I have a degree in music psychology – what next? 22


We have entered the busy interview season for the 2012-13 Music, Mind and Brain (MMB) MSc students at Goldsmiths.  Applications are coming in from all over the world and I very much enjoy speaking to potential new students. As part of the interviews each candidate is given time to ask questions and I have noticed that one seems to come up more regularly than the others;

What might I do with my career after the course is over?

This blog will summarise my answer to that question. The MMB MSc has been running for a few years now so we are building up a good idea of where our graduates chose to go with their careers. I am basing my summary largely on this information.

So, if you have a Masters in music psychology, what next?

1)      Academia – the first and most common career path. Many of our students have chosen to continue their studies with a PhD and have found places in the best labs in the world, some returning to or staying in their home country and some moving on to try a completely new location. There are a growing number of PhD studentships in music psychology, and there are certainly far more around now than when I was first looking 5 years ago!

Possession of a PhD is still an essential qualification if you wish to become a university lecturer, at least in the UK. Being a lecturer was always my ambition so I knew from early on that I had to complete a PhD; and, in the end, I loved it! Fortunately music psychology is becoming more and more recognised as an interesting and valuable specialism for a lecturer in psychology or music.

2)      Private Industry – a Masters in music psychology will train you in many areas that are very valuable to companies from a variety of industries. You will develop good writing practices, skills in research and planning (including experimental design), knowledge of statistical analysis, and interpersonal and organisational skills. These are traits that are highly prized in industries such as media, research, marketing (where the effects of music is of growing interest), finance and human resources.

3)      Education – the MMB course covers many aspects of developmental psychology and students can chose to investigate aspects of musical or general education as part of their final thesis projects. In general, a music psychology Masters degree will also give you skills for your CV that are important for a career in education, and having the degree will make you a good candidate for a short conversion course if you wish to pursue a teaching qualification.

Of course many of our students wish to continue, or begin, a career in teaching music. A music psychology degree will give you greater knowledge about the cognitive mechanisms that influence learning and development as a musician and is, therefore, extremely helpful for any music teacher. I once worked as a music teacher for the government and know that such a qualification is regarded very highly in this field.

4)      Health and Therapy – some of our students are interested in pursuing music therapy or a health related career where they can involve music in their work (e.g. physiotherapists can use music to help people regain motility). A Masters in music psychology will not qualify you as a music therapist – you would need to do an accredited course in music therapy to gain the practical skills for this occupation. But a Masters will give you a wealth of knowledge about the cognitive effects of music on the brain and behaviour, which lie behind the beneficial effects of music therapy. For this reason we have taught qualified music therapists on our course, and their presence always provides a great contribution to the group.

5)       Music – I have already discussed music education in section 2, but there is of course a wider music industry which comprises a vast array of careers from performance, through to engineering, production, marketing, and management (artists and events). Our masters is particularly well suited in this regard, being London based, as we often include music events (including performances by our own students) in our social calendar. A Masters in music psychology will provide skills and knowledge that are relevant to all these careers and through their final thesis a student can work with music companies, conservatoires and/or performers, all of which can provide useful avenues for a future career.

That is a quick summary of the main career fields into which our previous students have migrated. My experience so far is largely confined to the Masters course at Goldsmiths so if anyone would like to add a career experience following completion of a music psychology course elsewhere then please feel free to leave a comment below for other readers.

My final career advice is always, wherever possible, to follow your passion: If you have an idea then pursue it. Even if things don’t work out exactly as you planned in a practical sense (e.g. I never wanted to live in London when I was younger!), you will certainly enjoy the journey.


22 thoughts on “I have a degree in music psychology – what next?

  • Thomas Frost

    Hi! I am a college student in the U.S getting my B.A in Psychology. I am an avid musician. I play trumpet. I have always been intrigued by the the emotions people go through when they hear music. Do you believe the Psychology of Music would be a good path for me? I do like music therapy, but I want to go above and beyond that and I would really like to teach the Psychology of Music in a college setting. After graduating, if I can afford it, I would like to travel to the U.K because I have never been outside the U.S, but mostly because it seems like the only place where I can get a good grounding in the Psychology of Music. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

  • ogunlade olayinka

    I have a B.A in Music and M.A in Music Psychology from a Nigerian University presicely University of Lagos, Nigeria. I am currently studying to earn a Specialised Diploma in Health and Social Care (IVQ) level 2 with City and Guilds approved center here in Nigeria

    My areas of interest is music neurology and music in hospital and Medicine. I did like to lecture but i have not seen any job employment for a Music Psychology lecturing position.

