Art therapists harness the power of visual expression to help their clients address ongoing emotional, mental, and physical health issues. Many work with individuals across the lifespan. However, some focus their efforts on a specific population, such as college students, individuals struggling with substance abuse, or clients working through issues like anxiety, depression, or grief.
Attending an accredited art therapy master’s program ensures students receive a top-tier education. Accreditation also helps candidates transfer college credits, obtain licensure, and qualify for jobs after graduation. Finding an affordable master’s in art therapy is also important for learners who wish to avoid taking on substantial student loan debt.
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Top 10 Best Master’s in Art Therapy Programs
||New York University
||New York, NY
||Florida State University
||George Washington University
||Albertus Magnus College
||New Haven, CT
||Cedar Crest College
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What to Expect From a Master’s in Art Therapy Program
Prospective students should possess a general sense of what to expect from a master’s in art therapy program. Most degrees require at least 30 credits and take approximately two years to complete. Learners should also plan on completing a practicum to fulfill supervised hours requirements, along with a professional portfolio.
While course requirements vary by institution, common classes explore the history of art therapy, contemporary issues in the discipline, art therapy techniques, and assessment procedures. Alongside pedagogy and art courses, students also augment their studies with classes in psychology and therapeutic tools. Topics of particular interest include supporting those with substance abuse and addictions, psychotherapy in art, symbolism and metaphor, and human development and art therapy.
After completing an accredited art therapy master’s degree and finishing their supervised clinical practice requirements, art therapists must pursue state licensure. Some employers also expect candidates to obtain registration and board certification.
Career Outlook for Art Therapists
Art therapists work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, correctional centers, community centers, and in private practice. They may work with single clients on a long-term basis, or provide short-term services for outpatient programs or trauma groups. Patients typically span generations and seek services that help them process their emotions and pain through visual creativity.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, <a href=”https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm” target=”_blank”>art and other recreational therapists</a> earned a median annual salary of $47,860 in 2018. The highest 10% of earners commanded salaries in excess of $77,050 during the same timeframe. Factors affecting pay rates include level of education, professional experience, type of employer, and geographic location. Roles for these professionals are projected to grow by 7% between 2018 and 2028, or slightly faster than the national average for all occupations combined.
Top Master’s in Art Therapy Programs 2020
Founded in 1831, NYU is a private nonprofit school serving approximately 51,900 students. NYU offers a master of arts in art therapy program that focuses on scholarly research, cross-cultural competency, and evidence-based clinical practice. Additionally, the program prides itself on offering instruction that speaks to current social justice issues and takes advantage of modern learning technologies.
This program trains students in the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective learning domains, ultimately preparing them for entry-level careers as art therapists. Learners complete 39 credits of core major classes, nine elective credits, and a 12-credit internship. In addition to coursework and internship requirements, master's degree-seekers must complete a thesis project.
FSU is a public school located in Tallahassee. Founded in 1851, it is one of the oldest higher education institutions in the state. The school serves approximately 42,000 students and offers a master's in art therapy.
FSU's art therapy graduate program prepares students for entry-level careers using the affective, cognitive, and psychomotor learning domains. Learners must pass a master's comprehensive exam and complete a master's thesis or supervised research project for graduation. Candidates also complete at least 1000 hours in a supervised practicum.
Most full-time students complete the program in two years, including two summer semesters. Prospective students should submit a statement of purpose, GRE scores, an academic writing sample, and three letters of recommendation.
George Washington University
Located in Washington, D.C., GW is a private institution dating back to 1821. The nonprofit school offers a master's degree in art therapy that emphasizes individual counseling skills, family and group therapy, psychopathology, and human development.
Art therapy students must complete at least 900 internship hours, pass a comprehensive exam, and write a master's thesis to graduate. Graduates can sit for professional licensure exams in art therapy and counseling.
Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Application materials include transcripts reflecting at least 18 undergraduate credits in art, 12 credits in the behavioral or social sciences, and coursework in abnormal psychology and human development. In addition, applicants should submit two letters of recommendation, an art portfolio, and statement of purpose. The admissions committee also requires an interview.
