Art Therapist Career Guide 2024

Table of Contents

Art Therapist Salary in United States for 2023

Average Annual Salary: $60,800 Hourly Rate: $29.23

Data sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor via the ONET Web API. Updated at December 8, 2023

Best Colleges and Universities for Art Therapists in 2023

Projected Job Employment for Art Therapist:

Estimated YearProjected YearEstimated EmploymentProjected Employment% ChangeProjected Annual Job Opening

Art Therapist Career Path Overview

The career path of an Art Therapist is an enriching one that combines the love of art with the desire to help others. This profession is a blend of creativity and therapeutic practices, where professionals utilize art-making processes to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. To embark on this career path, you'll need to have a strong educational foundation in psychology, art, and therapy. In addition to this, gaining hands-on experience through internships or jobs in mental health or human services can provide valuable insights into the field.

Education Requirements

The journey towards becoming an Art Therapist begins with a bachelor's degree. Although no specific major is required, students often pursue degrees in psychology, social work, art, or a related field. This provides a solid foundation for understanding human behavior and developing artistic skills. Following your undergraduate studies, you'll need to pursue a master's degree in Art Therapy. Master's programs typically include coursework in psychological theories, human development, art therapy techniques, and ethics. You'll also need to complete supervised clinical training where you'll gain hands-on experience working with clients under the guidance of a licensed Art Therapist.

Certification and Licensing

After completing your education, you're required to earn certification from the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). This involves passing the Art Therapy Certified Board Examination. Once certified, you'll earn the title of Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC), which is nationally recognized. Licensing requirements vary by state. Some states have specific licenses for Art Therapists while others may require a license in counseling or psychotherapy. It's important to check with your state's licensing board to understand the specific requirements.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Once you've established yourself as an Art Therapist, there are several avenues for career advancement. You could choose to specialize in a certain demographic, such as children, veterans, or the elderly. Alternatively, you might decide to focus on a specific type of therapy, such as trauma-focused art therapy. Some Art Therapists opt to further their education and earn a doctorate degree. This can open doors to roles in academia, research, or higher-level clinical positions. You might also consider opening your own private practice. This allows you the freedom to work with the clients you're most passionate about and to set your own schedule and fees.

Job Outlook and Salary

The demand for Art Therapists is expected to grow in the coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for therapists, including Art Therapists, is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. The salary for Art Therapists can vary based on factors such as location, years of experience, and specialization. According to PayScale, as of 2021, the average salary for an Art Therapist in the United States is around $48,000 per year. In conclusion, the career path of an Art Therapist offers a rewarding blend of creativity and therapeutic intervention. By combining art and therapy, these professionals provide a unique approach to helping individuals express themselves and improve their overall well-being.

Art Therapist Career Path Education and Training

The journey to becoming an Art Therapist is a unique blend of creativity, psychology, and human development. This path requires a strong educational foundation coupled with practical training to equip individuals with the necessary skills to help clients express and understand their emotions through art.

Undergraduate Studies

An aspiring Art Therapist typically starts their education with a bachelor's degree in a related field. While there isn't a specific undergraduate degree required for Art Therapy, relevant areas of study include Psychology, Fine Arts, or Human Development. These courses provide foundational knowledge about human behavior, mental health, and artistic techniques.

Master’s Degree in Art Therapy

After earning a bachelor's degree, the next step is to pursue a Master's degree in Art Therapy or Counseling with a concentration in Art Therapy. A Master's program typically lasts between two to three years and covers subjects like therapeutic art techniques, counseling theories, research methodologies, and multicultural perspectives in therapy. As part of the curriculum, students will also learn about various client populations and settings such as schools, hospitals, and mental health facilities.

Clinical Training

Hands-on experience is a critical component of an Art Therapist's education. Most Master’s programs require students to complete clinical internships or fieldwork in therapeutic settings. This practical training allows students to apply their theoretical knowledge and gain direct experience working with diverse populations under the supervision of licensed professionals.

