10 Jobs for Art History Majors
With a little creativity, you can put that art history degree to work.
Most people think of an art history major as a path to a job in a gallery or, if they're cynical, as a path to unemployment. But there are several career paths and jobs open to art history majors, whether they're into Giotto, Monet, or Thiebaud.
Studying art history certainly helps develop an appreciation for art, but there are other broader skills it encourages and develops. Among those are analytical and critical skills and attention to detail, valuable assets in many fields. If a job directly related to art is a priority, consider these 10 jobs for art history majors:
This, for many art history majors, is the target career. It typically requires a Ph.D. and extensive experience. A curator is at the top of the museum food chain, managing its collections of paintings, sculptures and other materials and artifacts. Most curators specialize in a particular area of art.
Curators are typically responsible for creating and maintaining relationships with the museum's board of directors, its customers, its staff, and others in the community with a vested interest in the museum. They may also be tasked with overseeing budgets and hiring (and firing) museum staff. Most curators work their way up to the top job over several years.
Art Conservation and Restoration
Jobs in this field involve maintaining older pieces of art that may be susceptible to damage and restoring works of art that already have sustained damage. Knowledge of art and artists is necessary to do good restoration work, and keeping up to date with the latest restoration techniques is important.
Museum Marketing and Public Relations
For art history majors who also might have minored in communication (or vice versa), this job combines both skill sets. As with any public relations job, you'll pitch stories about the museum to media and oversee marketing efforts. Chances are you'll be involved with the creation of published materials such as the museum's annual report and any appeals to donors, including the messaging.
Art Law and Law Enforcement
Opportunities in this field are more limited than jobs as a curator, but for those with an interest in law enforcement, the FBI maintains a 16-member Art Crime Team, made up of specially trained agents who handle stolen art cases in a given geographic region. Agents are trained in art and cultural property investigations and oversee the National Stolen Art File, a database of stolen works of art.
According to the FBI website, the Art Crime Team has recovered more than $165 million worth of stolen artwork since its inception in 2004. To pursue this career path you would first need to become an FBI agent.
This kind of work often is done on a contract basis. Instead of working for one hotel or corporation, someone might work for themselves, seeking out multiple businesses as clients. This kind of career requires extensive experience and knowledge of art, in order to suggest pieces to various clients that match their needs. This might include decorative or statement pieces, or works of art as investments.
Artist Management and Representation
To successfully represent and negotiate contracts, gallery shows and other fees for an artist, in addition to knowledge of art and artists and the marketplace, good business skills are a must. The person in this position typically handles business affairs for artists. A law background, while not totally necessary, would be a plus.
Museum Fundraising and Development
Somewhat similar to marketing and public relations, this is a position that requires people with the skills to convince donors that a local museum is a good investment. They work with marketing to create campaigns and compile information used in annual reports and other fundraising materials. They may also work closely with the museum's board of directors and meet with philanthropic organizations to create partnerships.
Special Events Planner for a Museum or Other Arts Organization
Event planning is a separate skill and a separate career, but someone with a background in art history can put that to use planning events for arts-based organizations. Usually, museums and arts organizations work with tight budgets, requiring some creativity when planning engaging, compelling events for potential donors and the community.
Art and Estate Appraisal for an Auction House or Private Firm
This career requires being certified in art appraisal studies, and good research skills also are a must. Many art appraisers specialize in a particular area, such as Impressionist art, sculpture or rare pieces, so learning a lot about a particular subject is a smart way to plan which art classes you may take.
A bachelor's degree often is sufficient for installation jobs, and some mechanical aptitude is helpful. This is a good opportunity to get experience in the field and spend time around others in the museum who may serve as mentors as you find your career path.