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Interested in a Career as an Art Therapist?


art on walls, art therapy

If you are interested in a career as an art therapist it is first important to understand exactly what art therapy is and whether it would suit you. My previous blog post Art Therapy – an Overview of the Who, What and Why goes over the basics and provides useful links to find out more information. This post offers details on how to become an art therapist, what the requirements are, and what to look for in a master’s program.


Qualifying as an art therapist requires a long commitment in training and a notable financial investment. For this reason, it is important to establish from the beginning if an art therapy career would suit you. The following attributes are considered essential:


1) Strong communication skills to connect in a meaningful way with clients.


2) A passion and understanding for art and the benefits that creativity offers people.


3) It is essential to be a good listener and observant.


4) Have an abundance of patience, empathy and compassion.


How to Become an Art Therapist


You need to research the requirements in the country you are planning to practice art therapy in. These are the requirements for those training and wanting to have a career in the US.Requirements:


-       Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in art therapy but if this choice isn’t available you can double major in art and psychology, or major in one and choose the other as a minor.

-       Earn a Master’s Degree in art therapy which involves completing an internship spanning a minimum of 700 hours supervised.

 

Once you have gained your master’s degree most seek to gain credentials through the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). To become a Registered Art Therapist (ATR) or a Board-Certified Registered Art Therapist (ATR-BC), you must build up experience on the job. To qualify to become ATR at least 1000 hours of post-education work with clients using art therapy is required. Depending on the state you wish to work in, you may also need an additional license. Check the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) website to find your state’s licensing requirements.   To achieve ATR-BC status you must pass the Art Therapy Credentials Board Examination which is a national exam that will undergo some updates in 2025.  Qualified art therapists can become a counselor, educator, set up their own private practice or work as a freelancer. According to Glassdoor a fully qualified art therapist can expect to make a salary of around $86K - $137K a year with an average salary of $101,376 (April 2024 stats).


Art Therapy Schools and Courses


When assessing which master’s course is right for you, it is worth considering where you would like to practice and work as an art therapist. Many of the courses on offer are designed to qualify a professional to work within the state, with some offering add-on courses to obtain those licenses.


Most courses are two years in length if studying full-time, but also can have part-time options. Consider the curriculum of the program, the strength of the accreditation and the reputation of the course, professors, and facilities of the university.  A good quality art therapy master’s course will prepare you for the professional world working as an art therapist through internships, hours under observation, course work, portfolio development, networking, research, creative growth, preparation for licensing and career opportunities afterwards. 


Field training is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a master’s program. Look for a program that includes over 700 hours of counseling and art therapy practice which focuses on clinical work in a variety of environments such as in mental health centers, schools and community organizations. This will help you to decide on what setting would suit you professionally upon graduating and qualifying.

 

Here is an overview of some of the top-rated art therapy courses on offer:

 

The program at Drexel is designed to meet the requirements for national certification with the ATR-BC. It also prepares students for the state licensure in Pennsylvania as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).


2) New York University Master of Art in Art Therapy

This program integrates visual arts with psychotherapy and is accredited by the American Art Therapy Association.

 

3) Florida State University – Master of Science Degree in Art Therapy

This master’s program qualifies graduates for certification as an art therapist from the ATCB. Two additional courses can be completed at the university to gain the mental health counseling licensure in Florida.

 

Graduates of this master’s program are eligible to apply for the Registered Art Therapist (ATR) through the ATCB, and the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) credential in the state of Illinois.

 

Are you an aspiring art therapist or practicing the profession? Please add any other advice and tips in the comment section below.

 

 

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