How Much Do Art Therapists Make?

An art therapist explains her salary to another person while sitting on a cushioned chair.

Art allows us to express ideas we might otherwise struggle to communicate, and to safely explore thoughts that can cause negative behaviors. The soothing abilities of art have made it a key part of many mental and physical health treatments, and art therapy is growing in popularity.

Let’s explore what an art therapist does, how to get started as an art therapist, and the salary you can expect to make. Read this guide to find out more.

How Much Do Art Therapists Make?

Before we start discussing the salaries of art therapists, it’s important to understand that this is a job with a lot of variety, and a lot of different job titles.

Licensed art therapists can work in private and public settings, in schools, hospitals, and rehab centers, and despite similar roles, the job won’t always be described as “art therapist”.

This can make finding an average salary for an art therapist tricky. It will depend highly on the role you choose, and where the work is based.

That said, the average salary for an art therapist in the U.S. is estimated to be around $48,000 per year. This would work out at $24.62 an hour.

However, the salary is highly dependent on your level of experience. A beginner art therapist, licensed but only just starting out in the profession, might expect to earn closer to $30,000. An art therapist with several years of experience can potentially earn closer to $60,000, and higher.

Where Do Art Therapists Make The Most Money?

Collected data indicates that California is the state with the highest average salary for art therapists. Within California, Palo Alto and San Francisco are the cities with the highest average salary for art therapists.

Washington, DC, and Dallas also appear to have a higher salary for art therapists compared to the national average. New Jersey, Oregon, Connecticut, and New York also offer a higher average salary for art therapists, at roughly $60,000.

At the lower end of the scale, Iowa and Pennsylvania appear to offer a lower than average salary. However, the wage will still be dependent on your experience, and the role you take within a company.

It’s also important to note that these salaries don’t account for the cost of living in the area.

A person holding a clipboard in one hand and a pencil in the other, sitting at a desk.

What Does An Art Therapist Do?

We all understand the importance of creative outlets. Art therapists use art to encourage clients to express and explore their thoughts and emotions. During art therapy, clients can create an artwork linked to a certain idea, emotion, or action.

The therapist will then engage the client regarding that artwork, and what it explores, to process emotions, or work towards a set goal.

Art therapy can be used by those struggling with mental or physical conditions.

Art therapy helps clients to express feelings they might have difficulty verbalizing. As a hands-on form of therapy, it can be used to ground those who have difficulty concentrating, or as a release of pent up emotion.

Art therapy encompasses a range of art forms, from painting to clay sculpting, and it’s your job to find a form that works with the client’s needs.

As an art therapist, you will be required to set goals, assess treatment plans, and discuss coping skills. It combines both psychology and art skills, as well as the ability to plan set treatments. If you choose to work privately, then you might also need to schedule appointments, purchase supplies, and bill clients.

What Qualifications Do You Need To Be A Music Therapist?

In order to work as an art therapist, you will need an understanding of both art and psychology.

The first qualification you will need is a Bachelor’s Degree, potentially majoring in art or psychology (ideally, with the other as a minor). With that said, more universities are now offering majors in art therapy or other forms of creative therapy.

Next, you must earn a Master’s Degree in art therapy from a program approved by the American Art Therapy Association, or accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs.

If the course you choose isn’t accredited by either body, then you will need to complete supplemental work.

While completing your Master’s Degree, you will also need to get hands-on in the field. You will be expected to complete at least 700 hours of a supervised internship in art therapy.

Before you can register as an art therapist, you will also need to complete at least an additional 1000 hours of clinical experience, working under the guidance of an experienced supervisor. Final licensing requirements vary from state to state, and board certification may be necessary.

Is Art Therapist A Good Career?

Art therapy is considered to be a good career with growing prospects, although the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) doesn’t collect data specifically on art therapists. However, many who work within the field consider it to be a highly rewarding career.

On the surface, art therapy can appear to be an easier, more relaxing form of therapy. However, it is important to remember that this is still a form of psychology. All art therapists can expect to deal with challenging clients, including those who have responded to more conventional therapy treatments.

But if you have a desire to help and a love for art and expression, there are many benefits to working as an art therapist. Art therapy can appeal to people of all ages and from many walks of life, making this a career with an interesting versatility.


An art therapist can expect to earn an average salary of around $48,000 per year, although the average pay is much lower for those just starting out. Requiring a complex educational background and many hours of experience, getting a license as an art therapist can be tricky.

However, many find the career path to be highly rewarding.

If you’re interested in a career as an art therapist, take a look at the American Art Therapy Association to see how to get started.

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