    I have written some publications and presented at a conference which includes-
    Ogunlade, O. A. (2011): “Music Therapy with Persons Living with HIV/AIDS”, Nigeria. Masters’ Degree Thesis at the Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos, Nigeria.
    I am also a member of the following profesional bodies-
    Music Therapy Association of Nigeria (MUTHAN)
    Association of Nigerian Musicologist (ANIM)
    International Association for Music and Medicine (IAMM)

    Please can you give me an advise?

  • vicky Post author

    My best advice if you want to work in the UK is to apply to a department of psychology or music when they offer open lectureships and to offer your specialist skills in research while also offering generic skills in teaching courses that they desire. There are no music psychology lectureships in my experience, as there are no departments that focus on this specialised discipline. My lecturing position is in psychology, for example.

    Ps. Your comment has been edited as I have a policy not to promote other URLs through comments

    I wish you all the best,
    Vicky

  • Ainsleigh Coates

    Hi,
    I’m currently doing a Bachelor of Music and I’m just a little bit stuck in deciding on a career path for when I’ve finished my degree. I’m interested in how music and learning instruments affects childrens’ learning capacity at school, and how musicians generally make better students (particularly in fields such as maths). I’m just wondering if there is any specific field or career path that caters to this in particular? Thanks.

  • vicky Post author

    Hi Ainsleigh
    If you are really interested in this topic the you might consider researching it for a career. You could consider a masters either in psychology or psychology of music to learn more about how to conduct research and aim to work in schools one day studying the impact of music on learning. It is a popular topic which you could study in many research groups all over then world. Other than that you could of course train as a music teacher and develop new teaching techniques or consider setting up your own business offering musical inspired tuition to kids. It is really up to you to what degree you wish to understand this topic or use it in your everyday job. Either way, I wish you luck.
    All the best,
    Vicky

  • Daniel

    Hi there,

    I’m very happy to have stumbled upon this blogpost.

    I’m graduating from a Canadian 4-year Honours Specialization in Biology (minor in music) undergraduate degree program next term. I have been looking for graduate opportunities which would allow me to study, in a biological context, the effect of music on living things and, more specifically, the human brain. I’m particularly interested in binaural beat research and frequency-specific response, and how we can combine these sounds to illicit a desired response in the listener.

    I’ve read through the program description and it sounds as thought you’re looking primarily for psychology and music majors. I’m wondering if my diverse background in biology (my program focuses primarily on Genetics and Cell Biology, though I’m well versed in Research method, Ecology, Evolution and philosophy) would be an appropriate prerequisite to this program?

    As a life-long musician with a passion for composition, I’ve always wanted to combine my love of music with my interest in biological sciences. I’d love to end up researching and teaching at a University level. Do you have any advice and can you perhaps offer me some more information?

    All the best,
    Dan

  • vicky Post author

    Hi Dan
    I can tell you that our MSc at Goldsmiths welcomes people from many different majors, including biology and physiology. A musical background of some kind is important so you surely tick that box. What you would need would be some prep in the area of research methods and stats, though this can be achieved in private study. You can read more about preparing for our kind of course here: http://musicpsychology.co.uk/preparing-for-a-music-psychology-course/

    My advice, as always, is to follow your passion and get the best exposure to taught training as you can before you embark on a PhD which is essentially a very independent minimum of 3 years self directed research.

