Art History Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue with an art history major. Read on to learn more about career options along with education requirements, and salary information. Schools offering Art degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Art History Major?

Art history majors study the artists, movements and periods that have impacted and influenced the development of art from ancient to contemporary times. At the undergraduate level, you can pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in art history. In addition to your general university studies, you'll also study ancient, medieval and renaissance art, as well as exploring the art cultures of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. You might also study subjects like the history of architecture and arts' significance to culture and society. Other courses will cover intro to art, visual studies and historiography, methodology and theory of art.

After completing a bachelor's degree program in art history, you may choose to go on to a master's program. At this level, you can focus your studies on a particular topic, such as early modern art, contemporary Western art or contemporary African art. You may be required to complete a thesis, working under the guidance of a mentor.

Art history majors can pursue a variety of different career paths, many of which involve different roles and responsibilities in museums and galleries. These jobs share the common goal of documenting and preserving art collections and displaying them for the public. The following chart gives you an overview of several job options for art history majors.

Museum Technician Archivist Curator
Degree required Bachelor's degree Master's degree preferred Bachelor's degree, Master's degree preferred
Education Field of Study Art history, history Art history, library science, archival science Art history, museum studies
Key Skills Preservation methods, exhibit design, communication for guided tours Documentation and record keeping, organizational, computer Design, management, business
Average Salary (2015) $44,880* $53,880*$56,990*
Job Growth (2014-2024)5%* 7%* 8%*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Career Options?

After receiving your bachelor's degree, you can look for museum technician programs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that museum technicians are in charge of fossil and specimen preparation, document restoration and exhibit installation. They also perform maintenance work to keep museum pieces in good quality for display. The BLS states that a museum technician is also called a registrar, and they may be responsible for interacting with the public as well (www.bls.gov).

According to the Association of College Unions International (ACUI), an art gallery manager is responsible for arranging lectures about art featured in the gallery and for working with the community to promote the gallery (www.acui.org). The Society of American Archivists states that as an archivist, you could be responsible for creating and controlling historical records. An archivist's duties include organizing the archives, providing assistance to researchers and creating exhibitions for public display (www2.archivists.org). Archivists can work in museums, for governmental entities, colleges and corporations.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

As of May 2015, an archivist's median salary was $50,250, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The upper 25% earned more than $64,750, while the lower 25% brought home $37,820 or less. Curators made a similar median salary of $51,520 in 2015, while museum technicians made a slightly lower median salary of $40,340.

The BLS notes that pay can be affected by several factors, including the industry and location. In 2015, museums, colleges and universities, and state and federal governments were some of the top employers of all three careers. New York and California had some of the highest levels of employment for these three careers, while Washington, D.C., paid these professionals the highest salaries. The job market for archivists, curators and museum technicians as a whole is expected to grow with 2,100 new job openings between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A master's degree will be necessary for many of the best alternative careers. Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin and development of humans and their various cultures around the world. They study remains and ancient texts for clues to man's early behavior. Historians look through records to discover and analyze past events so we understand how history has shaped the present society. Librarians help the public research, select a good book or understand the Dewey Decimal System. Their duties may vary depending on the type of library they work in, such as a public or medical library.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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