Master’s in Art Therapy Online

By Nikita Nath

Updated March 15, 2024

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online

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Art therapists are required to be creative with a passion for helping others. Most art therapists have excellent communication skills and an interest in exploring human behavior and patience. A master’s in art therapy online degree can help prospective students understand the practical ways we can use art and other creative skills for therapeutic intervention. Through the curriculum of the online master’s in art therapy program, students will learn the nonverbal processes to evaluate patients and create treatment plans. The U.S. Bureau of labor statistics reported that most art therapists have an annual salary of $30,000 to $80,000[1]. They can work in various settings like community-based organizations, non-profit organizations, hospitals, clinics, etc.


Best Online Master’s in Art
Therapy Degrees

Choosing a good college for a master’s degree could prove to be a daunting task. To zero in on a top college, one would have to evaluate factors like the institution’s reputation, quality and experience of the faculty, specializations offered, research facilities, student resources, and more. With these and other critical aspects in mind, the best master’s in art therapy online programs have been evaluated and listed by FBD teams: *

PennWest Edinboro is a campus of Pennsylvania Western University, established in 1857 in Pennsylvania. The campus caters to more than 4,600 students and is located in the town of Edinboro.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania 219 Meadville Street, Edinboro, Pennsylvania 16444 $9,288 47%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from the Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Degree Program

The online master’s in art therapy focuses on how to use art-based approaches in various clinical settings. The program is offered online, offline, and in hybrid mode (that combines online and offline classes). The duration of the program is typically two years, depending on its curriculum. Students are also usually exposed to fieldwork and may have to take up an internship, capstone, or thesis, depending on the program’s requirements.

The core curriculum of the master’s in art therapy online consists of a blend of art therapy and psychology courses. Some of the standard required courses in art therapy are – introduction to art therapy, ethical issues in art therapy, art-based research and assessment, multicultural issues in art therapy, and group processes in art therapy. The required psychological courses are frequently – research methodology, child psychopathology, and psychopathology. Students are also required to opt for elective courses, such as the psychology of art, arts in special education, addiction treatment in art therapy, expressive arts workshop, trauma and resiliency in art therapy, etc.

Here are some courses often found across most master’s in art therapy online programs:

Research Methods in Creative Arts

In this course, students learn about the different methodologies associated with using creative practices as research that might go beyond traditional research approaches. Through these methodologies, they will learn how there can be different interpretative paradigms in creative arts. Students also explore the reflective outcomes within the practice of art therapy.

Child and Adolescent Art Therapy

In this course, students learn how to use art therapy as a nonthreatening way for children and adolescents to express their inner feelings. Art therapy can be taught as a tool for assessing and treating different disorders like depression and anxiety. The course allows students to explore strategies in the art that adolescents and children can use for self-expression.

Ethical Issues in Art Therapy

Like all fields of therapy, there are different ethical issues in art therapy that a student needs to understand before venturing into the profession. This course teaches students about the concepts of privacy, predictability, and safety related to an art therapy session. They also learn about the implications of breaching protocols and confidentiality.

Theory and Practice of Art Therapy

This is a process-oriented course that focuses on the effects of using art in the setting of therapy. It looks at the overall process instead of judging the product or outcome of art-making. Students learn how to guide individuals into a self-awareness journey, enhancing their self-esteem.

Some of the other courses in an online master’s in art therapy program could include:

  • Cultural Diversity in Art Therapy
  • Use of Art Therapy in Psychopathology and Group Psychotherapy
  • Life Span Development in Counseling, Art Therapy, and Psychotherapy
  • Group Dynamics in Art Therapy
  • Social and Cultural Foundations in Art Therapy
  • Professional Ethics in Art Therapy and Counseling
  • Theory and Practice of Family Art Counseling and Therapy
  • Cultural Dimensions in Art Therapy
  • Creative Process as Art Therapy
  • Basic Skills for Psychotherapy
  • Symbolism, Metaphor, and Creativity in Art Therapy
  • Professional Identity for Art Therapists

To understand more about master’s programs, read the Guide to Master’s Programs.

