What Can You Do With a PhD in Art History?

May 30, 2020

Through coursework on their way to a graduate degree in art history, students learn about how various artworks are created and the ways in which they can be protected and preserved. Prospective students will take classes in professional practices in art history and various art seminars, giving them the experience and the knowledge necessary to secure a wide range of jobs within the art world. Below you will get a detailed look at some of these careers, along with their expected growth information and median salaries.

PhD in Art History Jobs/Salary

In the process of gaining a PhD in Art History, students will not only gain a deeper understanding of the history of art in general, but also of how art pieces are created and can be protected. Furthermore, recent graduates will have learned how to conduct independent research and practiced methods to instruct others. Additionally, recent graduates will have become fluent in the language of the area in which they studied, opening the door for more employment opportunities beyond the art field. Below, you can find a table that lists potential career choices for those who have gained a PhD in Art History, along with the respective job growth and median salary statistics.

Job Title Median Salary (2019)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Historians $63,680 6%
Art Directors $94,220 1%
Writers and Authors $63,200 0% (little to no change)
Postsecondary Art Teachers $69,530 8%
Curators $49,850 9%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

PhD in Art History Careers


Historians conduct research within a particular area or time in history and use data collection and analysis to make informed opinions about what occurred. These same individuals may be called in to help media companies create historically accurate materials and settings for movies or games. Additionally, they may take part in writing articles and books detailing new theories about historical events.

Art Directors

Art directors aid in creating an artistic tone of a given project and use visuals to help bring concepts to life within magazines, newspapers, television, film, video games, and other media. They work alongside other art departments to ensure that the underlying concept of a given project is being properly followed. These same individuals also work to ensure that a proper budget is established for a given project and that all expenses stay within that pre-assigned budget.

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors identify the requirements for a given project and work with clients and editors to ensure that said goals are met. During the writing of fiction novels or non-fiction pieces, they often conduct detailed research to ensure that information they state is accurate. Lastly, they will send off copies of their work to clients and editors and make changes where they are needed.

Postsecondary Art Teachers

Postsecondary art teachers provide information related to various art techniques to their students and demonstrate said techniques to ensure that students understand the step-by-step process. They educate students on both the theoretical and practical aspects of art and work with them to develop their own art style. Often times, they will go into or specialize in the history of art to facilitate discussions on various art topics within a classroom setting.


Curators spend their time purchasing and acquiring various pieces of artwork for galleries and museums. Once they have collected all artwork for a gallery or museum, they may go about developing the theme and layout for an exhibit to ensure that it is both engaging and easily accessible to the general public. Furthermore, they research and catalog all artwork within an exhibit and write articles detailing their findings.

While recent graduates are somewhat limited in the areas in which they might gain employment, they will have the skills and the tools necessary to gain high end positions within the fields of art, media and academia. They will be able to help museums and art galleries protect their merchandise and collections to preserve them for the future or to present them in a way that is pleasing to the public.

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