Arts Education

A degree in Art History provides an excellent foundation for acquiring specialty graduate training in Art Education or History. At the college level, Art History is a fascinating collection of specializations and the career of a professor means research into your favorite historical periods and ideas as well as teaching at an advanced level.

State Arts Agency Director/Staff Member

State arts agencies strive to increase public access to the arts and work to support and grow their state’s arts sector. Most states have a state arts agency, which draws funds from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that was established by Congress in 1965. State arts agencies offer unique combinations of grants and services for artists, arts organizations, schools and community groups. These agencies require directors, art program liaisons, editors, and other staff, whose roles vary depending upon the particular agency’s initiatives.

Museum Curator

Gallery or museum curators research, plan, organize and manage exhibitions of art, antiques, fossils and other cultural artifacts in art galleries, museums and other places that celebrate cultural heritage. They acquire and care for the items in their organization’s collection, examine them to determine their condition, authenticity and value, arrange them for display in exhibitions and showings, and maintain records about their collections. They also liaise with historians, conservators and other experts about the best way to preserve and maintain the pieces in their care.

Museum Conservation

A background in Art History is very important if you’re interested in pursuing art restoration. Museums, collectors, and others require the services of art restorers to repair and preserve valuable historical objects. A degree in Art History provides the knowledge of artistic materials and techniques from the past that is critical to maintaining artworks for the future.

Art Crime Investigator

The FBI’s Art Theft program coordinates an Art Crime Team consisting of 14 special agents and three prosecuting attorneys. These roles require an inquisitive nature, an interest in research, a high level of physical fitness, and investigative skill. Art crime investigators can also expect significant job variety, travel, and excellent benefits.

Auction Houses

Businesses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s rely on trained Art Historians to provide the research and evaluation of the artworks they sell. Specialists in various periods and cultures help identify and assess the value of historical objects from jewelry to furniture to fine art. A degree in Art History is a requirement for this career.

Art Lawyer

Massive amounts of money, time, and talent flow through the art world, which gives rise to a multitude of legal disputes. Litigation can center around copyright concerns, contract disputes, fraud, and artists’ rights concerns. In addition to their art history master’s degree, art lawyers will need a Juris Doctor (JD) degree and expertise in contract law.

Art Journalist

Writing about art as a career for newspapers, magazines and art-world internet sites requires an academic background in Art History as a professional qualification. Art journalists write articles in which they interpret and analyze the meaning and quality of an artist’s work. This career is usually open only to those who have years of experience teaching art or art history or in working with museums and art galleries; some art critics may also have journalism experience.

Art Galleries

To work in the competitive field of commercial art galleries, it is key to have qualifications in Art History. Understanding the interpretation and historical context of artworks is central to a career in the fast-paced world of art marketing in galleries and international art fairs.

Art & Antique Dealer

Successful art dealers have the ability to cultivate a network of artists and simultaneously establish connections with collectors and museums who are interested in the work of their artists. The very best dealers develop reputations for anticipating swings in taste and value. Some seem to be able to create demand for an artist by simply agreeing to represent him or her. Most dealers specialize in a period, style, or type of art, such as eighteenth century painting, works of the New York School, or contemporary sculpture. All dealers must keep up with developments in the art world, particularly in their areas of specialty, so their careers depend upon maintaining a wide range of contacts among critics, curators, auction houses, artists, and collectors.

Art Economist

The purchase of fine art represents a unique combination of acquisition for personal enjoyment and investment for financial gain. This dynamic becomes even more pronounced during periods of economic downturn, such as the current recession. The recent emergence of publications like The Art Economist and firms specializing in analysis of the art economy displays the increasing level of interest in the study of the art market through a macroeconomic and microeconomic lens. An academic and practical study of the modern art economy represents an opportunity for art historians to apply research skills in a real-world setting.

Art Insurance Adjustor

An art insurance adjustor works for an insurance company to examine damage to an insured item, decide what work needs to be done to repair, clean, or restore it, and determine how much money the repair work will cost. Art insurance adjustors understand multiple artistic mediums, methods for cleaning, restoring, and otherwise repairing artwork, and must have the ability to creatively problem-solve for each unique case as it occurs. Adjustors may contract cleaning or restoration services, oversee the safe removal and transport of works, interact with artists and artwork owners, and may also work with police, emergency services, government personnel, or the FBI to remove and repair artwork damaged during major emergencies.

Careers beyond the Art World

Key transferable skills highly prized by employers include visual and critical awareness, problem solving, and time management. As an art history graduate you will have developed effective written and oral communication skills, be adept at analyzing and interpreting information from a range of sources, and be able to work independently.

“Regular readers of our column know that we are unabashed fans and supporters of the humanities and the creative and performing arts.” Thus began David Skorton and Glenn Altschuler’s essay, “Does Your Major Matter?” in the October 29, 2012 issue of Forbes Magazine. They go on to say, “We believe that the world’s thorniest problems will not be solved—nor will our nation be secure—without an understanding of ethics, cultures other than our own, and what it means to be fully human. And we have seen first-hand that students who complete liberal arts degrees have deeply satisfying—and productive—personal and professional lives.”

In fact, art historical training can prepare students for real world investigation. In her 2013 TedTalk “How Art Can Help You Analyze,” Amy Herman explains that “The study of art can enhance our perception, and our ability to translate to others what we see. Those skills are useful. Those skills can save lives.” She goes on: “Close study of art can train viewers to study thoroughly, analyze the elements observed, articulate them succinctly, and formulate questions to address seeming inconsistencies.” These are critically important skills, she notes, for people looking at X-rays, interrogating suspects, or in a number of other professions.

Skorton and Altschuler also write, “The liberal arts … serves as a preferred pathway to rewarding and remunerative careers. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), medical schools accepted 43 percent of the biological sciences majors, 47 percent of physical sciences majors, 51 percent of humanities majors, and 45 percent of social sciences majors who applied in 2010.” Writers analyzing other fields have found the same phenomenon to be true. In the August 17, 2015 issues of Forbes Magazine, George Anders remarked, “Throughout the major U.S. tech hubs, whether Silicon Valley or Seattle, Boston or Austin, Tex., software companies are discovering that liberal arts thinking makes them stronger.”

“I think the primary benefit of art in education is that it promotes lateral thinking. I would think that is a benefit to anyone who must try and visualize things that no one can actually see, like particle physics, microbiology, cosmology, and astrophysics as well as figuring out how things work out in quantum mechanics to produce the results we see experimentally.”

Or as Business Insider (Feb. 19, 2014) concisely put it, “Next time you’re looking for an employee, consider an art history major.”