Here’s a question that was emailed to me by Nicole A. and was posted with her permission;
I have been considering Art Therapy as a career path. I love both art and psychology and thought that it would be a great way to combine my passions. I work full-time, have two kids and a mortgage, so I’m only able to take a few classes at a time. Once I finish my AA, and both of my kids are in school, I will be able to transfer to SJSU and be a full-time student. I have read that to be a registered art therapist, you must have your master’s. I just wanted to know if I will be able to find work in the feild after I earn my BA, while working on my master’s. I want to set my goals high, but because of my responsibilities I want to be realistic. I’m also curious what kind of salary an art theraptist with a private practice in California might earn on average?
You definitely need a masters degree to be an art therapist. In California, most art therapy masters programs offer the option of being on a license track for an MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist). Having a state license is absolutely essential for both your job and earning prospects, so getting a dual MFT and art therapy degree is a very good option.
A new law passed in ’09 making LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor) an option for CA licensure too. The LPCC isn’t available until next year, so I doubt any schools will be advertising this at the moment, but by the time you finnish your BA, I’m sure an LPCC track will be available as well.
Also, you don’t nessesarily need a masters in art therapy to ultimately become an art therapist. For example, you can have a masters degree in Nursing or Social Work and then go for a bit more schooling, pursuing an Art Therapy certificate. For example, NDNU has a Post Masters Advanced Standing option, where you take an extra 30 credits after you complete a masters degree in a related field. Nursing or social work are good options; A nurse’s earning potentials in California is quite high—especially if you have an RN (registered nurse) license and work as a supervisor or in administration. Social Workers have a lot of respect in the California mental health community and job opportunity, although many positions are looking for either an MFT or LCSW (Licensed Social Worker).
I dont work in private practice so I couldn’t tell you accurately about salary expectations. What I do know is that if you’re interested in serving underprivileged populations, meaning that you’ll be accepting medicare or medical as payment, you will earn very very little money. I attended a seminar once where the art therapist in private practice joked that she envies the Starbucks worker, because they probably make more money than she does—and with less stress. That being said, if you decide not to accept insurance, and only out of pocket pay, I think your earning potential can be rather high…but one must consider how long it takes to develop the clientele. For this reason, many people work part time in a “regular” job while developing their private practice.
In California, as an unlicensed art therapist (for example, while you’re completing your post masters training hours to become licensed, which takes about 2 years) you can expect to make about $30-40,000. As an art therapist with an MFT license, you can expect around $45,000-65,000 depending on where you work…maybe more. Working for the government (the VA or for the county) is much more lucrative than a non-profit. RNs can make between 65-80k easy. I’m not sure if having an art therapy credential would raise your earning potential as an RN, but it would certainly open some interesting doors!
Good luck with your pursuits and much respect for going back to school with 2 kids. My mom got her BA in nursing and then her MA in education while I was growing up. It was tough for her, but it was certainly worth it!