Pros and Cons of Being an Art Therapist

Pros and Cons of an Art Therapist Career (An Art Therapist’s Perspective)

Hello friends, today, I'll share about the pros and cons of being an art therapist. What are the benefits and the disadvantages of being an art therapist?

I’m Youhjung and I’ve been doing art therapy with lots of different people and I wanted to share this to all of you who are curious about this career.

If want to watch the video where I share this, you can watch here:



Before we get into the pros & cons, just keep in mind that this is my own personal point of view, and it can be different for each person, depending on how you see it.

The Pros of an Art Therapy Career

Satisfying, fulfilling, rewarding work

Art Therapy is satisfying work. It's satisfying to see clients create work and see them transformed through art therapy.

You get to see how clients feel so much more calm, centered, and empowered through art. You share their aha moments, and witness them as they gain new ways of seeing themselves and the world around them.

I am always reminded that art is powerful. And you get to see how much it can help people.

In art therapy, people get absorbed in the art and they get to express themselves in ways they have never done before.

You can see that you are giving them a voice to express who they are and what they are feeling, which was not possible before for many reasons.

Personal growth and life skills

As an art therapist, you learn how to make art on your own in a therapeutic way, which is an awesome coping skill.

And through art therapist training and work, you'll naturally grow as a person, understanding more about yourself and about others. You’ll know more about people’s psychology, emotions, how the mind works, and how relationships work.

This is valuable knowledge that you can take with you the rest of your life, and it can definitely help you in your work as an art therapist too.


Because this career is relatively young & new, you can create programs, become director, or create new types of services that combine art therapy, you get to educate people, and become a leader, spokesperson of this field in many situations.

This is the kind of field where you can become an entrepreneur and become very savvy about how you go about executing your work.

Especially in those states where there are no art therapist license, the good thing is that you can start providing art therapy RIGHT AWAY after you graduate from your master’s program.

You get to gain experience right away and you could work as an art therapist right away (perhaps building a private practice). Of course there are people who are fit for this kind of business and entrepreneur approach more than others.

It’s fun

The awesome thing about art therapy is that you get to work with art materials. You might make art with clients, and of course, it is recommended that you make art yourself as an art therapist.

Art-making is fun, enjoyable, and just plain good. This can be something that gives you energy in your work and to your clients.

The Cons of an Art Therapy Career

Investment is high

Art therapy career has a high investment when you get into it. What I mean is that, it requires quite a lot of your money and time.

The minimum degree required to become an art therapist is a master's degree, which is usually 2 years long.

Tuition for master's program is quite high, and I've seen anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000+ per year as tuition. (not including books, supplies, living expenses etc).

And the time it takes to become an art therapist is substantial. You would need around 4 years of going through undergrad, 2 years in graduate, and at least 1-2 years for certification or license (can take more time, depending on the individual and the situation).

Working towards your certification or license can take a wide range of time depending on the individual, some take 2 years, some take 10+ years… For me, it took a total of 8 years before I could practice as a certified art therapist (if you count all college and post-college time invested).

Relatively Low Pay

Like several other mental health careers, the pay for art therapist is relatively low, especially in the beginning

You might be looking at >$30k/year when you first start out, and average salary is $43k, $23/hr according to

Compared to that, the average for:

  • LPC (licensed professional counselor) salary is $46k or $26/hr

  • Psychiatrist salary is $201k, $131/hr

  • Art teacher salary is $44k, $17/hr

  • Occupational therapist salary is $65k, $37/hr

Poor job outlook

It's hard to know exactly the job growth and outlook for art therapists since Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't collect data on art therapists. They base their art therapist data on information collected from recreational therapists, whose job is quite a lot different from art therapists.

But so far from what I have been able to find, the job growth for art therapists was negative since 2004 until 2011. Though it was guessed based on other counselor/recreation therapist jobs, there was expectation that there would be some job increase by 2018.

This I haven’t found any concrete evidence on.

Also, because art therapists are not sought-out for by employers for many reasons (it’s a new field, license, insurance, no knowledge about the career or field, etc), this means that art therapists most likely have to work in other types of jobs or get other degrees and licenses.

Some graduate programs have tried to remedy this by making it possible to be eligible to pursue other licenses when you get your master’s degree (e.g., Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, etc). Some don’t have this.

Many art therapists may work in social work, strictly counseling, teaching, admin, human service, or other additional part-time work to start accumulating hours for their certification/license and to earn a living.

Others don’t know what you do

Because art therapists are not common, and it's relatively new/unknown, people may not know what you do, and they could be your family, friends, coworkers, or even your own supervisor.

You may feel lonely, misunderstood, not valued, or become fearful of others overstepping into your specialty or think that others are out to get your job.

These feelings are all normal and natural, and it is most likely because there is no widespread knowledge about what art therapists do and about art therapy as a human service or mental health field.

(And I also think the Western culture in general has low appreciation for art, creativity, and mental health, which leads to low demand and appreciation for these services or jobs).

This can be quite a challenge emotionally, especially in the beginning of a career as an art therapist.

In conclusion

So, in conclusion, an art therapist career can involve high investment and low guarantee on jobs, but it can be rewarding, and have a lot of possibilities or flexibility in creating your own career.

I talk more about this in my podcast, episode 22 (“Art Therapy as a Career and My Art Therapist Path”), so make sure to check that out.

And if you want to see what steps you need to take to become an art therapist, check out this post and download the checklist (PDF) on How to Become an Art Therapist

Let me know what you are curious about the art therapist career in the comments and I'll make sure to answer. Thanks for reading and I'll talk to you next time!