Art history might seem like an indulgent major. After all, will knowing the difference between a Monet and a Manet help you in the “real world?”
Or maybe you think that studying art history will only give you low-paying career options in museums or galleries.
It might make you question if it really is worth it to get a degree in art history.
If art is your passion and you want to make it a career, you have more choices than you think. In fact, there are a number of high-paying careers in art history.
This post discusses some of the highest paying careers in art history, ranked by most lucrative:
Art Historian ($64,540 per year)
With an art history degree, working as an art historian is an option. It’s even in the job title!
Art historians preserve, restore, and evaluate art. They help people and institutions interpret art within a historical context, and help preserve it for future generations.
If you decide to become an art historian, you might work somewhere like a museum, historical society, or nonprofit.
However, this job requires a lot of research. But if analyzing documents and writing papers are tasks you enjoy, this is a solid career option.
While it can be tough to find work as an art historian with only a bachelor’s degree, it is possible. However, be aware that most positions do require an advanced degree.
Museum Curator/Director ($53,420 per year)
Remember the last time you visited a museum? Someone had to decide which pieces and exhibits to buy and display. With a degree in art history, that could be you.
As a museum curator, you acquire, store, and exhibit collections. You also attend meetings and civic events to represent and promote your institution. For most art history majors, this is a dream job.
Many people in this position work full-time, and there may be some travel involved.
Most large museums expect you to have at least a master’s degree in art history. However, some smaller ones will accept applicants with a bachelor’s.
Archivist ($47,360 per year)
If you have an appreciation for history and primary sources, becoming an archivist might be for you.
This interdisciplinary job combines a love of art with a desire to preserve it. Some of the responsibilities of an archivist include:
- Authenticating and appraising historical documents and materials
- Finding and acquiring new material for archives
- Preserving materials in digital form
Like museum curators, you might have to do some traveling to assess archival materials on site. However, your home base is usually your institution.
Depending on the role, you might also have the chance to design educational programming.
Art Consultant ($50,000 per year)
Ever wonder how hotels and other public buildings decide which works of art to display? Welcome to the world of art consulting.
Art consultants help clients figure out which pieces of art work best for them. Clients might be places like hotels, famous monuments, or even private individuals.
Typical duties include:
- Finding galleries and other potential sources for the artwork
- