Art Therapist: Job Description, Degree & Certification

Oct 20, 2021

Art therapists seek to give individuals serenity, as well as facilitate the healing of emotional or mental issues, by enriching their self-expression through the creation of art. They work in a variety of settings. A graduate degree at minimum is included in art therapist requirements. Certification and post-education experience are mandatory.

Information on How to Become an Art Therapist

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. Qualifications you need to be an art therapist typically include a master's degree, and most employers prefer to hire certified art therapists. Steps to becoming an art therapist in some states include art therapy certification or professional license.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements Certification preferred; state licensure may be required
Median Annual Salary (May 2019)* $48,220 (for all Recreational Therapists)
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 8% (for all Recreational Therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Art Therapist Job Responsibilities

The typical art therapist job description includes leading 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 ( Clients sculpt, sketch, paint and create other unique works of art during their sessions with a licensed art therapist.

Art Therapy Degree Requirements

What qualifications do you need to be an art therapist? People who wish to pursue a career as an art therapist must first hold a bachelor's degree. They then apply to a master's degree program in art therapy, which provides the training required to be an art therapist. 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 ( 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.

What training is required to be an art therapist? 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.

Art Therapy Certification Requirements

Art therapy certification is through 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 (

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.

child painting

Types of Clients

  • people dealing with childhood trauma or traumatic experiences
  • people coping with serious medical problems or disabilities
  • People seeking self-understanding and emotional growth
  • people coping with stress and anxiety
  • couples seeking relationship counseling

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 his or her career. Creative, counseling and communication skills are important for an art therapy career.

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