A Comparison of Music Education and Music Therapy Majors: Personality Types as Described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Demographic Profiles

By Steele, Anita Louise; Young, Sylvester | Journal of Music Therapy, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

A Comparison of Music Education and Music Therapy Majors: Personality Types as Described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Demographic Profiles


Steele, Anita Louise, Young, Sylvester, Journal of Music Therapy


The purpose of this study was to develop both personality and demographic profiles for students who are interested in majoring in music education or music therapy. Two primary questions were addressed in the study: (a) Are there similarities and differences in the personality types of music education and music therapy majors as measured by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)? (b) Are there similarities and differences in demographic characteristics of music education and music therapy majors in regard to (i) principal instrument studied in college, (ii) grade point average, (iii) scholarship awards, (iv) high school participation in private study and (v) ensembles, (vi) church/community participation, and (vii) volunteerism in high school?

The selection of an academic major is a significant challenge for many high school graduating seniors. Some musically talented students with an interest in music as a career may choose between music education and music therapy. It is suggested that some students may experience confusion or uncertainty in determining which major they feel they can pursue with greatest success.

Both music education and music therapy are disciplines that emphasize sharing music with others and improving lives through music. Degrees in music education and music therapy are similar in that each is considered a "professional" rather than a "performance" curriculum (degree) within schools of music. While music education and music therapy are both professional studies, each has different professional objectives. According to the Music Education National Conference (MENC), "Music allows us to celebrate and preserve our cultural heritages, and also to explore the realms of expression, imagination, and creation resulting in new knowledge." (http://www.menc.org/information/ mission.htm). Music Therapy, as defined by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), is "an established healthcare profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all ages." (www. musictherapy.org). Given the difference in the focus of each discipline, it is important that students be well suited for their field of choice. College freshmen may have incomplete or inaccurate information regarding the demands of a specific music major and the careers these majors represent. Dagley and Salter (2004), in a report on practice and research in the field of counseling, found that students' perceptions and skills did not coincide with workplace realities. Students may be motivated to seek a career in music education because they have observed their music teachers having positive experiences teaching band and choir. Students considering a major in music therapy may be motivated by the possibility of extending their love of music to a career in which they use music to "help" others with significant cognitive, physical, and psychosocial challenges. These students may or may not have observed a music therapist in the workplace.

There are a number of factors, which influence choice of a major and success within that major. Among these factors are a student's motivation, talent, academic ability, and interest. Pemberton (1992) suggested that all professions use different guidelines by which to recruit to a major area of study. Some guidelines are based on objective matters such as education and credentials and others are based on less objective matters such as how well a person will resonate with the values and subculture of that field. There is ample literature to support the fact that personality tendencies play an important part in the selection and ultimate success in a major or in a career (Boykin, 1982; Dowell, 1986; Jain & Lall, 1996; Miller, 1995). Dagley and Salter (2004) reported that traditional theories in career counseling continue to represent a major portion of the literature related to career development and are widely used in different types of facilities including schools. …

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