Degree Types for Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Programs

There are mainly two types of master’s in art therapy online programs available in the United States – the Master of Arts in Art Therapy or MA Art Therapy online, and the Master of Science in Art Therapy or MS in Art Therapy online. Both degrees use psychology and creative arts principles to achieve their learning outcomes, although they use distinct approaches.

Master of Arts in Art Therapy

The Master of Arts in Art Therapy or MA in Art Therapy is based on multi-disciplinary approaches and emphasizes art therapy’s creative expression and creative processes. The curriculum ensures that students acquire essential knowledge and practical skills to become art therapy professionals. Through this program, students learn about creative art research methods, how to use art therapy in different settings, and develop cross-cultural sensitivity and awareness.

Master of Science in Art Therapy

The Master of Science in Art Therapy or MS in Art Therapy provides a more technically oriented curriculum, which leans towards psychotherapy, research methodology, and principles of psychology. The degree uses integrative approaches to combine different forms of creative expression and teaches students the essential tools and research approaches for using art therapy in real-world settings.

Areas of Specialization for Master’s in Art
Therapy Online Programs

A specialization focuses on a specific area within a subject or discipline. Specializations available in art therapy programs are usually related to jobs, skills, products, or tasks. One can greatly benefit by specializing in a sub-field of art therapy because doing so leads to easier employability, niche jobs, and better pay. Some specializations available to online art therapy master’s students are:

Area of SpecializationDescriptionCareer Options
Sculpture TherapyIn sculpture therapy, students look at sculpting as a process where the brain is engaged in forming sculptures at a deeper level. This form of art is studied as having calming emotions in individuals and helping people understand their emotions better.Art therapists, sculptors, public artists, studio artists, art directors
Expressive Arts TherapyExpressive arts therapy helps students focus on creative processes by using many materials and exploring techniques used as part of the therapy intervention. Students learn to guide others to self-discovery and self-expression to achieve emotional release.Jobs in nonprofits and healthcare industries
Painting TherapyIn this specialization, students learn how to improve the self-esteem, self-concept, and social skills of people undergoing various psychological disorders using painting therapy.Job as an art therapist in individual, group, or community settings
Art CounsellingIn this specialization, students learn how to use the arts for individual well-being and personal growth. They learn how art counseling can be a powerful tool for expressing feelings and thoughts and exploring the inner world through various activities and dialogue.As art therapists working with individuals with disabilities and special needs students and in addiction centers and counseling settings
Creative Arts TherapyThis specialization teaches students to develop interventions that could help individuals with various disorders. They learn how to engage clients in general talking or verbal analysis after or during the creative activities.Creative arts therapists, art therapists, drama therapists
Photography and PhototherapyIn this specialization, students learn to use activities that reduce social exclusion, assist rehabilitation, deepen intercultural relations lessen conflict, and activate positive social change in clients. They learn many different therapeutic photography techniques.Employment as an art therapist in community, individual, and hospital settings

Why should I do a Master’s Degree in
Art Therapy Online?

The online master’s in art therapy usually combines the techniques and theory of art therapy, psychology, supervision, clinical practicum, and individual involvement in artistic exploration to provide students with rich experiential education. The program’s curriculum equips them to be competent art therapists who can work in various residential facilities like long-term care, assisted living facilities, educational settings, private practice, health care facilities, and more.

In the art therapy master’s program, students also get practical experience in using the principles of art therapy in real-world settings, rooted in the idea of creative expression in fostering mental well-being. Those interested in art and its therapeutic values and who want to examine the idea of art making in relieving stress and promoting resilience in individuals are best suited to pursue this degree. It can be a rich and rewarding experience to be able to heal or comfort people in unusual, unique, or distinct ways.