Located in Brooklyn, New York, Pratt is a private, nonprofit school offering a master's in art therapy. This program combines theoretical and experiential learning, helping students develop innovative approaches to treating clinical issues with art therapy.
Students can take the program on campus following the regular academic schedule or in a low residency format. Learners usually need four semesters to complete their master's degree in art therapy and creative development.
Prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree and 12 prerequisite credits in psychology, abnormal and developmental psychology, and two other psychology-focused classes. Pratt also expects applicants to possess 18 credits of studio art courses in sculpture, painting, and drawing. Perspective art therapy master's students must participate in an interview in person or online with the admissions committee.
Drexel is a private, nonprofit institution located in Philadelphia. The university's master of arts in art therapy and counseling introduces diverse methods for treating patients in art therapy sessions.
Graduates prepare to treat both individuals and groups by employing a combination of clinical concepts and theory. The program also helps students build therapeutic relationships with patients as they develop individual identities as art therapists.
Candidates pursuing a master's in art therapy must work with a multidisciplinary faculty committee to complete a thesis research or capstone project. Students also complete a clinical practice course, three practicums, three internships, and a final project. In total, learners complete 1200 art therapy educational hours.
Massachusetts-based Springfield is a private, nonprofit institution offering a master's degree in art therapy. This program combines practical therapy theories and techniques with hands-on practice.
Full-time students typically need two years to complete all required coursework in psychology, studio art, counseling, and therapy. Candidates also complete a practicum experience during their second semester and an internship during their second year.
Prospective students should hold a baccalaureate degree in art, psychology, art education, art therapy, or a related field. Other prerequisites include at least 18 credits of studio art classes, 12 or more credits in psychology, and one class in three-dimensional art. Springfield requires applicants to submit a portfolio of work.
Located in Rochester, New York, Nazareth is a private, nonprofit college serving approximately 3,000 students. Full-time students can complete Nazareth's 60-credit master of science in creative arts therapy in around two years.
Nazareth master's students engage in clinical training experiences with specialists in physical therapy, speech-language pathology, music therapy, and occupational therapy. Program graduates may sit for the New York state licensed creative arts therapy (LCAT) credential exam.
Candidates must submit an online application with a resume, professional statement, and three letters of recommendation. Applicants should also provide their official transcripts and a 20-piece portfolio demonstrating their expertise in two- and three-dimensional art. Incoming students must possess at least 18 credits in studio art and 12 or more credits in psychology or a related area.
Located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Marywood is a private school offering a master's in art therapy. Along with 60 semester hours of coursework, candidates must write a traditional master's thesis and complete a clinical practicum for graduation.
Prospective graduate students must possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university or college with a "B" or higher average. Application materials include a personal essay, two letters of recommendation, and official transcripts demonstrating the applicant's likelihood for success in the program.
Degree-holders pursue careers in a variety of settings, including Community Counseling agencies, prison systems, medical hospitals, private practices, community art studios, and women's shelters.
This private Connecticut school offers a master of arts in art therapy and counseling degree that emphasizes the ethical, practical, and theoretical aspects of art therapy. The program prepares learners to become licensed professional counselors in Connecticut.
Master's students must complete at least 60 credits with a 3.0 or higher GPA and 725 hours of supervised clinical experience. Learners must also write a traditional master's thesis.
Applicants to the master's in art therapy program need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school with a 2.8 GPA or higher. Albertus expects incoming students to possess at least 18 credits of studio art classes and a minimum of 15 psychology credits. The college accepts up to 12 graduate credits toward this degree.
Cedar Crest is a private school in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The nonprofit institution's master's degree in art therapy offers a combination of on-campus, online, and hybrid courses that integrate foundational theories with hands-on application. Full-time learners typically complete the 60-credit program in five semesters.
Incoming students need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Application materials must include official transcripts reflecting at least 18 credits of studio coursework and 12 psychology credits completed within the last 10 years. Additionally, prospective students should submit a personal essay, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a portfolio of original work.
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
IUPUI's master's in art therapy integrates experimental teaching methods with art, science, and clinical practice. In addition to coursework and a thesis, degree-seekers complete 1,000 hours of supervised practicum work and an internship experience. Most full-time students earn their degree in two years. Graduates can pursue board certification as licensed mental health counselors or art therapists in Indiana.
Prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree with at least 18 credits of studio art classes and 12 or more credits of psychology. IUPUI also expects applicants to submit a portfolio of artwork that demonstrates their experience working with different types of media.
Located in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Seton Hill is home to one of the best art therapy master's programs. Full-time students can graduate in seven semesters, while degree-seekers can also follow nine- and 11-semester tracks to graduation.
The master of arts in art therapy with a specialization in counseling provides both clinical and art-based training. The curriculum prepares graduates to sit for board certification exams and treat a variety of client bases. Seton Hill art therapy graduates move on to rewarding careers at drug and alcohol treatment centers, private practices, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and hospice care.
Students must complete at least 700 hours of supervised practicum and internship experience over the span of two semesters. Learners can expect to spend approximately 25 hours per week onsite.
Located in Milwaukee, MMU is a private, nonprofit school that began as a women's college in 1929. Today, the university offers more than 30 programs, including a master's in art therapy.
Degree-seekers enjoy MMU's diverse curriculum and training opportunities, taking courses in theoretical studies, clinical studies, and hands-on professional practice. Art therapy pupils must complete at least 60 credits to graduate, in addition to 800-1,000 hours of practicum experience and a master's thesis.
Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree in art education, psychology, or a related field, with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Additionally, MMU expects incoming learners to possess at least 18 and 12 credits of studio art and psychology classes, respectively. Application materials include three letters of recommendation, an artwork portfolio with 12-20 samples, a career statement, and a writing sample.
Eastern Virginia Medical School
EVMS is a private, nonprofit institution located in Norfolk, Virginia. The school's master's degree in art therapy features a robust curriculum with experiential learning opportunities, collaborative projects, and hands-on clinical training in internship experiences.
Master's candidates can choose from one of 50 internship sites and participate in service learning activities with the Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team. Full-time students usually need two years to complete the program.
Interested individuals should hold a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 or higher GPA. EVMS also expects incoming students to possess at least 12 and 18 semester credit hours in psychology and studio art, respectively. Prospective students must submit their official transcripts and two letters of reference. Applicants may need to complete an interview with the admissions team.
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
SIUE is a public school located in Edwardsville, Illinois, that serves approximately 13,300 students. The university's highly competitive, two-year master's in art therapy program accepts only 10 students each academic year.
This master's in art therapy counseling program combines classroom instruction and hands-on practicum experience, preparing students for entry-level careers as therapists. Candidates explore the affective, psychomotor, and cognitive learning domains and complete 60 semester credits for graduation.
Prospective students need a bachelor's degree in art studio, psychology, art education, or related field, with a 2.5 or higher GPA. Application materials must also include GRE scores,12-15 digital images of personal artwork, a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and a resume. Applicants must also participate in an admissions interview.
Located in Pepper Pike, Ohio, Ursuline is a private, nonprofit school with roots in the Catholic tradition. More than 90% of Ursuline's student body are women. The college's master of arts in counseling and art therapy degree prepares graduate students to work in a variety of human-service, educational, medical, and clinical settings.
Courses are held on campus in the late afternoons and evenings to accommodate students' work schedules and internship obligations. Along with coursework, degree-seekers must complete approximately 800 hours of practicum and internship experiences.
Ursuline subscribes to a rolling admissions policy and accepts applications throughout the year. Prospective students must submit a personal essay and complete an admissions interview. Applicants need at least 18 semester hours of studio art classes and 12 or more hours in psychology.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
A private, nonprofit institution, SAIC offers one of the top art therapy master's programs in the country.
Candidates pursuing a master of arts in art therapy and counseling must complete 60 credit hours of classroom work and two clinical experiences. Students are required to fulfill at least 900 hours of clinical work in locations like drug treatment programs, medical centers, community organizations, and mental health facilities. Graduate students also complete a traditional master's thesis or final project prior to graduation.
Applicants to SAIC's art therapy program must submit official college transcripts, two letters of reference, a statement of purpose, a resume, and a list of volunteer or employment experiences. Interested individuals also need to participate in a group interview. Incoming students can transfer in up to 12 credits towards the degree.
