Best Master’s in Art Therapy Programs

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Individuals facing disabilities, injuries, or illnesses may benefit from the use of recreation-based therapies. By introducing activities like dance, sport, or arts and crafts, therapists can help patients learn skills that increase their independence, form relationships, or cope with anxiety or stress.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects occupations in this field to grow 8% between 2019 and 2029, a rate much faster than average. Additionally, professionals who specialize in elderly populations may be in even greater demand to help with an anticipated increase in age-related injuries and illnesses.

An art therapy master’s program prepares graduates to work with a variety of ages and therapeutic modalities. Programs typically take two years to complete, along with a supervised clinical practicum. Programs may also include a thesis project and/or comprehensive exam. Curricula usually include art therapy techniques, assessment procedures, history of art therapy, characteristics of disabilities and illness, human development, psychology, and psychiatric terminology.

Art therapy master’s programs prepare students to become licensed, registered, and board-certified, pursuant to their state requirements. Based on our methodology, the rankings in this guide showcase the best programs.

Methodology

View ranking methodology here.

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Best Master's in Art Therapy Programs

Rank School Location
1 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
2 George Washington University Washington, DC
3 Springfield College Springfield, MA
4 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
5 Pratt Institute Brooklyn, NY
6 Hofstra University Hempstead, NY
7 Nazareth College Rochester, NY
8 Marywood University Scranton, PA
9 School of the Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL
10 Seton Hill University Greensburg, PA
  1. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At FSU, the art therapy master's program focuses on the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective components of art therapy. The program’s design allows students to finish in two years, including two summers.

    Students enroll in foundational and advanced art therapy courses and complete at least 800 supervised hours of practicum experience, half of which should include direct contact hours. During their last semester, degree-seekers take a comprehensive exam.

    Enrollees must carry out a supervised research project or a master's thesis. If learners choose the thesis option, they present an oral defense of their project in front of a faculty committee.

    The degree qualifies graduates for certification as an art therapist from the Art Therapy Credentials Board. If students wish to apply for the mental health counseling license in Florida, they can enroll in two additional courses offered at the university: substance abuse and misuse, and human sexuality.

    Interested individuals may apply if they possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and 12 psychology prerequisite credits. They must also submit GRE scores.

    Courses Include

    • Human Development in Art Therapy
    • Art Therapy and Group Counseling
    • Neuroscience and Art Therapy
    • Therapeutic Use of Art Materials
    • Studio Art and Self Care Concepts

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $479/credit for Florida residents; $1,110/credit for nonresidents
    • Credits Required: 67
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  2. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Washington, D.C., George Washington University’s master of arts in art therapy prepares graduates to work as art therapists in educational centers, healthcare institutions, and research centers.

    Students complete 100 practicum and 900 internship hours, typically spending 16-24 hours at their internship site each week. They also attend a weekly two-hour internship supervision meeting on campus.

    In the past, MA candidates have completed their internships at places like arts centers, public schools, and hospitals. Enrollees also complete clinical training, including trauma training, at the GW art therapy clinic.

    Learners can take advantage of several optional opportunities to conduct original research, including a thesis and a one-credit special project in an art therapy course. Graduates of the program may apply for professional licensure in counseling and art therapy.

    Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree with at least 18 credits in art and 12 credits in the behavioral and social sciences. GW does not require GRE scores.

    Courses Include

    • Counseling/Art Therapy Process
    • Creativity, Symbolism, and Metaphor
    • Studio/Technique of Art Therapy
    • Marital and Family Art Therapy/Counseling
    • Substance Abuse and Addictions

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $1,655/credit
    • Credits Required: 61
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  3. Springfield College
    Location

    Springfield, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At Massachusetts-based Springfield College, students can pursue either a master of education (M.Ed.) or master of science (MS) in art therapy. The M.Ed. concentrates on art-based research, while the MS offers clinical art therapy training. Although all degree-seekers follow the same curriculum as they begin the program, courses diverge when students continue to more advanced material.

    Students in both art therapy degrees complete a final art exhibit with different objectives. M.Ed. candidates create a project focused on materials, techniques, and observations. MS candidates relate their art exhibit to their clinical experience.

    All students also complete an internship and degree-specific research requirements. M.Ed. students take two foundational research courses, while MS candidates complete a research project.

    The college requires prospective students to possess a bachelor's degree with at least 12 psychology credits. Applicants should also submit a portfolio of eight art pieces and an artist statement; the college does not ask for GRE scores.

