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Art Therapist Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an art therapist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Art therapists seek to give individuals serenity by enriching their self-expression through the creation of art, and they work in a variety of settings. A graduate degree at minimum must be earned to become an art therapist. Certification and post-education experience are mandatory.

Essential Information

Artists who also have a deep interest in psychology might consider an art therapy career. Art therapists help patients deal with problems through the creation of art. Most art therapists have a master's degree, and most employers prefer to hire certified art therapists. Some states require art therapists to be licensed.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements Certification preferred; state licensure may be required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 12% for recreational therapists
Median Salary (2015)* $45,890 for recreational therapists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Art Therapist Job Responsibilities

Art therapists lead their clients through a variety of art activities in order to improve clients' self-esteem, physical health and mental well-being. They believe that creating art can help people cope with problems that contribute to emotional, mental and physical issues. According to the Health Professions Network, art therapists employ a combination of studio art, psychotherapy and counseling to guide their clients toward a healthier outlook on life (www.healthpronet.org). Clients sculpt, sketch, paint and create other unique works of art during their sessions with a licensed art therapist.

Education Requirements

People who wish to enter the art therapy field must first hold a bachelor's degree. They then apply to a master's degree program in art therapy. According to the American Art Therapy Association, prospective art therapy graduate students must submit a portfolio of their artwork in order to be admitted to an art therapy degree program (www.americanarttherapyassociation.org). They must also possess 18 semester hours of art studio courses and 12 semester hours of psychology courses. Art therapy degree programs typically last about two years.

Students enrolled in a graduate program for art therapists take classes related to psychotherapy, psychology, human development, ethics, patient assessment and other subjects related to the art therapy field. Graduates of a program typically earn a master's degree in art therapy. They may also earn a master's degree in counseling with a concentration in art therapy. Some art therapists return to school to earn a Ph.D. in art therapy.

Certification Requirements

Art therapists are required to be certified by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). After earning a master's degree and fulfilling post-graduate art therapy experience requirements, new therapists are eligible to earn a credential to become a registered art therapist (ATR). Registered art therapists must successfully pass a written exam administered by the ATCB to become board certified (ATR - BC), which is a more advanced credential (www.atcb.org).

Work Environment

Art therapists work in schools, nursing homes, prisons, hospitals, recreation facilities, mental health hospitals and nonprofit agencies. They often work with other medical professionals to create a treatment plan for patients who may benefit from art therapy in addition to more traditional remedies.

An art therapist must have a master's in art therapy and certification in order to practice in this field. An art therapy program combines psychology with art studio classes to prepare the prospective art therapist for their career. Creative, counseling and communication skills are important for this job.

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