If you are a practicing music therapist and want to further your knowledge and skills, you might consider a doctoral degree in music therapy. Ph.D. programs in music therapy offer students the chance to gain advanced knowledge in areas like research, theory, supervision and practice. The length of time it will take to complete coursework for a Ph.D. in music therapy depends on your previous experience and the requirements of the school. Most students complete the degree within five years of full-time study.

Undergraduate Degree

The path to a doctoral degree in music therapy begins during your undergraduate studies. You should earn a bachelor's degree in music therapy or a music-related area, such as music performance, music history or music education. A bachelor's degree is the entry-level education required to become a certified music therapist. Bachelor's degree programs consist of coursework and a 1200-hour clinical internship. The bachelor's degree program is usually completed in four years of full-time study.

Master's Degree

Ph.D. programs in music therapy usually require candidates to already have a master's degree in music therapy. Master's degree programs build on the foundation provided by the bachelor's degree in areas like clinical practice, supervision and research. The master's degree is generally completed in two years of full-time study. Students who do not have a bachelor's degree in music therapy but have a degree in music may be eligible to complete a master's degree equivalency program, provided they first complete the required undergraduate coursework in music therapy and an internship. They must then complete the master's degree program before starting a doctorate program. The length of time needed to complete master's degree equivalency programs varies by student and school.

Doctoral Coursework

After you have obtained a master's degree in music therapy, you begin working towards the Ph.D. degree. The number of credits it takes to earn a Ph.D. in music therapy varies widely by school. For example, the Ph.D. program at New York University requires a total of 52 credits, while the Ph.D. program at Temple University requires 63 credits. Coursework includes a core curriculum that covers areas like research and advanced practice, and electives in areas like music psychotherapy. Students usually complete doctoral-level coursework in around three years of full-time study.

Other Requirements

Once you finish your music therapy coursework, you'll need to complete a certain number of credits in statistics and research to prepare for your dissertation. You must also pass preliminary examinations before beginning work on your dissertation. The dissertation requires around one semester of preparation, and then one to two years of supervised research. Once written, you must submit and defend your dissertation. You will also need to pass final examinations before you can earn your degree. The entire dissertation and examination process usually takes two to three years to complete.