    Courses Include

    • Art Therapy/Counseling with Children and Adolescents
    • Art Therapy and Psychological Assessment Techniques
    • Art Therapy/Counseling and Substance Abuse Disorders
    • Multicultural Issues in Art Therapy/Counseling
    • Sculpture for the Art Therapist

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $1,105/credit
    • Credits Required: 63-68
    • Accreditation: New England Commission on Higher Education; Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  4. Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Drexel’s master's in art therapy program combines art therapy with psychodynamic and psychotherapeutic techniques. The program, which lasts two years for full-time students, prepares graduates for professional counselor licensure in Pennsylvania.

    The curriculum follows a quarter credit system, requiring 90 quarter credits total. Courses cover studio art and human psychology.

    Students participate in clinical experiences made up of practicums and internships, adding up to 1200 clinical hours. MA candidates must also undertake a culminating project designed to integrate practice with theory and research. The project may take the form of a community engagement project, research thesis, or artistic exhibit.

    Prospective students should submit an art portfolio and a bachelor's degree transcript with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Drexel also requires applicants to possess 18 studio art credits and 12 psychology credits.

    Courses Include

    • Foundations of Creative Art Therapies
    • Social and Cultural Foundations in Art Therapy
    • Trauma Approaches in Art Therapy
    • Digital Media Use in Art Therapy and Counseling
    • Mindfulness in Clinical Practice

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $1,342/credit
    • Credits Required: 90 quarter credits
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; American Art Therapy Association
  5. Pratt Institute
    Location

    Brooklyn, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute offers renowned programs in art, architecture, design, and liberal studies. Pratt’s master of professional studies in art therapy trains creatives to use psychodynamic theory in professional art therapy, approaching the field through nonverbal communication, the artistic process, and creative action.

    Full-time students finish the art therapy degree in two years, although Pratt also offers a 2.5-year curriculum for part-time students. The program starts with theoretical classes, giving learners a base of knowledge they continue to apply through experiential learning and research components.

    Enrollees complete clinical supervision experiences throughout the program and participate in advanced seminars that allow students to practice their professional skills. Additionally, learners enroll in a research course and complete a thesis.

    Interested individuals should possess a bachelor's degree with at least 12 psychology credits and 18 studio art credits. Although Pratt does not require GRE scores, candidates must participate in a personal interview.

    Courses Include

    • Materials in Creative Arts Therapy
    • Clinical Assessment and Treatment Planning
    • Family Art Therapy
    • Expressive Modality
    • Cultural Competency and Social Justice Issues in Creative Arts Therapy Practice

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $1,912/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; National Association of Schools of Art and Design; Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education
  6. Hofstra University
    Location

    Hempstead, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Hofstra's master of arts in creative arts therapy counseling prepares students for art therapy licensure in New York state. Full-time students can complete the program in two years, while part-time students typically graduate in three years.

    In their first year practicum, degree-seekers begin their supervised experience in clinical settings. The program’s emphasis on experiential learning requires graduates to complete at least 600 internship hours. Students choose between a three-credit research seminar or six credits of thesis work.

    Learners may also participate in a study abroad experience in Dublin, exploring the expressive arts within Irish culture. Students can also take advantage of the Creative Arts Therapy Club, a student-run organization that helps degree-seekers get involved in their communities.

    Applicants should possess an undergraduate degree with at least 18 hours of studio art and 12 hours of psychology. They do not need to submit GRE scores, but they should demonstrate their art competency with original artwork.

    Courses Include

    • Child and Adolescent Development in Art Therapy Counseling
    • The Art Therapist's Identity in Clinical Settings
    • Clinical Applications in Art Therapy Counseling
    • Drama Therapy for the Helping Professional
    • Poetry/Bibliotherapy for the Helping Professional

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $1,454/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; American Art Therapy Association
  7. Nazareth College
    Location

    Rochester, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Rochester, Nazareth College offers a 60-credit master of science in creative arts therapy. The program qualifies graduates for the New York state licensed creative arts therapy credential. The college reports a 92-100% job placement rate for its recent graduates at places like hospitals, clinics, social services, and community agencies.

    Students start gaining hands-on experience during their first year internships at Nazareth's on-campus art therapy clinic. During their second year, they complete internships off campus in community settings. Students complete 700 clinical hours overall, including 350 direct contact hours.

    Degree-seekers may also take advantage of a one-week intensive course in Sweden, covering intercultural and ethical issues. MS candidates can enroll in nine elective credits, including studio art courses like watercolor and ceramics.

    Along with undergraduate transcripts showing completion of 18 studio art credits and 12 psychology credits, applicants should submit a portfolio with 20 art pieces.

    Courses Include

    • Photo Art Therapy and Counseling Techniques
    • Creative Arts Therapy with Veterans
    • Group Creative Arts Therapy and Counseling Technique
    • Play and Creative Arts Therapy
    • Creativity, Symbolism, and Metaphor

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $985/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  8. Marywood University
    Location

    Scranton, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Scranton-based Marywood offers a master's in art therapy through its Art Department, integrating studio art courses into the curriculum alongside cognitive, psychomotor, and affective learning domains. The art therapy degree prepares students for registration and certification with the Art Therapy Credentials Board.