    All the best,
    Vicky

  • Meredith

    Hi! my name is Meredith and I have the same kind of issue as some of those listed above. I am a sophmore in college and am working on a B.A. in psychology. I play the piano and have been playing for 12 years and my father really wants me to incorporate my music some home with my career in college. But I do not know exactly what I should do. I love playing the piano and I love psychology but I do not know what career path I should take to incorporate them both. What do you think? Any advice?
    Thank you so much!
    -Meredith

  • vicky Post author

    Hi Meredith
    As you have seen there is lots of advice on exactly this type of question above! If you have a background in psychology and a love of music then you have all the skills necessary to think about a graduate career in music psychology/ music cognition and then going on to become a research and academic in our discipline.
    I really try not to give life advice; you are the only one who knows what feels right for you. But if you like my blog and the types of research that I chat about then why not get in contact with some people who run music psychology graduate courses directly (they expect this, it is their job!) and chat to them about what you could learn about on their programs. It never hurts to explore and you might find just the thing that sparks your keen interest for the future.
    Wishing you all the best,
    Vicky

  • Cameron

    Hi there, I’m Cameron and my situation is about the same as most of the people above. Though I haven’t done any study yet. I’ve done a bit of psychology, but decided to travel cause I didn’t really feel ready to study yet and don’t know exactly what to study. But I do have a great interest in psychology and I love music and play some different instruments as music comes easy for me. So my question really is if I need any requirements or proper background in psychology to follow this study.
    Cheers
    Cameron

  • Oluwaseun

    Hi, I am an undergraduate in a Nigerian University, currently thinking about my long essay {project work}. I really love music and I have been thinking about how music affects learning, emotion and mood. However, I have stumbled upon many topics under music psychology, but i am finding it difficult to pinpoint what research topic will be best for me. So i really need your advice!

  • Oluwaseun

    this is oluwaseun again, forgot to include the department am in. I am in my final year of studying psychology with the view of doing a project work that combines psychology with music

  • vicky Post author

    Hello there
    It is great to hear that you are so excited about music psychology and it is not uncommon to find yourself a little overwhelmed when you first start researching an area. But I am afraid that only you can decide where you would like to begin your ideas. There is no one perfect project for you – you could do many thing. You just need to focus on one at a time. Decide on a question that interests you, perhaps something left unanswered by a paper that you have enjoyed reading. And go from there. I wish you all the best, Vicky

  • Adeleke

    Great to stumble on this site. I have masters degree in psychology already (clinical psychology). However, I
    am also intrested music psychology and academics. What steps can I take to achieve these interests? Thanks.

  • aravindh

    I am aravindh. I have a bachelor enginer degree in mechanical field. Now ijust want to switch career. I want to do musical psychology as a master degree. So what are the things that I need to learn?. I need toknow what’s the criteria for applying music psychology?.

  • Shweta

    Hi, I need your help.

    Well I am Ph.D in Music Psychology and last one year I am not being able to find a suitable job or post doctoral opportunity for me.

    My research is on impact of music from infants to older people. Please help me to which university, or lab I can contact, as well as if there is any opportunity that I can collaborate my work with scientist?

    Kindly help me with this.

    Regards

  • Jade

    Hello, I’m a secondary school student who is currently in the early stage of year 11 and am planning to go to university to take music psychology after finishing p16. I am becoming unsure as to what I would be able to do with that degree if I decide to pursue it. I was thinking on going into being a Music Therapist but what other fields can I go into. Of course I have other courses that I can choose to take if I decide this one is not for me but I need to know what I could do with this one before I decide to scrap it or stay with it.

  • vicky Post author

    Hi Jade.
    The best thing you can do is ask the people who run individual music degrees that you are thinking of applying for in the future. You might have some particular cities in mind, for example. Different music courses have different modules and skills training so it is impossible to give a general answer as to what you might be able to do in the end.
    If you want to be a music therapist (what a wonderful choice of career!) then you need to do a degree and then a postgraduate qualification (a one year masters degree). A music degree that allows you to learn about music therapy or music in healthcare would be ideal preparation for the postgrad work. You will then need to take an accredited training course for your professional qualification and you can get information about this on the BAMP website here: http://www.bamt.org/training-in-music-therapy/mt-courses-approved-by-hcpc.html
    All the best, Vicky

  • Stephanie Swahn

    I have a BA in Psychology and cannot find a job. Music is my life. I am interested in Music psychology. How can I make sure employment will occur?

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