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Art History Graduate Programs and Degree Courses

Individuals interested in becoming art historians, working in the field of arts administration, or serving as a museum curator may consider completing an art history degree program. These programs are typically offered through the Art Department of a liberal arts college or university, and include both art history and studio art classes to provide students with broad cultural and historical perspectives about art around the world. Students can choose from both offline and online degree programs for an in-depth review of famous artists, artistic styles, and significant art movements throughout history.

What is an Art History Degree?

Art history degree programs teach students about art and design principles from different cultures, and provide an in-depth historical perspective about different art movements and events that have influenced different types of art over time. Students learn about notable artists and their contributions, explore the different eras of various cultures, including Asian art, medieval European art, African art and Native American art, and learn how to develop exhibits and installations for museums and art galleries.

Even though the field seems very specialized, many students branch out into fields outside of museum curation and teaching.

Online Art History Degree Programs

Students that do not live close to a campus that offers an art history degree program may consider distance education programs instead. Online programs deliver the same quality of education as offline courses, except the curriculum is delivered via online lectures, web-based research projects, online discussion groups and forums. Students are still required to complete the core and elective courses required of the program, but may not have the opportunity to work directly with art historians, museum curators and other professionals in the industry.

Students are typically provided with free access to online libraries, databases, website collections and articles that help them complete their work projects and conduct in-depth research without leaving their home or office.

Some art history schools offer one-on-one faculty mentoring for online students, and may require students to complete work study hours at an assigned location, such as a museum, art gallery or library.

Art History Degree Courses

Some of the most common types of courses required include:

  • Introduction to Art
  • Art of Africa and Oceania
  • Ancient and Medieval Art
  • Art of the Renaissance
  • Baroque and Rococo Art
  • Native Arts of the Americas
  • History of Architecture
  • Oriental Art
  • American Art
  • Art of Ancient Egypt
  • Art and Mythology of Ancient Greece
  • Women in Art
  • Women in Ancient Greek Art
  • Visual Studies
  • Cultural Origins of Art

What to Expect at Art History School

When attending art history school, students have the opportunity to study the art of different cultures, and may visit local museums, meet with curators and designers, and visit art galleries in their local area. Some schools also offer international study abroad programs where students can travel to Europe, Asia and other destinations around the globe for a culture immersion experience. These trips typically include visits to world-renowned museums and famous art galleries, history tours and sightseeing excursions.

Students that complete an internship or externship have the chance to learn about all phases of curation for museums, the exhibit installation process, and also learn important cataloging skills. The school's library may house thousands of slides and books for students who wish to conduct research on-site.

Careers After Completing an Art History Program

While the majority of students set their sights on museum work or teaching, many students can narrow their focus to work in more contemporary fields including mainstream media, fashion, publishing and advertising. Some careers that do not require a specific major may be suitable. Some of the traditional and non-traditional career options include:

  • Art Appraiser
  • Curator
  • Historic Preservation Specialist
  • Merchandise Display Coordinator
  • Photographer
  • Promotion/Production Assistant
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Textile Designer
  • Archivist
  • Art Therapist
  • Arts Administrator

Archivists, curators and museum professionals typically work for zoos, museums, colleges, universities and the government. Duties may include cataloguing, presenting collections, acquiring and preserving documents and items for storage, and analyzing objects such as photographs, films, video and sound recordings.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual wages of archivists in May 2008 were $45,020. Median annual wages of curators were $47,220, and median annual wages of museum technicians and conservators were $36,660. Those that work for the Federal Government earned significantly higher salaries.


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