Art Therapy Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

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

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With a bachelor's degree it is possible to pursue a career as an art therapist. Some employers prefer a master's degree, and a license may be preferred or required as well. Art therapists use visual arts in combination with counseling to treat their patients.

Essential Information

An art therapist uses art media such as ceramics, drawing and painting in combination with psychological counseling to treat mental and emotional trauma. Art provides patients with a means of expressing difficult emotions or ideas. Often art therapists then discuss the artwork with the patient to discover possible interpretations or meanings behind the work or the patient's artistic process.

Education Requirements Bachelor's; master's preferred or required by some employers
Other Requirements Licensure typically preferred or required by employers; The ATCB certification requires a master's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 12% for all recreation therapists
Mean Salary (2015)* $47,790 for all recreation therapists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options in Art Therapy

Possible career choices for someone trained in art therapy include becoming a recreational therapist or art therapist. A recreational therapist uses a variety of techniques, one of which could be arts and crafts, as part of a patient's physical therapy plan. These therapists use recreational activities to help reduce a patient's stress or provide an enjoyable way of strengthening motor skills.

Education Requirements for a Recreational Therapist

Becoming a recreational therapist requires a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy, also called therapeutic recreation. This 4-year degree includes studies in psychology and physiology as well as classes in human development and fine arts. Also, a semester-long internship is typically required for degree completion.

Certification and Licensing Requirements for a Recreational Therapist

Certification is not required to practice recreational therapy, though many employers prefer it. The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) will grant certification upon completion of relevant coursework, an approved field placement and the certification exam. Some states also require recreational therapists to be licensed; the qualifications are determined by the individual state medical boards.

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Education Requirements for an Art Therapist

Becoming an art therapist requires at least a bachelor's degree in art therapy. This degree program includes field work as well as classes in art history, visual arts, various studio art media, psychology and counseling. However, many positions require applicants to have a master's degree in art therapy. It focuses on art therapy for groups, children, adolescents and adults as well as training in patient evaluation, ethics and human development. It also includes an internship and research project.

Certification and Licensing Requirements for an Art Therapist

The Art Therapy Credentialing Board (ATCB) offers certification to registered art therapists who hold a master's degree and fulfill 1,000 hours of patient therapy. Certification is granted after an additional two years of work in the field and the passing of a written exam. An art therapist must take an additional 100 hours of continuing education over the five years following certification to keep it current.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have a specific listing for art therapists, it does note that recreational therapists often use art therapy in their work. The BLS reports that recreational therapists, including art therapists, earned a mean yearly salary of $47,790 in May, 2015. Jobs for recreational therapists, including art therapists, are predicted by the BLS to increase 12% between 2014 and 2024, mainly due to the growing elderly population requiring recreational therapy services.

Art therapists combine visual arts with psychological counseling to help patients suffering mental and emotional trauma. Some art forms use include ceramics, painting and drawing. They typically have a bachelor's degree in art therapy, although a master's degree may increase job prospects for those entering this career field.

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