After completing the rigorous curriculum and graduating from their program, students would have developed a host of unique skills, such as the ability to:

  • demonstrate in-depth knowledge of different dimensions of arts like color theory, psychological aspects of art, therapeutic art in special education, etc.;
  • inspire clients to express themselves through different artistic tools like drawing, collage-making, coloring, etc.;
  • restore or enhance the coping skills of individuals and their personal and professional growth;
  • foster the well-being of others by encouraging self-expression through art therapy;
  • resolve the emotional conflicts of clients, foster self-awareness, control actions, enhance reality orientation, and build social skills;
  • investigate different emotional problems and develop coping strategies by using art to deal with those issues effectively; and
  • create a curriculum or art therapy program, keeping previous research and emerging trends in the field.

Free Courses for Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Students

Free master’s in art therapy courses can enable students to explore the thematic approaches in art therapy and how to use them in real-world applications. Some courses provide knowledge beyond the textbook and teach students to evaluate the different techniques and strategies in art therapy that can be applied to various settings. Here are a few good free courses to explore:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
Introduction to PsychologyIn this course, students explore topics like communication, learning, decision-making, persuasion, emotions, social behavior, and perception. They will also learn different aspects of the mind and how they differ across individuals. The course looks at how breakdowns could happen due to injury and illness.Coursera
Dementia and the Art-Online CourseThis course is designed for students who want to explore the different trends in dementia and the cultural investigations acknowledged now. They reflect upon different strategies of arts-based communication used for people who have dementia.Future Learn
Art and Ideas: Teaching with ThemesThis course helps students address many questions and themes concerning contemporary and modern art. They develop the ability to think creatively and critically and engage with artists to support their processes and ideas.Coursera

How to get into the Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Program?

To enroll in the master’s in an art therapy program, applicants are required to meet certain criteria and fulfill admission requirements. Some colleges require academic writing samples from students, volunteering experiences, and internship experience under supervision, while others may only ask for recommendation letters and good GPAs. The standard master’s in art therapy online admission requirements for most programs in the U.S. are:

  • Application form with the required fee
  • All previous academic transcripts
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or more (some institutions accept a lower score)
  • Statement of Purpose of around 500-1000 words highlighting the reason for applying to the program
  • 2 to 3 reference letters, of which at least one should be an academic reference
  • Portfolio consisting of 10 to 15 original artwork pieces
  • Résumé
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores

No GRE Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Programs

A Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score is often required for admission into master’s programs in the United States. However, many universities have done away with this requirement in the last few years. Some waive the requirement if a student has a high GPA or considerable work experience. Marywood University and NYU Steinhardt are fine examples of universities offering master’s in art therapy online no GRE programs.

How Long does it take to complete the Master’s in
Art Therapy Online Degree

Most master’s degree in art therapy online programs a 45 to 60-credit programs that take about two years to complete if a student pursues a program full-time. Those opting for part-time study usually require two to four years to complete. The duration of the program could also depend on the electives students choose and the number of credits they complete each semester. The area of concentration and opting for synchronous or asynchronous classes also affect the timeline and length of the program. Here is a summary of the amount of time it takes for students to complete the art therapy master’s program:

  • Time to complete a full-time online master’s in art therapy: about 2 years
  • Time to complete a part-time online master’s in art therapy: between 2 and 4 years
  • Total credits in an online master’s in art therapy: between 45 and 60.

Accelerated Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Degrees

Accelerated programs help fast-track the degree and complete the curriculum in a shorter duration than a traditional degree. These fast-paced programs enable students to graduate and start their careers sooner while saving money because of the less time they spend in school. With art therapy being a demanding subject with training and sometimes hands-on experiences throughout the program, accelerated master’s in art therapy online are seldom found in the U.S. Nevertheless, master’s students can trim the duration of their programs by a few months, and undergrad students can combine their bachelor’s and master’s degrees to finish both in 5 years instead of six.

