Art Therapist Salary Information

Art therapy is an extremely creative field that brings together the use of psychology and the arts in order to help all types of clients with all different sorts of mental, emotional, and physical issues. Modalities used in art therapy can include, dance, visual arts, music, poetry, sculpting, theater and many others. Art therapy combines the healing powers of art with the application of principles in psychotherapy to help clients with specific issues and to also improve the client’s overall life. Art therapists provide their services to a plethora of different clients including people with injuries, illnesses, disabilities and many other issues. Art therapists can work with their patients or clients in a multitude of various settings which include clinical settings, hospitals, residential care facilities, art studios, music studios, and a large number of other varied venues. But, what is the potential for Art Therapist Salary?

Art Therapist Salary Potential

Art therapists are classified among recreational therapists by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recreational therapists are described as individuals who direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. Recreational therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, sports, games, and community reintegration field trips to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being(1).

An Art Therapist Salary is part of recreation therapists. In 2012 the median annual salary for recreational therapists was $44,280.00 which is equivalent to $21.29 per hour(2). This means that half of recreational therapist’s salaries are less than $44,280.00 per year and the other half of recreational therapists salaries are more than that figure.

Factors Influencing Art Therapists Salary Potential

Art therapist’s salary potential might fluctuate based upon a number of factors including the art therapy degree level attained, certification or licensing, experience, geographical location, the type of employer, and industry.

Art therapists seeking credentialing beyond their academic degree may seek certification from the Art Therapy Credentials Board; an art therapist is certified when they are able to meet the strict criteria set by the credentialing organization(2).

The salary for recreational therapists, which includes art therapists, may be greatly influenced by geographic location. According to the BLS, the top paying states for recreational therapists in 2012 were California, Oregon, New Jersey, New York and Alaska(3).

The type of industry in which an art therapist is employed also has a great influence on the art therapist’s pay. For example, art therapist salaries in the government industry tend to be substantially higher than art therapy salaries for those who work for residential care facilities(4).

The art therapists work schedule whether full-time, part-time, and whether the pay is salaried or hourly might also greatly influence the practitioners salary potential. According to the BLS, one out of five recreational therapists are employed part-time(5).

Art Therapist Salary Potential by Industry

Art therapist’s earnings potential can vary greatly depending on the type of industry in which the art therapist works.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual wage for recreational therapists working in nursing care facilities in 2012 was $36,900 per year(6). Recreational therapists employed in ambulatory health care services in 2012 earned a median annual wage of $46,160(7). Recreational therapists employed by residential care facilities reported median annual wages of $36,430 in 2012, recreational therapists employed by hospitals in 2012 reported median annual earnings of $46,160, and those employed by the government reported median annual earnings of $48,850 in 2012(8).

The chart below outlines some popular industries of employment for recreational therapists, employment levels within that industry, and the mean annual wage earned by recreational therapists working in the industry and give an idea of art therapist salary potential (9):

Industry Number of Recreational Therapists Employed in Industry 2012 Annual Mean Wage
Federal Executive Branch of Government 890 $65,400
Home Health Care Services N/A $59,210
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 3,380 $48,360
Colleges Universities and Professional Schools 160 $47,850
Specialty Hospitals (Except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals) 590 $47,510
Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals 2,570 $46,820
State Government 1,840 $45,500
Offices of Other Health Care Practitioners 760 $40,670
Nursing Care Facilities 4,380 $38,710
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly 1,200 $36,910

Source: http://www.bls.gov/oes/2012/may/oes291125.htm
Annual wages have been calculated by multiplying the hourly mean wage by a “year round, full time” hour’s figure of 2,080 hours; for those occupations where there is not an hourly mean wage published, the annual wage has been directly calculated from the reported survey data.

How to Pursue a Career as an Art Therapist

Those interested in pursuing careers in art therapy are usually required to earn a master’s degree in the study of art therapy in order to pursue a career as a practicing professional in the field. Prospective students can also earn a dual degree that combines counseling with a concentration in art therapy. Graduate programs in art therapy integrate a multitude of various arts including visual arts with practices in psychotherapy. Students complete required course work in art therapy, psychology, and many other similarly related classes. Most programs also include an internship or field training component as part of the degree requirement to give students hands on experience in art therapy careers. A master’s program in art therapy usually takes about two years to complete.

Interested students can also study to earn their Ph.D. in art therapy. Ph.D. programs in art therapy are comprised of artistic seminar classes and research seminar classes as well; there is also typically a dissertation or thesis requirement. Program requirements also include clinical teaching and practice, as well as multiple research classes and studio based artistic seminars. Ph.D. programs in art therapy usually take about three years to complete.

In addition to education degree requirements, those wishing to pursue an art therapy career must also make sure to comply with all required licensing and certification requirements both on a national and state level. Requirements to earn a certification can vary depending on the type of art therapy certification desired and can consist of examinations, training hours, supervised research, and other varying requirements. See reference links below for Art Therapist Salary information:

Search For Art Therapy Graduate Programs


1.    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm#tab-2
2.    http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291125.htm
3.    http://www.atcb.org/home/registration
4.    http://www.bls.gov/oes/2012/may/oes291125.htm#(8)
5.    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm#tab-5
6.    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm#tab-5
7.    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm#tab-5
8.    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm#tab-5
9.    http://www.bls.gov/oes/2012/may/oes291125.htm#(8)