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Art History Careers: Job Options and Training Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an art curator, art historian or art critic. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and other recommended experience to find out if one of these careers is for you.

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A bachelor's degree in art history or a related area is the minimum postsecondary education required for a career in the field of art history. Some positions, such as an art curator, may require a master's degree, while a degree in communications or journalism may also lead to a career as an art critic. Art historians need a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions.

Essential Information

Careers in art history range from museum curator to art critic. While job descriptions and requirements vary, these professionals typically have completed postsecondary education courses in art, art history and related subjects. Read on to learn more.

Career Art Curator Art Historian Art Critic
Required Education Bachelor's or Ph.D Bachelor' degree for entry level Bachelor's degree in art history, journalism or communications
Other Required Education Fundraising, public relations or marketing experience; published research Master's or Ph.D in Art History for advancement Internship with news organizations
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% for all curators 2% for all historians 8% decline for all reporters and correspondents
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $51,520 for all curators $55,800 for all historians $36,360 for all reporters and correspondents

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

An art history graduate with an expanded education in public relations, business or writing allows for more opportunity in the job market. Careers for the art history major included art curator, art historian and art critic.

Art Curator

Curators work with artwork, artifacts or anything of historical or artistic importance. Accordingly, museums, botanical gardens, history centers and libraries may employ them. Curators keep inventory and acquire new artistic or historical pieces to add to the collection. They also organize these collections into exhibitions and encourage the public and financiers to view the display. At the exhibition, curators inform visitors about the history, artist and other information relevant to each piece.

To acquire new pieces, curators visit with art dealers and collectors to negotiate pricing or borrow pieces for temporary display. Curators also approve the lending out of the establishment's own collection and meet with budget departments and other managers to determine a budget for new acquisitions. While keeping in line with the budget, curators authorize payments for new purchases, as well as help with fundraising, promotions and grant writing.

Curator Training Requirements

Requirements for curators usually depend on the type and size of the organization. For example, curators at national museums are typically required to have a doctoral degree, according to the Princeton Review (www.princetonreview.com). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that most museums require a master's degree, and some small establishments may accept candidates with only a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov).

Because curators often oversee staffs, having managerial skills is beneficial. Experience in fundraising, public relations and marketing are valuable skills for curators so that they can boost exhibition attendance and resources. Fluency in a foreign language, previous directorship experience and published research articles may sometimes be required for these jobs.

Art Historian

Art historians scrutinize and interpret artifacts found in archeological sites, churches and ruins around the world. They keep record of what is found, including its origin and importance. Art historians use previously published research and historical developments to help them learn about artifacts.

These professionals also study and preserve artifacts displayed in museums. Findings from their research may be published in scholarly journals or other publications. Art historians also review articles written by others to ensure accuracy and edit art history publications. Additional duties may include assisting museum curators or directors in the presentation of exhibitions and giving presentations on artifacts or artworks to organizations, clubs, schools and museums.

Art Historian Training Requirements

According to the BLS, art historians generally need a master's or doctoral degree in art history or a related field, although individuals with a bachelor's degree may find entry-level employment as a research assistant or writer. Art history coursework often includes classes on ancient, medieval, Renaissance, baroque and modern art, in addition to art theories and museology.

Field experience or internships while attending college are beneficial to art history students. The BLS stated that many museums and organizations offer volunteer research opportunities or internships. Aspiring art historians also need good writing and editing skills to prepare research reports, as well as good communication and interpersonal skills to collaborate with other professionals in the field.

Art Critic

Art critics analyze, interpret and form opinions on artworks at museums, galleries, shows and other exhibitions. They also review concerts, operas, musicals and art-related books. They then write articles for local arts organizations, newspapers, magazines, radio shows or television. Art critics use their art history education to judge the artworks and often research the artist, historical period, inspirations, media and any other elements that influenced the art.

Art Critic Training Requirements

Formal training in journalism isn't required by all publications or broadcast stations seeking art critics as long as the candidate has a degree in art history or a related field. However, writing skills are essential for art critics, and classes in English, reporting, magazine writing and other journalism-related classes are beneficial. Art critics also need communication skills because they are constantly attending shows and networking with people in the art business.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, the job growth rate for curators will increase by 8% from 2014 to 2024, which is about as fast as the national average for all employment opportunities. A slower-than-average job growth rate of 2% was projected for all historians during the same time frame. The BLS reports that in 2015 the median annual income for all historians was $55,800, and the median annual income for curators was $51,520. An art critic's and reporter's job are similar. The employment rate for reporters and correspondents is expected to decline 8% from 2014 to 2024. The BLS lists a reporter's median salary as $36,360.

Art critics who report on the visual and performing arts, art historians who examine artifacts to determine their cultural and historic significance and curators responsible for a collection's inventory are some of the professionals who work in the field of art history. A bachelor's degree is generally the minimum educational requirement to get started in one of these careers.

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