Earning an art history degree is not just about preparing for a career in the arts, it's about following and sharing one's passion with the world. Art history graduates can be found working in a variety of settings, including museums, historical sites, and government institutions. While some art historians use their knowledge to enlighten and entertain the public, others spend their time collecting, curating, and repairing works of art so that future generations can enjoy them as well. Some potential careers in the field include museum technician, archivist, curator, or conservator.
How to Choose the Right Art History Degree
Online degrees in art history can help prepare students with the knowledge they need to earn an entry-level job in a field they love. The educational requirements needed to work in the art history field depend on the career path being sought. Many positions require a master's degree or higher, while museum technicians typically only need a bachelor's to get started.
It goes without saying that students considering an art history degree should harbor a deep love and passion for art and its historical importance. Additionally, potential students need to possess excellent analytical and organizational skills. For careers that require interaction with the public, customer service and public speaking skills should also be developed. Art history degree programs usually include courses in prehistoric art, medieval art, Renaissance and Baroque art, modern art, history, literature, anthropology, and more.
Students will find online degrees in art history ranging from the associate level all the way to doctoral programs. We've listed these degree programs in the chart below, complete with information about program length and the type of careers they might lead to:
Length of Completion
Associate in Art History
Associate degrees typically take up to two years of full-time study to complete, and are usually pursued as preparation for a bachelor's degree.
Tour Guide, Fine Artist
Bachelor's in Art History
These programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.
Tour Guide, Museum Technician, Fine Artist
Master's in Art History
These programs take up to two years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's degree.
Archivist, Curator, Museum Technician, Conservator, Historian
Ph.D. in Art History
These programs take two to three years of study after earning a master's degree, which is usually a prerequisite for enrollment.
Postsecondary Teacher, Archivist, Curator, Conservator, Historian, Anthropologist or Archaeologist
An art history degree prepares students with knowledge that can help them find work in a variety of different art-related fields. However, working in the industry usually requires students to spend at least six years (or the equivalent) of full-time study in college. Since many entry-level positions require applicants to hold a master's degree or higher, undergraduate degrees are often used to help prepare students for success in graduate-level programs. Those who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree can also consider earning an undergraduate degree in a related field -- such as studio art, archaeology, or chemistry -- provided much of their coursework shows an emphasis on art or art history. Students hoping to work in a college or university setting typically need to complete a Ph.D. prior to employment.
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Museum Technicians and Conservators||12,290||$44,970||12.4%|
|Postsecondary Teachers, All Other||189,270||$74,630||9.4%|
|Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators||11,230||$57,520||8.6%|
|Anthropologists and Archeologists||6,120||$66,330||3.3%|
What to Expect in an Art History Program
Because art is intricately connected to the history and culture of a region, art history students must be knowledgeable about more than art itself. In order to appreciate and interpret the true meaning of the art being presented, an art historian needs to understand the historical and cultural context in which it was created. Thus, students pursuing online degrees in art history are often required to complete general education requirements in other related disciplines.
Specific curriculum will vary by school and specialization. However, many art history degree programs include core courses such as:
- Intro to Art History
- Roman Art and Architecture
- History of Renaissance and Baroque Art
- Survey of Eastern Art
- Modern Art
- Medieval Architecture
- Greco-Roman Artifacts
- Introduction to Western Philosophy
- European History
- Fundamentals of Religion
- Intro to Sociology
- Foreign Language Study
- Intro to English Literature
Students enrolled in graduate programs will be required to complete a thesis or deliver a dissertation in order to graduate. Some programs may allow students to complete part of their education abroad. Foreign language requirements must also be met prior to graduation.
Art History Degree Specializations
Unlike some degrees, an art history degree can lead to a variety of jobs, instead of confining graduates to one specific career path. Because there are a number of areas in which art historians work, graduates may elect to specialize in one of the following disciplines:
- Museum Technician
Although the following list is not comprehensive, students may also choose to specialize in one of the following subject areas:
- Western Art
- Eastern Art
- African Art and Architecture
- Ancient Art and Architecture
- Islamic Art
As noted previously, these are just a few of the specializations available to art history majors. Online degrees in art history can provide students with the broad art history education needed to land any number of careers, while still allowing students to specialize in an area that truly speaks to them.
Benefits of an Online Degree in Art History
Generally speaking, the study of art history is a visual and academic pursuit rather than a hands-on experience. Most knowledge obtained through an art history degree comes from reading written materials, attending instructional lectures, and participating in discussions with fellow classmates. All of this makes art history programs particularly well-suited for online learning.
Since students can gain similar artistic insights online as they can through physical books and in-person lectures, online degrees in art history are able to provide students with the same education they would receive through an on-campus college experience. Video lectures and written materials provide the basis for student success, while furnishing a flexible environment in which students don't have to be physically present in a classroom to learn. With today's technology, students can connect with their professors and classmates using video chat, message boards, email, or other online platforms.
Most online degrees in art history are structured so that students can access their coursework at a time of their choosing. This allows working adults and those with families to complete their assignments when it is most convenient for them. These online programs provide a flexibility that can't be found in a traditional on-campus environment.
Careers in Art History
Unlike some degree programs, an art history degree doesn't lead to one specific career path. Art historians are often qualified to pursue their passion in a variety of roles and specializations. The chart below lists some of the most popular career options for graduates, along with relevant wage and employment data courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Projected Job Growth 2014-2024
Mean Annual Wage in 2015
Museum Technicians and Conservators
Anthropologists and Archaeologists
An online degree in art history can help prepare you to succeed in a career you are truly passionate about. Students should carefully consider their career aspirations prior to selecting a degree path in order to choose the one that is best suited to their goals. Because most positions in the field require graduate-level degrees, potential students should weigh whether or not they want to pursue their love of art as a hobby or a career.
To learn more, or for information on specific art history degree programs, check out any of the schools listed below.
Anthropologists and Archaeologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm
Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm
Craft and Fine Artists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/craft-and-fine-artists.htm
Historians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/historians.htm
May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Postsecondary Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm