Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month we are exploring the role of an Art Therapist. Watch the video to find out what a typical day in the life of an Art Therapist is like.


So what is an Art Therapist?

Therapists use a range of mediums of art to help clients who may have difficulty in expressing themselves through words.

You may work closely with people suffering from mental health problems, emotional problems, or those with drug and alcohol addiction, helping them to recover. People with speech and language difficulties also benefit from art therapy.

You will create a safe environment where patients feel free to express themselves and their feelings in order to move on positively.


Conditions depend on who you choose to work for. If being employed by the NHS appeals to you, you are likely to work 37.5 hours per week, with weekends free. If you work in private practice, your hours will vary and will probably include evenings and weekends.


As a therapist, you will probably have to travel around to give therapy, so a driving licence is really useful. You could work in hospitals, prisons, clinics and community centres. 

Type of Work

Surroundings for therapy must always be warm, light and comfortable, so you can expect this to be your working environment. 

You will usually work alone as a self-employed art therapist.

This is a people-facing position as you will provide therapy face-to-face for a range of clients. 

Things to consider


If you have both a love of art and a desire to help people this will prove a very rewarding career.

Good progression 

Opportunities for progression are good. 

Distressing aspects

You will have to deal with people who are in pain or mentally unstable, which can be extremely upsetting. 

Exciting projects/opportunities

Experiences can be enriching and very fulfilling; there will never be a boring day at work.

Can specialise

You might decide to specialise within a particular area, such as mental health or palliative care. 

Most people have postgraduate degree and you will need further qualifications

To work as an art therapist you must complete a postgraduate qualification that has been approved by the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT). It is also possible to specialise in music or drama therapy and for these roles you would need to complete a course by their specific approved association.

Although arts-based first degrees are preferred for entry to postgraduate courses, other subjects such as psychology, education and nursing may all be acceptable. To apply for a master’s you will need a strong portfolio, and at least a year’s experience in working in health, education or social care. Substantial clinical work experience or a relevant HND may also be considered for entry.

You will have to have therapy yourself as part of training, and will also be expected to spend 120 days on clinical placement during the course. Once you have qualified, you need to register with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Top Tip

A master’s degree course lasts 2 years full-time, or 3–4 years part-time. Many areas are covered, including psychodynamics, psychopathology of art, contemporary art therapy and practice skills.

Salary progression

As an entry level allied health professional working for the NHS you will be paid at Band 6 of the NHS Agenda for Change, earning between £33,706 and £40,588. With experience you could reach Band 7, earning between £41,659 and £47,672. If you get into a principal, management or supervisory role, you can earn between £48,526 and £54,619 a year.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.