Art History Degree and Certificate Program Information

Oct 24, 2019

Essential Information

Art history is the study of art across many cultures from philosophical and historical perspectives. Art history bachelor's degree programs allow students to engage in research-based courses or studio arts courses, which may lead to jobs in galleries or art preservation. Graduate students in other fields may receive a graduate certificate in art history to further advance graduate studies.

Bachelor of Arts in Art History

Students with a high school diploma or an equivalency can enter a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree program in art history. This degree takes four years to complete. Different educational tracks are available within art history. Some are focused on studio arts, aimed at students interested in the creation of art and who wish to eventually find careers in galleries or art preservation. Others are more focused in liberal arts, which are better for students who wish to approach art history through research. Common art history courses include:

  • Asian art
  • Contemporary art
  • Animation history
  • Baroque art
  • Italian renaissance painting

Master of Arts in Art History

To enter a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Art History, an applicant must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in art, art history or another related field of study. This program takes about two years to complete. Most programs require completion of a thesis on a specific area of interest within the field, such as 19th century Italian painting. Graduates in art history may choose to go on to apply to a doctoral program, which are highly competitive and intensely research-based. Master's programs in art history typically cover many cultures and kinds of art, design and architecture. A few classes typically offered are:

  • French impressionism
  • North African art
  • Parisian gothic art
  • Art in the Ottoman Empire
  • Native American art

Graduate Certificates in Art History

Graduate certificate programs in art history provide a background in the field to students taking a degree in another subject in about 20 credit hours. For example, a student enrolled in a doctorate program in archeology might choose to earn a certificate in art history in order to further enhance his or her studies.

To enter a graduate certificate program in art history, a student must be enrolled in another master's program in a related discipline, though some schools will make exceptions. The applicant should have some background in art history, but classes provide students with an overall understanding of the field. A few examples are:

  • Classical archeology
  • Modern American art
  • Medieval art
  • Graphic design criticism
  • Women in the visual arts

Popular Career Options

Graduates of art history programs have many paths available to them. A few job possibilities related to art history are:

  • Educator
  • Graphic artist
  • Art director
  • Special events coordinator
  • Museum curator

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Most B.A. graduates are qualified for entry-level positions in museums and art galleries as conservators and museum technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for these professionals in May 2018 was $43,020.

There are many career paths available to graduates with an M.A. in Art History. However, other than careers in academia, graduates commonly become museum curators and archivists. According to the BLS, employment opportunities at museums are anticipated to increase by 9% from 2018 to 2028, and curators earned a median income of $53,780 per year in May 2018.

Students have several options if they are working towards an undergraduate or graduate degree in art history. These programs give students a variety of educational tracks and specializations to consider that they can further specialize in through a graduate program.

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