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What is Art History?
Art history is performed by an art historian who is a specialist that studies the art created by individuals throughout time from a variety of cultures around the globe. Art historians work diligently to analyze, interpret, and make sense of works of art into discernible truths.
Historians attempt to understand an artist, their way of life, culture, societal influence, political forces, and social impact of a given time and place when an art piece was created. Art historians gather information from a variety of sources to triangulate information and authenticate data regarding a given work, art piece, or artist.
Why Earn an Art History Degree?
A degree in art history prepares individuals with the knowledge and understanding necessary to evaluate, understand, relate, and analyze art throughout the various times in history. A student of art history will learn about the development of art from the earliest cave drawings to the modern day, and will study the various movements and styles that arose in between. The role of art in the course of culture and social history is important as it speaks to the feelings of a generation, and demonstrates what was accepted and what was considered taboo.
Best Art History Degrees Online
Given the rise in quality and quantity of online degrees, students can more easily register for online art history degree programs today than ever before. Art history degrees online include a minor degree in art history, certificate programs in art history, bachelor degree, master degrees, and doctoral degrees in art history.
Classes will vary from program to program but online degrees in art history will typically include: introduction to art history, 21st Century world history, art of India, African art, precolonial art, Oceanic art, contemporary art, Italian art, Renaissance period, Irish and Celtic art, Islamic art, West African art, Greek art, cultural preservation, and politics of art.
Top Skills of an Art Historian
Information culled from a recent survey by the U.S. Department of Labor helps reveal a set of latent skills possessed by art historians across the country. The top skills of an art historian gleaned from the survey of active historians include the following characteristics and traits:
- Communication Skills
- Attention to Detail
- Presentation Skills
- Analytical & Critical Thinking
- Interpretative Skills
- Open-Minded & Curious
- Organization & Task Oriented
- Appreciation of Arts & Aesthetics
Educational Requirements in Art History
A graduate level degree is typically required to pursue a career specific to art history, though a bachelor's degree, like many other liberal arts degrees allows for careers in several fields and opens up several graduate possibilities.
A curriculum in art history may include:
- Ancient Art History
- Asian Art
- The Dimensions of Art
- History of Prints and Drawings
- Art Methodology
What Can You Do with an Art History Degree?
Students earning an art history degree from an accredited college or university can launch a career in a number of directions. In fact, the breadth of careers available to art history majors can be a surprise many individuals. Art historians can find themselves working in a museum, auction house, state government, public corporation, university, art gallery, federal agency, local government, or publishing company.
A list of possible career options for an art historian can include the following:
- Art Law
- Art Historian
- Art Advisor
- Antique Book Store
- Art Gallery
- Art Libririan
- Museum Curator
- Estate Appraiser
- Antique Dealer
- Art Investor
- Art Consultant
- Art Preservation
- Art Consultant
- Independent Producer
- Corporate Curator
- Teacher / Professor
- Art Publisher
- Freelance Writer / Journalist
- Artist Agent / Representative
Employment Information & Art History Career Opportunities
A career in art history is limited in terms of available jobs. Most individuals wishing to work in an art history related field will pursue a graduate degree and find work either teaching, at museums, art preservation, art appraisal or art galleries. Research positions for art historians are limited, though possible through universities or government grants. As a subfield of history, there are many similarities and shared skills, and much like history majors the higher level the degree the more the art historian will specialize in a particular period, era, or style.
A career in art history requires an excellent memory and analytical skill. An art historian must be able to identify and expand upon themes, styles, materials and mediums in order to evaluate and valuate pieces of art. Additionally, educators in the field must be able to expand on and relay historical fact, including accurate dates, major and minor movements, and the development of techniques. Individuals involved in conservation may work toward the acquisition or safety of historically relevant pieces, as well as their restoration.
Art Historian Salary
Job growth for jobs in art history is expected to be as fast as average for all jobs based on the survey performed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In that survey, they provide median salary expectations for students in a variety of trades. The average salary for careers in art history varies by position:
- Museum Curator - $48,500
- Museum Technician or Conservator - $37,000
- Federal Museum Curator - $75,000
How Much Money Does an Art History Professor Make?
The median annual income of an art history professor in secondary education is $68,650 with the top 10% making $140,070 and the bottom ten percent making $34,930 a year. The span of income an art history teacher can make depends on the area of expertise, work experience, demand, hours worked, and geographic location.
Top Paying States for Art Historians
- New York $112,450
- California $99,140
- Massachusetts $96,880
- Maine $94,790
- New Hampshire $90,010
Top Employers of Art History Majors
- Colleges and Universities
- Junior Colleges
- Art Schools
- Technical Schools and Trade Schools
- Performing Arts Companies
Individuals interested in art history may also be interested in history, archaeology, or arts management. Students interested in learning more about art history through the lens of a national association may consider researching the AHA and the AHAA for professional insights, networking opportunities, and potential career advancement in the field.