An art history degree introduces students to artistic periods, such as the Renaissance and Baroque eras, along with different types of art. Departments may discuss paintings, sculptures, architecture, and photography. Coursework often trains learners to make cultural inferences using artworks.
Graduates can apply gained skills in perception and analysis to careers as museum workers, consultants, and independent artists, as well as to external positions in management and research. Additionally, earning an art history degree online helps students become familiar with technology, which can prepare them for tasks such as recordkeeping.
This page examines careers related to art history and covers elements of reputable, affordable online art history degrees, such as accreditation and common course requirements. Students can use this information to identify programs that align with their career objectives.
Overview of Art History Degrees
Art history includes works from prehistoric cave paintings to modern art pieces. Bachelor's students examine artistic masterpieces from various time periods, while considering artistic methods, cultural significance, and meaning. Learners develop their attention to detail, along with research and analytical skills applicable to multiple art-related positions.
For example, exhibit designers must understand museum pieces and their historical contexts to build accurate displays. Art history students also gain an understanding of aesthetics, which proves necessary for artistic professionals such as photographers, interior designers, quilters, and floral designers.
Some art history professions require work experience. Students can prepare for these positions by pursuing internships with organizations such as museums and historic sites. Art history programs may require internships and other in-person components, such as orientations or seminars. In-person experiences often allow students to network, which can lead to career opportunities.
Ideal candidates for art history programs are creative and passionate about art. Most art history students pursue careers showcasing projects or educating others about art. Graduates often secure roles as museum curators, tour guides, and art consultants.
Many art history careers have positive growth projections. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 14% increase in curator positions from 2016-2026 and a 12% increase in employment for museum technicians and conservators during the same time frame.
Students applying to accredited online art history degree programs must submit a form and an application fee of $25-$70. Most schools require applicants to hold a high school diploma or the equivalent, and many require students to have completed prerequisite courses in categories such as English, math, social science, and foreign language. Schools may require a minimum GPA, often a 3.0, and official transcripts from high schools and previous colleges. Students must request official transcripts from each school individually and may need to pay a fee.
Students should discuss transfer credits with an advisor to determine how many previous courses they can apply to their bachelor's in art history. For example, if a transfer student passed a photography class at a previous school, that class may only count as an elective if the new school does not offer an equivalent course.
Other admission requirements may include ACT or SAT scores and a completed FAFSA form. Applicants may also need to submit recommendation letters from faculty.
Departments may require a personal statement detailing the applicant's artistic preferences, personal strengths, life experiences, or successes. Personal statements may include a specified word count range. Other schools may require a portfolio of 10 or more artistic projects.
What Will I Learn?
The best online art history degrees explore cultures throughout history, including prehistoric cave paintings, Greek pottery, and Roman architecture. Learners may also explore modern art forms such as photography and digital art. Students learn to identify works by artist, era, and medium. Students also analyze pieces for meaning, based on elements such as technique and historical context. Studying these topics can introduce students to sociological, economical, and legal concepts throughout history. Art history programs also develop research and presentation skills and help students gain cultural awareness.
The top art history programs typically require 120-128 credits and explore the most famous artistic periods and types through core courses. Students also complete general education requirements and electives, the required number of which vary by program. For example, one school may require 30 art history credits, while another program requires 60.
Individual courses vary by school. However, the classes below are common to many art history programs.
History of Photography
This class generally explores the history of photography, beginning in the 19th century. Students examine techniques, styles, and purposes of photography with regard to cultural and political contexts. Students can use these insights to evaluate photographs as art buyers and consultants -- and while creating new artwork.
Departments may divide Renaissance studies into specific regions, such as Northern Europe, and into time periods, including early and late Renaissance. Classes often cover famous artists, works, and architecture. Students learn to recognize traits of Renaissance work and can apply that knowledge to careers as art consultants and art museum workers.
Survey of Western Art
Learners explore art from Western cultures, from ancient to modern times. Some departments divide these studies into two courses, often at the Middle Ages. Students learn about traits and techniques of Western art and can use this information as museum workers and art consultants.
Online art history degrees often explore Asian art from areas such as China, Japan, and India. This class may cover art forms including architecture, painting, sculpture, and film, with consideration to history and culture. This class prepares students for positions as art buyers and managers of Asian art exhibits and programs.
Museum and Gallery Studies
This class often explores various museum careers, such as curator and director positions, along with management strategies and technical concerns for galleries. Additional topics may include ethics in art purchasing and the history of museums. Programs may also require an internship. This course prepares students for positions in art museums and galleries.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Art History?
While earning an online art history degree, candidates study cultures, artistic techniques, and historic eras. Curricula develop skills that apply to careers in various fields. Graduates can use their art knowledge to oversee museum exhibits and can apply honed research skills to careers as financial analysts. Art history bachelor's programs also prepare learners for graduate studies, which can qualify individuals for advanced positions.
Online art history degrees familiarize students with different cultures. Students can take courses in Spanish, Italian, Chinese, and Greek art. These classes examine each country's history during significant pieces' creation. This global awareness can help graduates engage in intercultural dialogues during museum tours and provide context for exhibits.
