What Degree is Necessary to Work as an Art Historian?

What Degree is Necessary to Work as an Art Historian? Education and training in the arts provide a foundation for a good number of jobs.

When the movie Wonder Woman came out, the job of art historian got a bit of a boost: It seems that Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, works as the museum curator for the Louvre in her day job. Truth be told, most art historians don’t moonlight as superheroes, though a few do work at solving crimes. They can hold such diverse jobs, in part, because their education and training in art history give them a good foundation for a good number of jobs.

Required Degree

Most working art historians have a master’s degree or a doctorate in art history, archaeology, or history, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Additionally, most aspiring art historians must undertake internships throughout their college years to give them work experience. In smaller museums, a person who holds only a bachelor’s degree may get hired in a curator’s position. However, this is a competitive field, so those who hold higher degrees and who have some internship or work experience usually have the best chance of getting jobs.

Special Education Requirements

It should also be noted that most art historians are required to have at least a reading knowledge in a foreign language. Those who pursue a Ph.D. track need to know two foreign languages at the reading level. Often, art historians must translate the work of other art historians during the course of their work. The foreign languages they learn are typically related to their area of historical specialization. That said, the two most commonly chosen languages for art historians are French and German.

Career and Education Track

Entry-level jobs, such as a museum technician, require a bachelor’s degree. As well, many university art history degree programs require their students to undertake at least one practicum, even at the undergraduate level. Depending on the program, they may not be able to graduate without having participated in at least one practicum or internship.

These would-be art historians then go on to get a master’s if they aspire to careers in museums or galleries. Art historians who work for universities as professors typically hold a Ph.D. Their Ph.D. studies give them a more in-depth foundation in their art specialization of choice. For example, art historians who want to work as Egyptologists will specialize in this subject during their doctorate studies.

Art historians work predominantly in museums, art galleries, interpretive centers, and libraries, though some also work as curators for corporate art collections. They’ll curate art exhibits, run education programs and work in archiving or preservation.

Alternative Careers

While many art historians work toward careers in museums or art galleries, there are a number of interesting art-related careers they could pursue outside the more traditional ones, according to The Balance Careers. Art historians who like a bit of intrigue can work in law enforcement. The FBI’s art crime unit has recovered more than $165 million in stolen art since it was formed in the early 2000s. Other art historians work in art marketing, museum management, or art consultants. Some will get jobs as auctioneers, where their expertise in art history allows them to price works of art and sell them.

Art historians work behind the scenes at museums, art galleries, and interpretive centers to make art come alive to museums and gallery visitors. They spend many years studying art history, with some even earning doctorates in art history, in order to do their jobs. However, because art history is a competitive field, not all art historians will go on to work as museum or gallery curators. That being said, there are a number of fascinating jobs that their degrees in art history prepare them for, including art theft prevention and auctioneering.

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