Art history is truly a profession that is based upon passion. Whether art historians are looking at pieces that are modern or historical, well-known or niche-market, they want to learn more about how, when and why an art-work was produced. They can truly be the leaders in the field-taking a look at the emotional and technical value of a piece and seeing it for its impact in the immediate sphere of art and in the broader world.
The ideal art history major
The ideal art history major is detail-oriented and can easily memorize and recall a wide breadth of information, including names and dates. They are able to view pieces analytically and critically, as well as emotionally. Successful students are culturally aware and sensitive. Perhaps most importantly, ideal art history majors exhibit a passion and appreciation for all types of art.
What to expect from an art history degree
Art history majors are exposed to a diverse spectrum of art, from ancient to modern, and from polished to abstract during their online liberal-arts degree. They study how artists used color, lighting, lines and space to communicate emotions or ideas. They become familiar with various art trends and movement throughout history and learn to identify characteristics common to successful pieces. They also learn how to properly care for and conserve various media.
According to The College Board, the following art history courses are among the most common:
- Early modern architecture
- History of photography
- Methodology and theory of art history
- Renaissance art
- Survey of Western art
Art history degrees range from two-year associate programs to doctoral degrees requiring years of study. Associate degrees usually serve as a stepping stone to an advanced degree while bachelor's degrees can lead to entry-level work in museums or K-12 education. Those who wish to become art historians, curators or professors can benefit from the in-depth training that comes from a graduate degree.
Studying art history online
Just as art is impacted by modern technology, so is the way it is studied. Online degrees in art history can make use of virtual art galleries to bring classic pieces housed around the world to students' computer screens. World-famous museums such as London's Tate museum offer online collections, information on art and artists and even online courses.
The Web Gallery of Art, a virtual museum, offers online guided tours of various artists and movements from the 11th to 19th century, as well as wide range of other resources. Online degrees in art history allow students to dive deep into the history of art while studying in one of its newest mediums.
Popular careers for art history grads
Art history programs focus primarily on the evaluation and interpretation of art throughout time. According to The College Board and the College Art Association, the following are some of the most popular careers for art history students.
- Appraiser. Think Antique Road Show. Art appraisers review art pieces of either confirmed or ambiguous origins to determine their authenticity and value.
- Archivist. Archivists typically specialize in one area of art history, evaluating pieces and records to determine whether they should be conserved in official archives.
- Art historian. These professionals serve as authorities within the art history field, evaluating pieces to determine origins or period of production. They often write or contribute to art history books.
- Conservator. These professionals care for, preserve, treat and document works of art. When the Vatican decided to restore Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, they hired conservators.
- Museum curator, director. These professionals administer museums, overseeing operations, displays, programs and collection lending.
- Teacher or professor. Many art history graduates choose to teach art history, usually at the college level.
Whether you want to take the steps to enter the art history field or advance your knowledge, it helps to have a love of art. Art varies in style across time, and, as an art historian, you can help others gain perspective about the approaches occurring across the years.
The art history profession at a glance
- Popular places of employment: Universities, museums, archives
- Educational requirements: Although degrees are available at all levels, a graduate degree is needed for most positions within the field
- Job outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 20 percent growth from 2008 to 2018 for archivists and curators.