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.