licensed engineers make 20,000 dollars more annually than non licensed engineers. Additionally, being licensed means you can start your own business and move up in the corporate world, if desired.

Man serenading woman with a guitar in a grungy apartment.
North Carolina house bill 557 would help hospitals save money, protect patients from unlicensed music therapists, and allow more professionals to get proper credibility.

Consumer Protection and Access

Statewide licensure would ensure consumer protection by requiring national and state training. This way patients won’t get scammed by musicians or therapists claiming to understand music therapy. Additionally, the training would make music therapy a safer option in therapeutic care.

Licensure would also allow more access for patients to receive music therapy statewide. Because each county is slightly different, a patient could receive treatment from a licensed music therapist, but not have someone board certified after a move to the next county over. Licensure would make the state unified, allowing anyone anywhere within the state to have the ability to receive treatment.

Saving Money

Music therapy helps lower hospice costs, meaning the state and consumers would save money from more licensure and more music therapists. Music therapy in the NICU cut down an average of 10,000 dollars per day. Music therapy has proven benefits for premature babies in the NICU. Additionally, music therapy in the hospital reduced the cost by an average of 2,500 per patient.

Music therapy will only grow from here

The profession of music therapy is only increasing in size and this bill will allow for even more professionals to earn proper licensing for all of their hard work. If this spreads across the nation, more people can receive music therapy, and more people can make a living doing the career they love.

Lydia Rosenstock
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