What degree should I get to become an Art Therapist?

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You need to love Art. Maybe you are no Van Gough or Rembrandt. Maybe you have no desire to seclude your self to your studio like Henry Darger. But you do need to believe in Art, and really believe it to be therapeutic. Art Therapy is as it sounds, a form of therapy. Most often we are familiar with talk therapy, a psychologist or counselor using verbal communication as the method of expression. Talk therapy may be more common; however, Art Therapists have found that ones’s creative expressions have the ability to bring awareness of certain emotions or feelings as well. Your goal as Art Therapist is to help people gain better insight into their daily lives.

Art Therapy at the entry level requires a Master’s degree. There are pre-graduate school bachelor programs in Art Therapy. You may also find many schools offering the major Art Therapy at the 2 or 4 year level, but please do know you cannot sit for licensing exams without a Graduate degree in the field. Be prepared for a long, yet rewarding road of schooling.


Your Bachelor’s degree can be in almost anything, as long as you beef up on some of the following:

  • Studio Art classes (ceramics, sculpture, painting, drawing, photography)
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Communication

In addition to having basic Undergraduate requirements met, the Master’s program you apply for may require a portfolio of art work. In graduate school, the Art Therapy program will be specific to the field and integrate Art with Therapy to prepare you for the practice. In addition you will need to do an supervised practicum and internship consisting of 1000 hours.


Say you already have a degree in something similar like counseling or psychology and you desire to enter the field of Art Therapy. Well, you can; the Art Therapy Credentials Board has established the following as related mental health fields:

  • Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Social Work
  • Psychology
  • Addictions Counseling
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • Psychiatry

You then find a post-graduate certification program in Art Therapy where you can do your Supervised training hours, then proceed to obtain your license.


You cannot practice Art Therapy officially until you are licensed. The licensing examination is offered by the ATCB. You basically show proof of all your education, gather up professional references and documentation of your practicum hours. After all that, you are finally granted the credential ATR. You can then become Board Certified (ATR-BC) with additional requirements and continuing education later into your career.

Work Environment

An Art Therapist may work in a hospital, a rehabilitative facility, a school, a nursing home, a government human services department, or simply a private practice. They may work as part of a greater healthcare team or as a consultant. They may teach, facilitate or conduct research. They may work with kids or adults.

As you can see, an Art Therapist may find a variety of opportunities in this career. All of these lead to helping individuals heal. An Art Therapist must have compassion and empathy while working with clients. It is important to have good interpersonal skills and, of course, a passion for art.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 29% job growth between 2012 and 2022 for mental health counselors. Because Art Therapy is very niche, it is hard to find statistics on the field; however the job growth rate is probably similar for Art Therapists who work in the mental health field.

Related Resources: 

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Psychologist?

How Long Does It Take to Become a Psychologist?