If an advanced degree in art therapy may be in your future, it is important to know the types of courses and credits needed for admission. You may wish to enter a graduate or professional art therapy program, pursuing a degree such as a master's in art therapy or a master's in counseling or education, with an art therapy specialization. Knowing the requirements to apply for these programs is an essential first step in the pursuit of your passion for art therapy and will help you plan your college experience to maximize your preparation.
Undergraduate Degree in a Related Field
Most art therapy graduate programs require that you attain a bachelor's degree in a closely related field from an accredited college or university. A handful of colleges offer an undergraduate major in art therapy, but an undergraduate degree in studio art, art education, psychology or similar variations of those degrees would also meet this general stipulation for admission. A grade point average within this major of 3.0 or above is typically mandatory.
Art therapy programs stress the importance of art coursework to demonstrate your aptitude as an artist. Most programs require a minimum of 18 credits in studio art courses, which can include painting, drawing and a variety of three-dimensional media, such as sculpture or ceramics. Individual programs can also specify the equivalency of noncredit studio art experience to count toward this requirement; if this applies to your preparation, you should inquire with the departments to which you are applying.
In addition to studio art courses, art therapy programs also require significant academic preparation in the field of psychology. Psychology courses, including abnormal psychology or psychopathology and developmental psychology, should make up a minimum of 12 credits of your undergraduate coursework.
Outside of coursework, most art therapy programs recommend experience within a clinical setting, either through internships or volunteer hours. Even if it is not required, such experience can provide valuable preliminary preparation for a career in art therapy and can greatly support your application. Many art therapy programs also require that you submit a portfolio of your recent work, so you should be prepared with an adequate number of high quality digital images that accurately reflect your artistic skill. Finally, the majority of art therapy programs require in-depth interviews with department faculty to discuss your preparation while also highlighting your qualifications.
Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.