    Degree-seekers complete fieldwork in the form of local practicum experiences and internships throughout the program. The department also hosts annual symposiums, allowing students to attend expert lectures and participate in experiential learning.

    As a culminating project, candidates must complete either a research thesis or professional contribution. Both projects require independent research and 60-page papers. Finally, all learners must pass a comprehensive exam before they graduate.

    Admission requirements include undergraduate transcripts and an art portfolio with 12-15 pieces.

    Courses Include

    • Developmental Dynamics in Art Therapy
    • Multicultural Issues in Art Therapy
    • Trauma and Resiliency in Art Therapy
    • Expressive Arts Workshop
    • Addiction Treatment in Art Therapy

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $824/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; American Art Therapy Association
  9. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Creatives looking to begin their careers in art therapy can enroll in the master of arts in art therapy and counseling program at SAIC. The degree takes three years to complete and focuses on critical thinking within the field. Graduates qualify for the licensed clinical professional counselor credential in Illinois and registration and certification with the Art Therapy Credentials Board.

    Over the course of the degree, students complete 60 credits of classwork and two fieldwork experiences totalling 1000 hours. MA candidates typically find work in drug treatment programs, mental health centers, and healthcare facilities. They also complete either a scholarly thesis or graduate project, which they showcase in the annual Art of Connection exhibition.

    Interested individuals should submit their undergraduate transcripts and an e-portfolio comprising either a visual portfolio of up to 20 art pieces or a time-based work up to 10 minutes. Incoming students can apply for a number of merit scholarships.

    Courses Include

    • Materials and Media in Art Therapy
    • Psychopathy
    • Family Therapy
    • Ritual and Art Making in Healing
    • Cultural Dimensions in Art Therapy

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $1798/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; American Art Therapy Association
  10. Seton Hill University
    Location

    Greensburg, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Seton Hill offers a master of arts in art therapy with a specialization in counseling. The program prepares students for national certification along with Pennsylvania professional counselor licensure.

    The curriculum includes 700 hours of supervised clinical experience, which degree-seekers fulfill with a practicum and internships. During their last year of study, students dedicate 25 hours per week to their internship. Learners typically work in schools, drug and alcohol treatment programs, and community centers for trauma treatment, among other locations.

    This program boasts a flexible learning schedule, requiring students to come to campus two evenings a week. To ensure learners can effectively complete their off-campus schoolwork, the university provides MacBooks. Full-time students can graduate in seven semesters, or three years, while part-time students can graduate in 9-11 semesters.

    Applicants must possess an undergraduate degree with at least 18 credits in studio art and 12 psychology credits. They should also submit a portfolio with 10-13 examples of their work.

    Courses Include

    • Art Therapy with Groups
    • Art Therapy Studio
    • Trauma Theory and Practice
    • Lifespan Development
    • Interpersonal Processes

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $811/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; American Art Therapy Association

Applying to a Master’s in Art Therapy Program

Applicants to art therapy master’s programs must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. Art therapy programs often ask students to submit GRE scores, minimum GPAs, transcripts, and 2-3 letters of recommendation. Programs may also require academic writing samples, portfolios, resumes, and statements of purpose. Candidates may also be invited to interview.

While prospective students may not need particular undergraduate majors, admissions prefers degrees and coursework in studio art, psychology, and behavioral and social sciences.

Art therapists must obtain a clinical or professional license as a counselor, psychotherapist, or therapist, depending on the requirements of the state where they plan to practice. The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) administers testing and awards national credentials for provisional registered art therapists, registered art therapists, and board-certified art therapists.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where do art therapists work?

    Art therapy degree-holders find employment at correctional facilities, drug and alcohol treatment centers, homeless shelters, hospitals, and private practice. The BLS also predicts an increased need for art therapists to work with elderly clients in settings like community centers, hospice care, and long-term residential care facilities.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    The American Art Therapy Association formulated educational standards for art therapy schools with a rigorous annual review process. To ensure compliance with these standards, master’s in art therapy students should seek training at schools approved by the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

  • Is an online master's in art therapy a good degree?

    Art therapy degrees online do not offer a fully virtual learning experience but involve on-campus instruction and in-person supervised clinical practicums or internships. Because the ATCB only recognizes art therapy master’s programs, students must earn a graduate degree and should find a hybrid art therapy master’s program worthwhile.

  • How long does it take to become an art therapist?

    To become an art therapist, students first need to earn a bachelor’s degree, which takes about four years. Most master’s in art therapy programs take two years to complete. Clinical internships in some states — at particular work sites or in specific specialties — may add to the timeline, but the total commitment averages 6-7 years.

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