Art History Careers

Make a living AND make a difference.

What does an art historian do?

Art reveals truth - the culture of a nation, the attitudes of a time period, even the nature of a struggle or a conflict. Art historians compare past eras in history or relate Western forms of thought and feeling with those of other cultures. Art history concerns itself not just with art as a production, but with cultural and aesthetic issues.

Students who major in art history often pursue careers as curators, historic preservationists and archivists at the many museums and galleries across the country and internationally. Others, knowing they have an eye for art and design, use art history to hone their intellectual abilities in art for careers in media, advertising, publishing, fashion or design. Another path for art history majors is art therapy, working with handicapped or disabled people.

Many art history graduates continue their education and earn master's degrees and doctorates in more focused areas such as restoration or art therapy. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for many entry-level positions, but for advancement in an area of specialization an advanced degree may be required. Regardless of your career choices, increasing your marketability to employers through internships, responsible work experience, good grades and involvement in college activities is important. Many art history careers do not require a specific major but rather a wide range of skills and accomplishments, so the broader your undergraduate experience the better.

If you want an art history career, be prepared to relocate - a greater diversity of positions and options for art history graduates are located in larger metro areas, such as New York, Boston, L.A. and Chicago.

What are some typical occupations for art history majors?

  • Advertising/sales/marketing representative
  • Archivist
  • A variety of jobs within the field of publishing, including researcher and editor
  • Arts administrator
  • Art therapist
  • Curator
  • Visual resource curator
  • Educator
  • Artist representative
  • Estate and art appraiser
  • Photographer
  • TV or film producer
  • Public relations assistant
  • Retail buyer
  • Store manager
  • Textile designer

Private and Nonprofit Organizations

  • Advertising agencies
  • Media organizations
  • Antique dealers
  • Museums
  • Archives
  • Performing arts centers
  • Fashion design companies
  • Photographic studios
  • Galleries
  • Public relations firms
  • Historic preservation and firms
  • Historical societies
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Interior design firms
  • Restored communities/estates
  • Libraries
  • Universities
  • Magazines/newspapers

Government Agencies

  • Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
  • National Archives and Records Administration
  • Department of Education
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Freer Gallery of Art
  • National Gallery of Art
  • Government Printing Office
  • National Museum of African Art
  • Hirshhorn Museum
  • National Museum of American Art
  • Institute of Museum Services
  • National Museum of American History

Where are Kendall graduates working?

  • GRCC, College professor
  • Michigan Youth Festival, Executive Director
  • Basile Center in Indianapolis, Gallery Director
  • Farewell Mills Gatsch Architects, Architectural Historian

Salary information

Employment-related websites

  • Career Alternatives for Art Historians
  • Career Guide for Art History Majors
  • Art History Newsletter (register to have this free newsletter sent via e-mail)
  • www.historians.org/PUBS/careers/chapter5.htm
  • www.artstaffing.com (placement agency in New York and Chicago, including job listings)
Make it
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