Board Certification

Upon completion of their Master’s degree, graduates are eligible to become board-certified through the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). Certification requirements include completion of a certain number of supervised clinical hours post-graduation and passing the Art Therapy Credentials Board Examination (ATCBE). Becoming a board-certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC) not only validates your professional competency but also enhances job prospects and career advancement.

Continuing Education

To maintain their certification, Art Therapists must commit to ongoing professional development and learning. This can be achieved through continuing education courses, seminars, or workshops related to Art Therapy. These programs allow therapists to stay updated with the latest research findings, therapy techniques, and ethical standards in the field. In conclusion, the education and training path for an Art Therapist is a comprehensive journey that combines academic learning with practical experience. It demands dedication, creativity, and a genuine passion for using art as a therapeutic tool to help individuals navigate their mental health challenges.

Art Therapist Career Path Progression

In the journey towards becoming an art therapist, there are several milestones and steps one must take to progress in their career. This unique path combines the power of the visual arts with the science of therapy to provide individuals with therapeutic and healing experiences. Here's a detailed look at the progression of an art therapist's career.


The first step towards becoming an art therapist is obtaining a relevant Bachelor's degree. While there isn't a specific degree required for this field, most professionals choose to major in psychology, social work, fine arts, or a related field. This foundation helps to build the understanding necessary for further studies in art therapy.

Master’s Degree

After earning a bachelor's degree, the next stage is to pursue a Master's degree in Art Therapy. This advanced degree typically takes two to three years to complete and focuses on the intersection of creativity, psychology, and human development. Some programs may require students to submit a portfolio of artwork as part of their application.

Certification and Licensing

Post-graduation, art therapists must become certified through the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). This involves passing the Art Therapy Credentials Board Examination (ATCBE) after completing specific educational and post-graduate supervised experience requirements. Once certified, art therapists can use the ATR-BC (Registered, Board Certified) credential. Moreover, many states require additional licensing to practice art therapy.

Entry-Level Jobs

Upon gaining certification and licensing, individuals can begin their careers as entry-level art therapists. They often start by working under the supervision of experienced therapists in settings like hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, and mental health facilities. This phase allows them to hone their skills and gain practical experience in the field.


As they progress, art therapists may choose to specialize in a specific area. This could include working with certain age groups (like children or the elderly), focusing on particular mental health issues (such as trauma or addiction), or mastering certain art forms for therapeutic use.

Advanced Roles

With experience and additional training, art therapists can move into more advanced roles. These may include supervisory or administrative positions within their organizations, teaching roles in colleges or universities, private practice, or research. These roles often require a higher degree of responsibility and expertise.

Continued Professional Development

To maintain their certification and stay current in the field, art therapists need to engage in ongoing professional development. This can involve attending workshops, conferences, and courses; reading relevant journals and literature; and participating in peer consultation groups. In conclusion, the career path of an art therapist is a dynamic one that requires a solid educational foundation, certification, hands-on experience, specialization, and continued learning. It's a rewarding journey that allows professionals to combine their love for art with their passion for helping others heal and grow.

Art Therapist Career Path Specializations and Subfields

The field of art therapy is vast and varied, with multiple specializations and subfields that cater to diverse client needs. These specializations allow art therapists to provide specialized care and treatment to various populations, including children, adolescents, adults, and seniors, each with their unique challenges and therapeutic requirements.

Child and Adolescent Art Therapy

Child and adolescent art therapy is a specialty that focuses on treating young individuals who may be dealing with various issues such as behavioral problems, trauma, mental health disorders, or developmental disabilities. Art therapists in this field use creative techniques to help children and teenagers express their feelings, improve their self-esteem, and develop better coping mechanisms.

Adult Art Therapy

Art therapy for adults can address a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more. This specialization often utilizes different art forms like painting, drawing, sculpture or pottery to help individuals process their emotions, reduce stress, and enhance their overall mental well-being.

Geriatric Art Therapy

Geriatric art therapy targets the unique needs of older adults. This could involve helping seniors cope with the challenges of aging, dealing with cognitive disorders like dementia or Alzheimer's, or assisting in the management of chronic illnesses. The creative process in art therapy can stimulate cognitive function, improve motor skills, and provide a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Trauma-Informed Art Therapy

Trauma-informed art therapy is a specialization designed to help individuals who have experienced traumatic events. Through this therapeutic approach, art therapists guide clients in expressing and processing traumatic memories in a safe and supportive environment. This form of therapy can be particularly beneficial in treating PTSD.

