What can you do with a master's degree in art history?

  • Art history graduates often work in some of the world's most influential galleries and museums.
    Art history graduates often work in some of the world's most influential galleries and museums.

    What can you do with a master's degree in art history?

    Do you want to be surrounded by the fruitful world of art and creativity, but you’re not prepared to spend your days as a struggling artist? Art history may be the happy balance. It fulfills your artistic passions, while providing you with practical career options to apply your skills, uphold the legacy of artists and even support some of those struggling creative types.

    A master’s in art history – or even art management or museum studies – can prepare you for a variety of creative and fulfilling career options. Here are some of the roles you can pursue with a degree in art history:

    Museum curator
    A master’s in art history equips graduates with the skills and knowledge to feel at home in a museum setting, with curatorial positions among the most popular career paths. With detailed knowledge of specialist subjects, art and artists, museum curators oversee certain collections and galleries. That includes researching and writing about the collection, planning exhibitions and coordinating with other museum staff. Smaller museums and galleries may also lean on curators for other tasks, such as marketing or fundraising.

    These museum professionals earn roughly $50,000 a year, with some positions paying as much as $70,000, according to PayScale. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also estimated a positive job outlook, with archivist, curatorial and conservationist museum positions expected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations.

    Museum director
    This leadership role has similar qualities to curator positions, in that museum directors influence the creative direction of exhibitions and oversee museum collections. However, these directors are also responsible for administrative tasks, such as managing scholarship and fundraising programs, leading donor and community relations, aiding in financial and investment decisions and overseeing museum staff. It’s perfect for art history majors who also have a knack for business and customer service.

    Depending on the size of the museum and its location, directors earn salaries that range from about $28,000 to $98,000, as reported by PayScale.

    Art dealer
    These networking gurus are responsible for buying and selling art. Some art dealers work independently, while others are employed by a specific gallery or collector. They stay current on the trends of the art market and maintain relationships with various galleries, collectors, artists and art critics. They must have a good eye for art, which is where the art history degree comes into play. Art dealers are also social by nature and business savvy, working to secure reasonable prices and ensure priceless works of art are placed in the right hands.

    According to Chegg Career Center, the average national salary for art dealer position ranges from $37,430 to $67,360.

    Art consultant
    Take your skills outside of the gallery and lend a helping hand to corporate companies or private collectors that need your expert eye to select and buy artwork, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, video installations and more. For instance, an organization may hire an art consultant to choose brand-appropriate pieces for its offices, while a hotel would utilize a consultant to select artwork for its lobby and guest rooms. Art collectors may seek the advice of a consultant to determine which artists are currently hot on the market and advise on the value of certain pieces, while wealthy homeowners may seek an art advisor to decorate their estate or vacation properties.

    No matter who they advise, art consultants have a solid understanding of their client’s needs and preferences, work with artists, auction houses and galleries to source the art and may even install the new pieces. According to PayScale, these art history professionals earn an average salary of $47,015, with some of the most elite positions securing upwards of $100,000 with bonuses and commissions.

    Art history professor
    Head back to school in a different role. With a thorough understanding of the arts and a passion for the artists of our past, art history educators can instill the same excitement in students looking to learn about the field. If you prefer art management or museum studies, there are also plenty of educator roles to suit those niches. When you love your current position, but still want to gain knowledge and experiences with aspiring art historians, consider an adjunct professor position at a local community college or university.

    According to the BLS, postsecondary teachers earn an average of $76,000 per year, but some positions at elite universities may be reserved for those with doctorate degrees. That being said, if you’re equally passionate about education as you are art history, your degree may open the door to additional schooling that qualifies you for more teaching positions, as well as leadership roles in art history departments.

    Start your career in this dynamic field by pursuing your degree in art history. From there, you can try your hand at one of these creative career paths.

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