Accreditations for Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Degrees

Accreditation is a quality assessment process that helps regulate the education quality institutions provide. A degree program could have programmatic accreditation, or the college offering it can be institutionally accredited. For art therapy programs, the accredited body is the Art Therapy Credentials Board, which works in collaboration with the American Art Therapy Association. The Art Therapy Credentials Board manages programmatic accreditation and ensures ethical principles are followed by institutes providing art therapy programs. Master’s programs in art therapy are sometimes also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Aside from programmatic accreditation, students can also choose regionally or nationally accredited universities. Of the two, regional accreditation is common, provided by six independent accrediting agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), or both. Here are the six regional accrediting bodies in the U.S.:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

For more on accreditation, read the Guide to College Accreditation.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Degree?

Online art therapy master’s degrees cost tens of thousands of dollars to pursue. Students who attend classes online do not have to pay for transportation, food, or other campus-related expenses, but they must still pay a high tuition fee, often accompanied by technological fees and the costs of purchasing digital equipment. Students who are strapped for cash can turn to the following outside funding sources to help ease their financial burden:


Students like scholarships because they are easy to find and do not require repayment. These honors are bestowed upon deserving and meritorious students based on their academic performance and achievements.


Grants, like scholarships, are not repaid. They are typically awarded based on a student’s financial needs and economic status, as opposed to scholarships, which are mainly awarded based on academic merit.

Work-Study Programs

Working part-time while enrolled in a work-study program allows students to fund their education. Most of these jobs are associated with the student’s academic or volunteer interests and provide beneficial work experience.

Graduate Assistantships

For master’s students, assistantships are a popular option. In exchange for a fee reduction or waiver, graduate assistants can assist in teaching, lesson preparation, and research. Graduate research assistantships and graduate teaching assistantships are the two types of assistantships.

Student Loans

A student loan is another option for students who need extra money but do not qualify for federal aid. Banks and financial institutions make these loans available. With loans, the total cost of education will rise because interest will be added to the loan. Understand how one can apply for loan forgiveness to avoid repaying student loans by reading about Donors for Student Loans and Grants for Student Loans.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is an application for federal financial aid that all prospective and current college students can fill out and submit to check their eligibility for federal aid. The FAFSA Student Aid guide explains more.

Find out more about financial aid and everything there is to know about college funding in the How to Pay for College guide.

Scholarships for Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Students

Students can apply for scholarships to fulfill their academic dreams without burdening themselves with tuition costs. Those with meritorious backgrounds and or achievements in extracurricular activities usually qualify for scholarships. A few good examples of master’s in art therapy online students can check are:

Scholarship Description Amount/AwardDeadline
Nancy Mattis Memorial ScholarshipThe Nancy Mattis Memorial Scholarship is provided to students interested in the expressive arts therapy professional training program.VariesClosed for 2023 | TBA for 2024
Myra Levick Scholarship FundThe Myra Levick Scholarship is provided by the American Art Therapy Association and is awarded to students with a GPA of at least 3.0 enrolled in a graduate art therapy program.Up to $1,000TBA
Rawley Silver Award for ExcellenceThe Rawley Silver Award for Excellence award is given to a student member of the American Art Therapy association. The student must have an excellent academic record and should demonstrate their contributions in the field of art therapy.Up to $1,000TBA

FAQs Related to the Master’s in Art Therapy
Online Degree

What can I do with an online master’s in art therapy?

Students with a master’s degree in art therapy can work in community clinics and psychiatric hospitals, where they can help people with mental or physical illnesses. They could also practice independently as professional art therapists.

How long does it take to complete an art therapy master’s degree online?

What is the cost of a master’s in art therapy?

Can you get a master’s degree art therapy degree online?