Addiction Recovery Art Therapy

Addiction recovery art therapy is another subfield that concentrates on helping individuals overcome substance abuse and addiction. Art therapists in this area use creative processes to help clients explore the root causes of their addiction, develop healthier coping strategies, and work towards a sustained recovery.

Group Art Therapy

Group art therapy allows individuals to engage in therapeutic art activities within a group setting. This approach can foster a sense of community, encourage social interaction, and provide an environment for shared experiences and mutual support. Each specialization within the art therapy career path offers its unique rewards and challenges. Depending on their interests, skills, and passion, art therapists can choose to specialize in one or more of these subfields, providing invaluable support to those who need it most.

Art Therapist Career Path Job Market and Outlook

As an emerging field, the job market for Art Therapists is diverse and continually expanding. This growth is largely due to an increased understanding of the therapeutic benefits of art and a broader acceptance of alternative therapies in healthcare settings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies Art Therapists under the broader category of Recreational Therapists, which is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. However, it's important to note that specific data for Art Therapists may vary slightly. Art Therapy positions can be found in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, mental health facilities, private practice, and community centers. The demand for Art Therapists is particularly strong in areas where traditional therapy methods may be less effective, such as with children, trauma survivors, and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Despite this growth, competition for Art Therapy positions can be intense due to the limited number of positions relative to the number of qualified candidates. Therefore, those considering a career in this field should aim to differentiate themselves by gaining specialized experience, pursuing advanced certifications, or developing a niche area of expertise. Given the growing recognition and acceptance of art therapy's effectiveness in treating mental health issues, the future looks bright for those interested in this rewarding career path. As societal awareness of mental health increases, so does the appreciation for holistic and creative therapeutic approaches like art therapy. It's also worth noting that geographical location plays a significant role in job availability and salary expectations for Art Therapists. Typically, urban areas with large healthcare facilities or educational institutions tend to offer more opportunities and higher salaries compared to rural areas. In conclusion, while the Art Therapist career path may be competitive, it is also a field full of potential and opportunity for those with the necessary skills and passion. As the field continues to grow and evolve, so too will the opportunities for Art Therapists to make a meaningful impact on the lives of their clients.

Art Therapist Career Path Salary and Compensation

As an art therapist, you can expect a rewarding career that not only allows you to indulge in your passion for art but also helps others heal through the creative process. However, as with any career path, it's essential to understand the potential salary and compensation you can expect. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for recreational therapists, which includes art therapists, was $47,860 as of May 2019. However, salary can vary widely based on factors such as experience, location, and the type of setting in which you work. Art therapists who are just starting out can expect a lower salary, typically in the range of $35,000 to $40,000 per year. As you gain experience and additional certifications or degrees, your earning potential increases. Experienced art therapists can earn upwards of $70,000 per year. Location plays a significant role in the salary of an art therapist. For instance, art therapists working in urban areas with high living costs usually earn more than those working in rural areas. The type of setting also influences an art therapist's salary. Art therapists working in private practice often have the potential to earn more than those working in educational or community settings. However, therapists in private practice also bear more responsibility for business expenses and securing their own clients. It's important to note that salary is just one aspect of compensation. As an art therapist, you might also receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and professional development opportunities. Some employers may also provide reimbursement for continuing education or certifications related to your field. Remember that while salary and compensation are important considerations in any career path, the true reward of being an art therapist comes from helping others express themselves through art and facilitating their healing process. With a career as an art therapist, you have the unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact on people's lives every day. In conclusion, the salary and compensation for an art therapist can vary based on several factors. However, with experience and continued education, there is potential for increased earnings in this fulfilling and impactful career.

Art Therapist Career Path Tips for Success

Embarking on a career as an Art Therapist can be a rewarding and fulfilling journey, but like any career path, it requires careful planning, preparation and commitment. Here are some essential tips to help pave your way to success in this field.

