Art Historian jobs require graduates to have education and training in the arts, which provides a foundation for many career path jobs. What degree is necessary to work as a historian? Degrees in fine arts or art history prepare graduates to work in many art-related careers.
When the movie Wonder Woman came out, the job of art historian got a bit of a boost. In the popular film, Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman) works as a glamorous museum curator for the Louvre. But, what do art historians do? Most don’t moonlight as superheroes, though a few work to solve crimes. They can hold such diverse positions partly because their education and training in art history give them a good foundation for many jobs.
What is Art History?
It is a specialized branch of history. Art history focuses on artworks and their relationship to culture. Paintings, architecture, sculpture, graphic arts, and performance art are some types of art these historians study.
Why Pursue a Career in Art History?
Do you want to study art history? These graduates have a wide range of art history career paths to follow. They can work in schools, museums, or private companies.
Many art history careers have a strong focus on research. So, organization, creativity, and communication are strong abilities of these professionals.
What Can You Do with an Associate’s Degree in Art History?
What jobs can an art history major get? With an Associate of Arts (AA) in Art History, graduates qualify for jobs as museum tour guides, photographers, and desktop publishers. An art history job is a serious business.
Associate degrees typically take two years to complete and require 60 credits. These degree programs provide a solid humanities foundation, preparing students for many art history careers.
Fine Arts Photographer
Photographers take pictures of people and things. Some are more artistic, while others capture images to record events. No matter the subject, good photographers must know techniques and understand the technical side, like editing photos and lighting techniques for photo sessions. Fine arts photographers sell photographs as artwork and must also be creative and artistic.
Salary: $38,950 (BLS)
Museum or Tour Guide
Museum guides provide information to the public about the exhibits on display at their museum. In more prominent museums, they may give tours, find information for individuals, and answer questions about the art.
Salary: $55,000 (payscale)
Event Planners organize events for large and small groups. Essential skills are organization and excellent communication.
Salary: $49,470 (BLS)
An Exhibit Technician works on the physical installation of an art exhibition. Many have technical skills, training, or knowledge of electrical systems, lighting design, and basic construction. Additionally, many have computer skills for digital media installations. More prominent museums with many exhibits may have a full time staff. Smaller museums and galleries may hire part time or freelance technicians as needed.
Salary: $40,958 (Glassdoor)
What Can You do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History?
Art history jobs are available in museums, galleries, interpretive centers, arts organizations, and libraries. Some art history majors also work as curators for corporate art collections. In addition, they may curate art exhibits, run education programs, and also work in archiving or preservation.
Art Museum Technician
These professionals help maintain the safety of museum artworks, handle insurance matters, and help with museum programs. Additionally, they may communicate with other museums interested in borrowing art, assess the risk associated with relocating them and help coordinate the moves. Most have a bachelor’s degree in art history or a related field with an art history background. Technological skills are also critical.
Salary: $50,120 (BLS)
Art Directors direct others who develop artwork or layouts. Many work to create a visual style for magazines, newspapers, product packaging, movies, video games, and television productions.
Salary: $100,890 (BLS)
What Can You do with an Art History Master’s Degree?
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), most working historians have an art history master’s degree or a doctorate in art history, archaeology, or history. Additionally, most aspiring art history students must undertake museum research or college internships to gain work experience.
In smaller museums, a person with only a bachelor’s degree may work a curator’s position. However, this is a competitive field, so those with higher degrees, internships, or work experience usually have the best chance of getting jobs.
Visual Arts and Art History teachers work in schools or art museums. These art history educators conduct research, interact with the public, and mentor art students in the classroom. Salaries for these jobs depend on the organization, specialty, and also experience.
Salary: $42,180 (payscale)
Conservator or Fine Art Restorer
These professionals work to preserve and restore works of art.
Salary: $48,037 (Glassdoor)
Professional archivists often manage and organize museum records of intellectual history. They may also oversee employees working on exhibits and create policies regarding museum artworks. These museum workers typically need a master’s in relevant fields, such as history or archival science.
