As an academic pursuit, art history frequently attracts students who enjoy a blend of academic research and creative arts. While museum work and teaching careers tend to come to mind first for art history majors, the opportunities for art history graduates are many.
Art history jobs cross a number of sectors, from the fast-paced world of private art sales to education and even law enforcement. Here are a few of the diverse career opportunities you can pursue once you've completed your art history degree.
Art dealing is a sales field unlike any other because art moves people in a way that can't be forced or replicated. As an art dealer, you'll use your art history knowledge and awareness of cultural trends to explain the value of pieces and help your customers connect with art that is meaningful to them. Add to that the fact that art dealers can buy and sell pieces worth millions, in a global art market worth more than $50 billion, and you'll see why this career interests so many art history graduates.
Part academic, part marketer, part matchmaker, an art dealer position can be ideal for an art history graduate with a head for business, a way with people and a passion for art.
Many art history students first discover their love of art by visiting a museum and want to return there once they've finished their degree. As a curator, you'll apply your skills to help manage displays, create exhibitions that make art accessible to your guests and ensure the collections are being properly maintained. Museums are some of the most important public venues for art throughout the world and can be meaningful places for art history graduates to advance their careers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for a group that includes archivists, curators and museum workers is expected to grow by 19% from 2020–2030.
Do you enjoy writing as much as you enjoy art? Newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have sections for the arts that need expert arts reporters. Studying art history can help you develop your writing and research skills, enabling you to keep up with the contemporary art world and write compelling pieces about it.
From art criticism to interviews with important artists and more, arts journalism provides opportunities to engage with the world's newest and brightest artists, and to share your own insights on their work with readers. Journalists have a median pay of about $49,000 per year, according to the BLS.
An art gallery serves as the forefront of art sales. Gallery management offers an exciting opportunity to apply your art knowledge while promoting artists' work, particularly if you have a niche area of expertise — many galleries focus on a particular style, period or even group of artists. If you enjoy sharing art with others as well as the business side of the art world, you might want to consider gallery management.
Arts education is key to opening students' minds, feeding their curiosity about the world around them and helping them develop a sense of empathy toward others. You might consider teaching art history at the high school level, teaching classes in elementary or middle school, or earning your graduate degree to teach at a college or university.
According to the BLS, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn a median annual wage of $60,660 and more than 110,000 jobs are projected to be added between 2020–2030. High school teachers earn a median wage of nearly $63,000 and a similar rate of job growth is expected.
Art crimes investigator
According to the 2016 American University Business Law Review article The Business of Art Theft, art theft is the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world with an estimated $6-$8 billion in revenue generated from it each year. This makes an art crimes investigator a vital member of a law enforcement team. When law enforcement officials are dealing with cases of forged or stolen art, they rely on expert art crimes investigators to trace and authenticate works of art to help catch criminals.
If this career path seems right for you, you may be able to use your art history knowledge to recover lost masterpieces.
Archivists preserve important pieces, preventing them from being lost or damaged. As an archivist, you'll be entrusted with the physical safety of the artwork in your archive and with keeping it cataloged and accurately described when it cannot be permanently displayed. This ensures that the works remain properly contextualized so they can live on for future generations to study and enjoy.
According to the BLS, a group that includes archivists, curators and museum workers earn a median salary of almost $57,000 and employment growth is expected to grow by 11% between 2020–2030.
Art insurance agent
Anyone who owns a great work of art will have done their best to ensure the art was purchased legitimately and will work hard to protect it from damage or theft. However, illegal sales, accidents and hard-to-trace robberies happen, and that's where art insurance agents come in. Being an art insurance agent requires you to learn on the job at all times, so it's never dull. An art insurance agent needs to understand the significance of the artworks they insure to properly determine their value, which makes this position a good fit for someone with an art history degree.
Auction houses such as Christie's and Sotheby's deal in art from around the world, recruiting art experts to present the significance of these pieces to potential buyers and manage the bidding as it comes in. As an auctioneer, you may sell paintings that are bought for millions – potentially tens of millions – of dollars. The auction house is a fast-paced environment where circumstances can change on a dime, making it an exciting opportunity for art history graduates who like to be at the center of the action.
Prepare for your career in art history
The broad knowledge of the arts and international perspective on art history taught in ASU Online's Bachelor of Arts in art with a concentration in art history degree can help prepare you to enter or move ahead in this diverse field. Offered through the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, this online program fosters an environment of robust inquiry and collaboration to prepare students to approach the art history jobs market with confidence. Once you've completed your degree, you'll be equipped for a variety of exciting careers in the world of art.