Educational Requirements

In most instances, a Master's degree in Art Therapy or a related field is a minimum requirement to become an art therapist. These graduate programs provide students with the essential theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to effectively assist clients through art therapy. Coursework typically includes studies in psychology, counseling, human development, and various forms of art media. In addition to a Master's degree, prospective art therapists should also seek professional certification from the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). This certification demonstrates a high level of competency and professionalism in the field, enhancing your credibility among clients and employers.

Hands-On Experience

While education is vital, hands-on experience is equally important in the art therapy field. Many graduate programs require internships or practicum experiences where students can apply their knowledge in real-world settings. These opportunities allow you to work directly with diverse client populations and learn how to adapt your approach based on individual needs. After graduation, aspiring art therapists should continue gaining experience through entry-level positions or volunteer work in mental health facilities, schools, hospitals, or other related settings. This exposure not only enhances your skills but also helps you establish a professional network that can lead to future job opportunities.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

The field of art therapy is always evolving with new research and techniques. As such, continuing education and professional development are crucial for staying up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices. This could involve attending workshops, webinars, conferences, or even going back to school for advanced degrees or certifications.

Networking and Professional Affiliations

Joining professional organizations, like the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), can provide valuable networking opportunities and resources for career development. These affiliations can open doors to job opportunities, offer access to continuing education programs, and provide a platform to collaborate with fellow art therapists.

Personal Attributes

Beyond education and experience, successful art therapists possess certain personal attributes. Empathy, patience, creativity, and excellent communication skills are all vital in this field. You must be able to understand your clients' feelings, create a safe and therapeutic environment, and effectively communicate through both art and dialogue. By following these tips and remaining dedicated to your professional growth, you can navigate the art therapist career path towards a fulfilling and successful career. Remember that success doesn't come overnight – it's a journey that requires continuous learning, adaptability, and passion for helping others through the power of art therapy.

What is an Art Therapist?

An art therapist is a professional who uses the creative process of art-making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. These professionals help people manage their feelings, reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and achieve insight. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, private practice, or community agencies.

What does an Art Therapist do?

Art therapists utilize the expressive and creative process of art to assist clients in exploring their emotions, improve self-awareness, manage addictions, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. They may use various art forms such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and digital art to help clients express themselves and explore their feelings in a non-verbal way. Art therapists also assess client needs, develop therapeutic treatment plans, and maintain confidential client records.

What are the educational requirements to become an Art Therapist?

To become an art therapist, one typically needs a master's degree in art therapy or a related field such as counseling or psychology with a concentration in art therapy. Most master's programs require students to complete an internship or clinical practicum. It's also important for students to have a strong foundation in visual arts and human development. In addition to education, certification or licensure may be required depending on the state.

What skills does an Art Therapist need?

Art therapists need a combination of artistic and interpersonal skills. This includes strong communication skills to understand client needs and explain treatment plans. They should be empathetic and patient to support clients who may be dealing with difficult situations. Creativity is crucial as they use various art forms to facilitate therapy sessions. Analytical skills are also necessary for assessing client progress and adjusting treatment plans accordingly.

Where does an Art Therapist work?

Art therapists work in various settings based on the populations they serve. This can include hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice, and other clinical and community settings. They often work as part of a team with psychologists, social workers, physicians, and other healthcare professionals.

What is the career outlook for an Art Therapist?

The career outlook for art therapists is generally positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of recreational therapists, which includes art therapists, is projected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. As awareness of the benefits of art therapy increases, demand for art therapists in various health care and community settings is also expected to rise.

How much does an Art Therapist make?

The salary for an art therapist can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and type of setting. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for recreational therapists was $47,710 in May 2019. However, some experienced art therapists working in certain settings like private practice may earn higher salaries.

What are the steps to become an Art Therapist?

The path to becoming an art therapist typically involves obtaining a bachelor's degree in a related field such as psychology or fine arts, followed by a master's degree in art therapy. Relevant work experience or internships during education can also be beneficial. After graduation, one may need to complete post-graduate clinical experience for licensure or certification. The final step is passing a national examination to become a Registered Art Therapist (ATR).