A museum curator oversees a collection. They are in charge of everything from storing and displaying artworks, to maintaining digital files. They work with historical documents, historical memorabilia, and artifacts.
Salary: $50,120 (BLS)
Doctoral Degree in Art History
What degree do you need to be a historian of art? A doctoral degree (PhD) is the highest level of art history education. The top art history PhD programs require students to take several research classes, complete a dissertation, and give an oral defense on their art history topic.
What is an art historian? 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 history professionals who want to work as Egyptologists will specialize in this subject during their doctorate studies.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Art History?
Graduates of these art history programs qualify for university teaching positions, museum curator or administrator positions, and research roles. Below are some other jobs.
PhD graduates can work as postsecondary teachers in art education. Most work in art history but some in visual art. Higher education art teachers have a high salary range and also many networking opportunities.
Salary: $63,993 (ZipRecruiter) and range is $16,000 to $153,500
Art Museum Director
The equivalent of a CEO, the Art Museum Director, is a management and leadership role. These professionals help make policies and secure funding. Other duties may include overseeing hiring and staffing, public relations, marketing, and planning of museum activities. Most have at least a master’s degree. But many have a doctorate and years of experience. Or they have an art degree combined with a degree in other fields like business or management.
Salary: $71,790 (Glassdoor)
An art authenticator is an expert that certifies whether a work of art is real or authentic. Many art buyers request this service before investing in a piece. Major auction houses worldwide recognize these individuals as experts and use them for authentication. And an authenticator art historian salary is also excellent!
Salary: $95,485 (ZipRecruiter)
Special Education Requirements
Additionally, most historians 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, they must translate the work of other historians from one language to another. The foreign languages they learn are typically related to their area of historical specialization. The two most commonly chosen languages are French and German.
What are Art Historian Alternative Careers?
While many historians work toward careers in museums or art galleries, there are a number of interesting art-related jobs they could pursue outside the more traditional ones.
Additionally, historians who like a bit of intrigue can work in law enforcement. The FBI’s art crime unit has recovered more than $165 million since the early 2000s. Others 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.
Many 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, to do their jobs.
However, because art history is a competitive field, few graduates go on to work as museum or gallery curators. But, there are many fascinating jobs that art history prepares them for, including art theft prevention and auctioneering.
An Art Auctioneer sells art and must be able to creatively describe it in a way that entices others to purchase it. In addition, these art professionals must be good at research, have excellent communication skills, and remain calm under pressure.
Salary: $58,581 (Glassdoor)
How is an Art History Program Different from Other College Majors?
There are a lot of people who don’t take an art history degree seriously. And that is unfair. The study is rigorous and can incorporate many different areas of study. The business of art is evolving. How art is sold, what is bought, and who is buying. This creates a lot of fear from people who have been in the business and only worked in one way. It creates opportunities for young people entering the field to innovate.
What is the Art Historian’s Job Outlook?
What is an art history career outlook? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a 12% growth for archivists, curators, and museum work between 2021 and 2031. These professionals make an annual median salary of $50,120. Job applicants need a bachelor’s degree, although some positions require a master’s degree.
Salaries in some geographic areas are higher than in others. Professionals with practical experience and advanced degrees also have a higher earning potential.
|Art History Careers||EARLY CAREER||EXPERIENCED|
|Art Teacher (payscale)||$42,180||$52,470|
|Postsecondary Professor (payscale)||$61,196||$86,945|
|Museum Curator (payscale)||$47,266||$86,000|
|Art Gallery Curator (payscale)||$46,575||$50,180|
What is the Job Search Like After You Graduate?
I was very lucky that jobs were easy to get when I graduated. I started at a museum in an entry-level position. Later, I moved into arts programming on a community level.
It was helpful for me to discover how I wanted to incorporate my degree into my job. I enjoyed teaching, something I found while assisting on a project at our campus museum. Getting art out to the public was a passion. Once I understood that it informed my job search.
- Association of Historians of American Art (AHAA)
- College Art Association of America (CAA)
- Art History Teaching Resources (website)
- Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art (website)