Notre Dame de Namur University
NDNU is a private, nonprofit institution based in Belmont, California. The university's master's in art therapy prepares learners to sit for the licensed professional clinical licensure exam or pursue the registered art therapist credential.
Master's degree-seekers need to complete 63 units of coursework for graduation. Art therapy students also complete two practicums, a research methodologies course, and a master's thesis. NDNU students who enroll in this program are eligible to apply for the Mills-Peninsula scholarship to help cover tuition costs.
Prospective students need a bachelor's degree in psychology, behavioral science, art, or a related field to gain program admission. NDNU also expects learners to possess at least 12 and 18 semester units of psychology and studio art classes, respectively. Application materials include two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and 12 samples of personal artwork for consideration.
ESU is a public Kansas school that offers three art therapy programs. Learners can choose from a master's degree in art therapy and clinical counseling, art therapy and clinical psychology, and art therapy counseling. Depending on the program, candidates may choose between non-thesis and traditional thesis options.
Students interested in the art therapy clinical counseling program can specialize in addictions counseling, clinical mental health counseling, or clinical rehabilitation counseling. All master's candidates must complete 60 credits. Full-time students typically graduate in two years.
Applications should include three professional references, 15-20 examples of artwork, GRE scores, and official transcripts. Applicants should possess a bachelor's degree in art, fine arts, education, or a related field with a 3.0 or higher GPA.
Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lesley is a private nonprofit school serving approximately 4,900 students each year. Lesley offers a 60-credit master's in art therapy available in a full-time, on-campus format or a low-residency track. Learners can finish the program in two or three years.
Art therapy students complete 12 credits of field experiences, including clinical skills and applications coursework and directed internship experiences. Candidates must complete approximately 1,150 supervised hours to graduate. Both on-campus and low-residency learners follow the same curriculum and field experience guidelines.
Incoming students need at least 18 credits of studio art classes and 12 or more credits in classes, such as abnormal psychology or developmental psychology with a "B" or higher grade.
Based in Greenvale, New York, LIU was founded in 1926 and now offers a master's degree in art therapy. This 60-credit, on-campus program takes approximately two years to complete. LIU boasts small and intimate class sizes and access to more than 100 clinical training internships sites for its art therapy students. The master of arts in clinical art therapy and counseling positions students to sit for New York's licensed creative arts therapist credential or the art therapy credentials board examination.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited school with a 3.0 or higher GPA, at least 12 psychology credits, and 18 or more credits of studio art coursework. Applications should include a personal statement, statement of philosophy, writing sample, and an art portfolio. Applicants must also undergo an admissions interview.
SWC is a private, nonprofit school located in Santa Fe. The college boasts approximately 200 students and offers three master's degrees in art therapy.
Candidates can choose from a master of arts in art therapy and counseling, master of arts in counseling, or master of arts in art therapy for clinical professionals. Depending on the program, students usually graduate in 2.5-3.5 years.
Learners complete 97-98 quarter units, along with in-person internships, a practicum, and a capstone project. Degree-seekers need to complete at least 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours in total.
Founded in 1952, Adler is a private nonprofit institution in Chicago, Illinois. The school's master's in art therapy features a diverse curriculum covering areas like bereavement and grief, neuroscience, psychopathology, socio-cultural and multicultural approaches to art therapy, and psychotherapy.
Full-time students usually complete the 64-credit program in two years. Degree-seekers follow a cohort learning format in which they progress through the program with other students. Prior to graduation, learners complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinical art therapy practice.
Prospective students need a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Applicants should also possess at least 12 semester credits in psychology with a "C" or higher grade and 18 semester credit hours in studio art or digital art media.
OU is a private school serving approximately 800 students at its campuses in Kansas and Arizona. The university's master's in counseling with a concentration in expressive arts therapy takes an interdisciplinary, arts-focused approach to psychotherapy and counseling. Learners develop an understanding of the key principles and techniques for performing clinical work, especially through the use of expressive art therapy in outpatient, private practice, and residential settings.
Interested individuals should possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA or better. OU prefers applicants who possess volunteer or work experience in counseling environments. Prospective students should also submit three reference forms, a personal statement, and official transcripts. The school may require an in-person interview for admission.