Art therapist


Career outlook for art therapist

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would help people use art and creative activities as a way to express themselves and come to terms with upsetting experiences and problems.

You'd guide people as they do creative activities which will help them become more self-aware and understand their emotions.

You'd also help them to just enjoy the process of making a piece of art which is significant to them.

You'd work with a person on a one-to-one basis or with groups of people. Your clients could include children or adults who:

  • Have learning disabilities
  • Have emotional, behaviour or mental health problems
  • Have speech and language difficulties
  • Are recovering from addiction, injury or illness

With your patient and non-judgemental approach you'd encourage clients to experiment with art techniques and materials like paint, paper and clay to help them:

  • Get greater awareness of their feelings
  • Express themselves
  • Work through their emotions
  • Come to terms with difficult times in their lives
  • Move on in a positive way

You would work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as psychologists, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and psychiatrists.

If you work for the National Health Service (NHS) the salary for this role is covered by the Agenda for Change pay rates. You can see information about the pay and conditions on the Art therapist page on the NHS Careers website.

Working conditions


Your normal working hours would be between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, although some jobs may involve evening or weekend sessions. Part-time and freelance (self-employed) work is common.


You could work in a variety of locations such as schools, hospitals, prisons and day centres. This would depend on the client group that you are working with.


You may need to travel between different locations during your working day.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Cooperating
  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Creative
  • Evaluating
  • Researching
  • Empathising
  • Social conscience
  • Developing a plan
  • Coaching

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Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

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You need a degree (SCQF Level 9/10) in Art Therapy or a related subject area and a postgraduate qualification in Art Therapy approved by the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) (SCQF Level 11).

Your undergraduate degree could be in fine art, design or similar, or a degree in psychology, social work, nursing or teaching.

To enter a degree (SCQF Level 9/10) usually requires National 5 qualifications and four to five Highers (SCQF Level 6). To enter postgraduate qualifications (SCQF Level 11) you usually require a relevant degree.

Useful subjects

  • Art-based subjects
  • Psychology
  • Maths
  • English

You will also need

  • Membership of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) and UK state registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to work in the National Health Service (NHS) or with a local authority. You gain this after completing the postgraduate course in Art Therapy.
  • A portfolio of artwork.
  • To pass a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Disclosure check

Helpful to have

Voluntary or paid experience working in a healthcare, community or youth work setting will be important.