Is a master’s in art therapy enough to become an art therapist?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after a
Master’s in Art Therapy

There are various opportunities for students who have completed their master’s in art therapy online. Graduates can use their skills learned in art therapies to work in settings like non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, for-profit social service organizations, and healthcare organizations. Here is a quick look at some of the occupations master’s in art therapy degree holders can enter:

Occupation Job Description Skills RequiredMedian Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2031)
Rehabilitation CounselorsRehabilitation counselors work with people dealing with mental, developmental, physical, or emotional disabilities. They offer services in various settings like youth guidance organizations, senior citizen centers, etc.Interpersonal skills, communication skills, organizational skills$38,56011% (much faster than average)
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health CounselorsSubstance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors care for patients battling disorders such as anxiety, depression, social and behavioral issues, and addiction.Interpersonal skills, social skills, verbal skills$48,52022% (much faster than the average)
Health Education Specialists and Community Health WorkersHealth education specialists develop programs to teach people about conditions affecting their well-being. They promote wellness in people by encouraging them to develop healthy behaviors.Emotional resilience, active listening skills, teambuilding skills$48,86012% (much faster than average)
PsychologistsPsychologists work to better their clients’ cognitive, social, and emotional processes. They observe, interpret, and document how people interact with one another and their surroundings. Their findings are used to help improve processes and behaviors.Empathy, communication skills, flexibility, diligence$81,0406% (as fast as average)
Recreational TherapistsRecreational therapists are healthcare providers who use therapeutic interventions to help people which disabilities and illnesses and restore them to a state of well-being. They help in reducing the stress, anxiety, and depression of individuals.Communication skills, creativity, divergent thinking skills$47,9404% (as faster as average)
Social WorkersSocial workers help people to cope with and prevent recurring problems in everyday life. They are employed in various settings, including human service agencies and child welfare organizations.Interpersonal skills, communication skills, creative thinking skills, organizational skills$50,3909% (faster than average)

Certifications and Licensing for Master’s in
Art Therapy Online Students

Professional certification and licensure demonstrate an individual’s ability and knowledge required by the law to perform their job. Upon completing an online master’s in art therapy, students must obtain one or more certifications and licenses to practice and work as art therapists. The Art Therapy Credentials Board provides certifications to art therapy practitioners that include:

Provisional Registered Art Therapist (ATR-P)

The ATR-P credential is available to those who have completed the required education requirements in art therapy. Although this certification is not necessary to apply to become a registered art therapist, it prepares students for further credentialing.

Registered Art Therapist (ATR)

The Registered Art Therapist (ATR) credential ensures that an art therapist meets established standards, having completed advanced specific graduate-level art therapy education, and supervised post-graduate art therapy experience.

Registered Art Therapist-Board Certified (ATR-BC)

The ATR-BC is one of the highest art therapy certifications, assuring that the professional demonstrates knowledge and skills in art therapy. It also ensures that they are using the latest advancement in art therapy.

Apart from certification, individuals will need to get state-recognized licenses in art therapy, depending on their location. State-regulated agencies in art therapy provide licensure in most states. Here are a few examples:

Additional Resources for Master’s in Art
Therapy Online Students

Students pursuing the online master art therapy must know how art therapy is practiced in various settings such as clinics, public, community centers, and hospitals, as well as learn about new developments in the field. Joining art and mental health organizations can help them understand how various art therapies can be used in real-life situations. One could also use the numerous resources available, such as publications, journals, conferences, forums, etc. Here are a few resources to consider for art therapy degree online students:

Organization Job Description
American Art Therapy AssociationAmerican Art Therapy aims to advance art therapy regulated for the mental health profession. The organization focuses on building a community that supports art therapists throughout their careers.
Americans for the ArtsAmerican for the Arts is an organization that aims to lead and advance a diverse network of similar organizations and individuals who cultivate arts in America. They work on developing various skills to solve problems faced in the country.
National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies AssociationsThe National Coalition of Creative Art Therapies Associations holds annual meetings attended by representatives from different organizations and share information that encourages individuals to collaborate on issues like public relations, governmental affairs, and more.
Art FeedsArt Feeds is an organization focusing on making art engaging and more straightforward for children. They make teaching videos that children can watch for self-guided creativity and instruction. They also make printable sheets of activities for emotional and social learning.
Mental Health Liaison GroupThe Mental Health Liaison Group is a non-profit and membership organization comprising groups representing family members, donors, advocates, and other stakeholders. They are committed to engaging people in conversations and awareness about mental health.

Author Bio:

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.