Art Therapy Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an art therapy program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a bachelor's and master's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Art Therapy: Degrees at a Glance

Art therapists perform a wide range of services - including assessment, individual therapy and group therapy - that incorporate both art and counseling principles, generally as part of a mental health diagnosing and treatment team. They may work in numerous settings, including psychiatric hospitals, outpatient mental health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and schools. Art therapy clients represent a wide variety of ages and may have a variety of physical, mental and developmental health challenges. A master's degree is typically required to work in these professions, and an art therapy bachelor's degree program provides preparation for applying to a master's-level art therapy program.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking entry-level positions in human services and/or those who plan to attend a master's degree program in art therapy People who want to earn professional certification in art therapy
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Psychiatric technicians ($31,000)*
- Recreational therapists ($43,000)*
- Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists ($52,000)*
- Mental health counselors ($43,000)*
- Marriage and family counselors ($49,000)*
- Clinical, counseling and school psychologists ($73,000)*
- Other psychologists ($86,000)*
Time to Completion 4 years full-time 2 years after the bachelor's
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 120 credits
- Minimum GPA
- Possible internship/capstone project
- Approximately 60-63 credits beyond the bachelor's
- Clinical practicum or internship
- Thesis
Prerequisites High school diploma Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Yes None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Bachelor's in Art Therapy

Earning a bachelor's degree in art therapy prepares you to go on to a master's-level program in counseling, psychology, art therapy or a related field. Art therapy bachelor's degree programs are usually offered as Bachelor of Arts programs. Some schools offer a clinical track and a studio track. At colleges that do not offer programs specifically in art therapy, it may be possible for you to earn a double major in psychology and art.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Programs typically offer a wide variety of electives
  • May allow the student to focus on the artistic medium that most interests him or her
  • Helping other with therapy can be personally rewarding

Cons

  • Additional education is typically required to work in this field
  • A bachelor's degree program does not prepare graduates for professional certification
  • Some courses may be unavailable through an online degree program

Courses and Requirements

An art therapy bachelor's degree program typically includes psychology courses, art courses and courses that combine the two disciplines. The program may also require an internship, and many programs require studio art courses. Your courses may include:

  • Basic design
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Adolescent psychology
  • Working with the elderly

Online Degree Options

Online and hybrid programs are available in art therapy at the bachelor's degree level. Courses that require practice in a fine arts studio, such as sculpture and metal-smithing, require the student to be present on campus and are typically offered through hybrid rather than online-only programs.

How to Stand Out

Opportunities for you to stand out in the field of art therapy as an undergraduate include joining an art therapy student association, attending symposiums and participating in student exhibitions. You may also have opportunities to participate as a subject in research studies.

Master's in Art Therapy

At the master's degree level, art therapy programs may be offered as Master of Arts, Master of Science or Master of Professional Studies programs. These programs may offer a specialization track in working with clients with substance abuse issues or in working with physically, mentally or emotionally challenged populations.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Master's degree programs prepare students to earn professional certification through the American Art Therapy Association (AATA)
  • Prepares graduates for employment in several settings
  • Programs may accept a student with a bachelor's degree in any field

Cons

  • May require prerequisite courses in psychology, lifespan development and studio arts
  • An artwork portfolio may be required for admission
  • Distance-learning options were not available as of December 2012

Courses and Requirements

Master's-level art therapy programs require approximately 60 credits' worth of courses. Programs generally require one or more clinical practicums or internships and may require a community service component. Courses might include:

  • Art in group therapy
  • Studio arts
  • Adlerian psychology
  • Psychological assessment
  • Professional development

Online Degree Options

As of December 2012, no AATA-approved online or hybrid programs were available in art therapy at the master's degree level. At least one AATA-approved hybrid program was planned for fall 2013. Because these degree programs require hands-on clinical experience, fully online programs are likely to remain rare to nonexistent.

How to Stand Out

You may stand out by participating in community service opportunities, even if community service hours are not a requirement for graduation. You might also stand out by completing community service, internship and clinical practicum hours in settings, other than the ones in which you intend to work, to get a broader understanding of the field.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
      • BS in Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
      • B.S. Healthcare Administration
  • Chicago, IL

    DePaul University

  • Online Programs Available
    5. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    6. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
  • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
  • BS in Health Care Administration

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Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • B.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
  • B.S. Healthcare Administration

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Kaplan University

  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin

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American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management

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