Security versus Flexibility as a Music Therapist

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was thinking about a topic for my Wednesday blog post, that I have a pretty interesteting perspective on working as a music therapist.

I am both a full-time/salaried music therapist AND I am a music therapist in private practice. Both have their pros and cons, as all jobs do, but I thought I would share some of these from my perspective for anybody new to the field or anyone considering switching positions.

I never expected to be in both roles! I moved down to Miami in 2006 for my first music therapy job at UCP’s Early Beginnings Academy. Everything was comfortable and predictable, just how I liked it! But then I started receiving calls from parents who had been referred to me by the professors at my alma mater, University of Miami. I started picking up music therapy clients here and there and began to see that the desire for music therapy was truly out there!

So, in 2010 I kicked it into high gear and officially started a private practice. I liked the flexibilty and opportunities that private work allowed. But, I also liked the security that my full time position allowed. So I continued with both and have to say I am loving life!

Those of you who are weighing the benefits and downsides to full-time facility work versus private practice, read on….

Full-Time Facility Work – Pros!

1) Security & Consistency – There is a sense of security and consistency that comes with being a full-time/salaried staff music therapist. I know every other week my paycheck will be deposited into my account regardless of the whether the children or I am sick.

2) More Time Outside The Session – Time is built into my schedule for paperwork, session planning, and team meetings.

3) Paid Holidays, Vacation, and Sick Time – Pretty self explanatory, right?

4) Co-Worker Family – I fully acknowledge that I am truly blessed to work in the place that I do. Many people get caught up in office drama, but I have to say I work with the coolest, most eclectic group of co-workers anyone could ask for. Since my closest family is in Maryland, having co-workers that are like family to me is priceless.

They have been there for some pretty significant highs and lows in my life: working through the challenges and successes of starting my FIRST music therapy job, my dad being diagnosed with cancer, my dad passing away, finishing my master’s degree, and my engagement. Talk about highs and lows!

Full-Time Facility Work – Cons

1) Budget Cuts – Those dreaded words! Since UCP is a non-profit organization, we are at the mercy of budget cuts. Fortunately our Executive Director is a music therapist (Hallelujah!) so she “gets it” and has supported me and music therapy 100%.


Private Practice – Pros!

1) Flexibilty in Schedule – You can create your own schedule by making yourself available only during certain times. Don’t want to work weekends or evenings? Advertise your available times as weekday mornings and afternoons. Want to plan your trip up north to see the leaves change in October? Just give your clients plenty of notice!

2) You Choose – YOU choose the clients you work with. You can be selective. My strength is working with children with special needs. Working with older adults is not my strong point. I can select those clients that I enjoy working with and that I am GOOD at working with. It’s a win win for the client and for me.

3) High Paycheck? – Again, YOU set your price. You can be compensated at a rate that is aligned with other similar professionals in your area (ST, OT, PT, etc.)

Private Practice – Cons

1) Ebbs and Flows – I have found that, especially since I work with children, there are many times sessions need to be cancelled due to illness.

2) No benefits – Your sick time, vacation, and benefits (insurance, retirement plan, etc.) are not covered for you.

All in all, I love the stability and consistency that my position at UCP allows and I love the flexibility that private practice allows. Now I would love to hear from you.

What are the pros and cons of full-time/salaried positions versus private work? Leave a comment below to let us know…


Comments (8)

  • Rachel

    This is a perfect list of pros and cons! Thanks for taking the time to right this – I often have people who ask about why I chose private practice over full-time position…I’ll just direct them to this page from now on! 😉

    • Amy

      Thanks Rachel! Did I miss any of the pros and cons of private practice? I know this is certainly not an exhaustive list! 🙂

  • Stephanie

    This post made me smile as I recently made the transition from being contract/self-employed to being full-time salaried employee. I couldn’t agree more with all of your pros and cons! The only one I might add (that I’m REALLY enjoying right now) is that I now have a small purchasing budget for instruments and other necessities. No more paying for my own instruments = a little more cash in my pocket! 🙂

    • Amy

      Ooooh yes, great point Stephanie! It is very nice to have a small purchasing budget. I’m one of those who scopes out the Target Dollar Section for goodies, so it’s always nice when those little things are covered, too!

    • Tyne

      I was going to say the same thing Stephanie! I am self-employed and just starting out and my first instrument came out of my pay cheque! Some of the places I am at have instruments but most do not.

  • Jody

    I can totally relate to your pros and cons list. I worked as an employee for 10 years, and the benefits are great. I ended up with some similar highs and lows while working that way. I had some deaths in the family which just tipped the scale for me. Private practice gives me flexibility for myself too (self-care when needed) I love private practice! It does ebb and flow, and I have to no paid days off. I’ve been fortunate to be slowly growing as time has gone by in the last year of full time private practice. The key…consistency working in and on my business. Thanks for your post.

    • Amy

      Thanks for your comments Jody! I am so happy I decided to go full time into my private practice now – it has allowed me to share baby-care duties with my husband so we don’t have to put our 11-month old in daycare yet. I completely agree with your point that consistency is key – a slow build is sometimes the best so you can get all your systems in place!


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