Art History Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary

Art History Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Art history is a specialized branch of history that covers cultural evolution through artistic creations, such as graphic arts, architecture, sculptures, and performance. This discipline is too vast and is associated with other disciplines, like the visual arts and philosophy (IESA, n.d.). It also corresponds to a strong liberal arts education that delivers an outstanding premise for a broad selection of art-related careers.

Art history students will graduate with enough knowledge of social, cultural, and intellectual history. This means that art history professionals are expected to interpret the reasons and objectives behind historical documents or artworks. With this degree, graduates are qualified to become curators, archivists, or professors.

Let this guide help you explore the possible options, outlook, and salary range of the art history career paths.

Art History Careers Table of Contents

  1. Why pursue a career in art history?
  2. Art History Career Outlook 
  3. Required Skills for Art History
  4. How to Start Your Career in Art History
  5. How can I advance my career in art history?
  6. Alternative Career Options for Art History

Why pursue a career in art history?

Art history majors can venture into a range of careers, whether in schools, museums, or archives. These careers can be mostly performed indoors or inside an office.

Aside from being analytical thinkers and excellent communicators, art historians are successful researchers and keen artworks and historical documents evaluators. They are also known for being organized, creative, and self-reliant.

art and history curator workforce size

Art History Career Outlook 

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 9% job growth for museum workers, curators, and archivists between 2018 and 2028. These workers generate a yearly average income of $49,850. Qualifications for these positions often require at least a bachelor’s degree, but some require a master’s degree (Payne, 2021).

The table below shows the average art history salary.

Average Yearly Salary for Art History Careers

OccupationEntry-Level
(0-12 months)
Early Career
(1-4 years)
Midcareer
(5-9 years)
Experienced
(10-19 years)
Art Teacher$38,810$41,000$45,610$51,240
Postsecondary Professor$60,250$60,550$69,830$86,780
Museum CuratorN/A$42,830$50,480$60,000
Art Gallery CuratorN/A$43.380$49,480$50,180
Source: Best Colleges, 2021

Required Skills for Art History

When studying historical pieces, students will be introduced to various artistic approaches, historical timelines, and world cultures. On that note, art history fosters many abilities, some of which are in visual analysis and cultural awareness.

Essential Skills for Art Historians

  • Visual Analysis. Students will be taught how to identify the artist, period, medium, and meaning of an artwork. These activities will soon aid art history professionals in assisting art buyers and consultants in estimating art value.
  • Critical Reading. The ability to incorporate and express arguments is also an essential skill for future art historians.
  • Original Interpretation. Independent thought, instead of memorization, must be taught to art history students.
  • Cultural Awareness. Art history programs explore artworks, history, and cultures from different locations, namely the U.S., China, Spain, Rome, Greece, and more. Students then gain the knowledge necessary for art museum roles.

General Skills for Art Historians

  • Attention to Detail. To examine a piece of art, students need to note even its smallest details. For instance, variations in color may bring a different meaning into a painting. Attention to detail can also guide art buyers and museum workers in looking for damages in artworks.
  • Communication. Art history entails writing papers and delivering presentations about certain artworks, artists, timelines, and geographic areas.
  • Research. Research delves into the historical and cultural components of an artwork. It also helps students in understanding how artists do their work, the relationship between different periods, and more.
  • Technology. Technological skills are also becoming a sought-after attribute in this field. In 2020, Alexandros Teneketzis published the article “Exploring the Emerging Digital Scene in Art History and Museum Practice” in Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) Journal Portal. The paper addresses the present-day digital situations of art history and museology fields, both in Greece and worldwide. “In the era of ‘image worshipping’ that we live in, it is not enough for someone to appear to be just an art historian, or even an image historian. Within the framework of imagining science, one must also be a historian, a public historian, a digital historian, and a digital art historian; one must possess computer and communication skills, and so on, and so forth…”

How to Start Your Career in Art History

Careers in art history vary in educational requirements. Some positions only need a bachelor’s degree, while others need a master’s-level or doctorate degree.

Volunteer works and internships can also help you find your place in this field. Moreover, there are organizations that prioritize practical experience over obtained degrees (Payne, 2021).

What can I do with an Associate’s Degree in Art History?