Art history programs also help students become aware of minute details, as they examine art pieces for meaning. This attention to detail is necessary for professionals, including museum technicians and floral designers, who must consider color, occasion, and season when creating pieces.
Learners also develop research skills while considering the context of artworks, preparing students to build strong arguments as historians. Students may present findings in papers and at public events, which strengthens communication skills. Strong oral and written communication abilities are crucial for art consultants, purchasing agents, and curators, who must discuss art pieces with clients and organizations.
For graduates with an online art history degree, responsibilities and earning potential vary by career. Students should consider their career goals when selecting a school to ensure that they choose a program that develops relevant skills.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Students in these programs develop skills applicable to professions in art history and other fields. For example, cultural awareness can help politicians cultivate international relationships, and attention to detail is crucial for event planners. Students can also choose from diverse art-related career options. Graduates can design exhibits for museums, purchase artwork for galleries, teach college courses, and advise stage companies on sets and costumes.
Due to the variety of available career paths, students should consider their professional goals before choosing a school to make sure program coursework aligns with their intended field. Additionally, some art history positions require a master's degree and field experience; a bachelor's degree is the first step toward fulfilling these requirements.
Art Teacher, Postsecondary
Annual Median Salary: $69,960
Postsecondary teachers typically work at colleges and universities. These educators structure lesson plans and review assignments for classes within their discipline. These educators may also perform field research and help students choose courses. Postsecondary art teachers generally need at least a master's degree.
Annual Median Salary: $35,533
Museum educators develop and oversee educational programs that reflect the organization's values. These professionals may collaborate with schools, train workers, and consider budget requirements. This position often requires a bachelor's.
Annual Median Salary: $45,969
Art consultants advise individuals and organizations on art purchases for home interior, business environments, art galleries, and investments. A bachelor's in art history provides necessary knowledge related to selecting pieces and determining reasonable prices.
Annual Median Salary: $64,140
Historians research and assess past events, people, and cultures by examining primary and secondary sources. Historians may present findings in books, scholarly articles, and presentations. They may also participate in public educational events. Typically, historians need a master's degree.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Art History?
A bachelor's in art history prepares students for entry-level positions in the field, including roles as tour guides at art museums and historical sites, museum technicians, and exhibit designers. However, advanced positions may require a graduate degree. Postsecondary teachers, for example, typically need at least a master's, with some schools requiring a doctorate. In higher education, advanced degrees can also qualify individuals for postsecondary education administrator careers, including positions as provosts and deans.
A graduate degree can also benefit candidates pursuing K-12 professions. For example, an art history graduate may earn a master's degree and certification to become a teacher. Graduates can also earn a master's in education to qualify for positions as instructional coordinators, who shape art programs for districts.
Professionals who work in museums and galleries, including curators and conservators, often need a graduate degree. However, bachelor's degree holders with extensive field experience can sometimes advance to these roles without additional education, particularly those who work for smaller organizations.
Accreditation for Art History Bachelor's Programs
Accreditation indicates that a recognized agency has reviewed a school's academic programs and verified that they meet set standards. To qualify for federal aid, students should only consider accredited institutions. Additionally, graduate schools and employers often recognize only degrees from accredited schools.
Colleges and universities can earn regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type, and regionally accredited institutions generally only accept degrees and credits earned from other regionally accredited schools. Vocational and trade schools often receive national accreditation.
Individual programs and departments may also hold field-specific accreditation. Some art-related programs hold accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD). However, because art history programs often focus on history rather than design, NASAD accreditation may not apply.
While programmatic accreditation provides additional validation of the program's academic standards, institutional accreditation is the most crucial type. Regional accrediting agencies evaluate schools in a specific geographic region and include the Higher Learning Commission and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Art History Professional Organizations
Art history professional organizations often host conferences and events that introduce members to developments in the field and provide networking opportunities. Many organizations also offer workshops, training opportunities, newsletters, publications, and resources related to art history concepts and techniques.
Members may also enjoy access to scholarship opportunities and career resources. Some professional organizations specialize in areas such as the Renaissance or curation. Students and professionals should look for organizations relevant to their career or academic focus.
Renaissance Society of America
The RSA was founded in 1954 and focuses on cultures and art from 1300-1700. The website provides resources on architecture, art, history, literature, and exhibits and connects visitors with open positions in the field. Candidates can submit articles for publication in the RSA's publication, Renaissance Quarterly. The organization also offers fellowships for members, a mentoring program, and an annual conference.
Medieval Academy of America
Founded in 1925, this organization concentrates on aspects of medieval times, including history, art, law, and finances. The organization publishes field books, hosts an annual meeting, and provides resources for K-12 education. The website provides access to the Medieval Digital Resources database, along with grant and award opportunities for students, teachers, and scholars.
Contemporary Arts Center
Since 1939, the CAC has showcased modern art through exhibitions on specific artists and themes. The center also offers programs for families, students, and teens. Members can benefit from store discounts and reduced or free entrance into group events.