Photographer

Photographers capture photographs to contribute to news sections or sell as artworks. Their responsibilities are designing photo session sets and editing photos using specific software. They may also organize photo sessions. While this job does not usually require a degree, an associate in art history can add more knowledge and skills to photography enthusiasts.

Median salary: $36,280

Source: Data USA

Desktop Publisher

Desktop publishers create layouts both for virtual and print materials. Sometimes, they team up with writers and designers and use software to place photos. This role requires an associate degree.

Median salary: $45,390

What can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History? 

Museum Technician

Museum technicians keep museum pieces safe at all times. They take care of the insurance matters, gauge the risk of transferring artworks from one place to another, and maintain proper documentation. They may also deal with other museums regarding borrowing artworks. This role normally requires a bachelor’s degree in any field relevant to museum work.

Median salary:  $49,850

Source: US Trust

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner

Meeting, convention, and event planners organize events that present or target different consumer needs. They assess schedules, budgets, locations, and meals for events such as corporate meetings and special family occasions. They may be hired in museums to kick off new exhibits or programs. These roles often require a bachelor’s degree.

Median salary:  $50,600

Can you get an art history job with just a certificate?

In the art history specialization, certifications only offer interdisciplinary curricula that support and broaden a student’s art history majorship. They can only hone certain skills and serve as a gateway to pursue other art-related studies.

How can I advance my career in art history?

Employers look into experience during promotions. But you can actually take advantage of other ways to make progress with your career development plan in art history. Continuing education or certification can make you more in-demand to organizations. Doing this can also qualify you for salary upgrades (Payne, 2021).

What can I do with a Master’s in Art History?

Museum Archivist

Museum archivists maintain and organize museum records. They may also be tasked to administer museum programs, assist museum employees during exhibits, and develop policies concerning museum artworks. These roles usually require a master’s degree in a related field such as archival science or history.

Median salary: $53,950

Museum Curator

Museum curators manage artworks and other objects inside a museum. They purchase new items and arrange exhibits. They may also lend pieces to other museums, manage museum research, and serve as a spokesperson at some events. These roles usually require a master’s degree in a related field.

Median salary: $54,570

What kind of job can I get with a Doctorate in Art History?

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators may take the roles of deans and provosts, taking care of policies and budgets. This role typically needs a master’s or doctorate degree.

Median salary: $95,410

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers teach courses in college. Generally, they develop syllabi, give feedback on student outputs, and guide students during course registration. They may also recommend changes to certain academic programs and publish studies. Higher academic institutes often require postsecondary teachers to earn a doctorate degree.

Median salary: $79,540

Which certification is best for art history?

The Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA) has certification programs for professional archivists. ACA requires applicants to take an exam about archival standards and practices. This body imposes an examination charge and certification charge for the passers. Certification is renewable and spans five years (Payne, 2021).

Alternative Career Options for Art History

Life happens so fast and, sometimes, our decisions and wants, too. Here are some alternative jobs for those whose career goals in art history have changed.

What else can an art historian do?

Fine Artist

Fine artists make pieces for art galleries, exhibitions, and online stores. Art history majors can use the techniques they learned from their undergraduate studies to create original works, be it in weaving, painting, or sculpting.

Writer

Art history graduates are no strangers to quality research and writing. Writing positions can be taken full-time or part-time in office-based or remote working arrangements.

arts and cultural employment, U.S.

Art History: A Career of Lifelong Learning and Enlightenment

All pieces of art carry their own history. Other people may only value these artworks for aesthetic reasons, but art history professionals know the real essence behind them. In art history, you can understand every story an art tells, widen your perspective of your surroundings, and solve every puzzle that leads back to the past. Lifelong learning and enlightenment—these are what professionals gain in the field of art history (IESA, n.d.).

 

References:

  1. IESA. (n.d.). What jobs can you get with a degree in art history? IESA.
  2. IESA (n.d.). Why study art history? IESA.
  3. Payne, C. (2021, August 13). Art History Careers. Best Colleges.
  4. Teneketzis, A. (2020). Exploring the Emerging Digital Scene in Art History and Museum Practice. UFSC Journal Portal.
  5. UC Davis. (n.d.). Art History Careers. UC Davis.
  6. University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Art History. (n.d.). Undergraduate Program – Why Major in Art History? University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Art History.

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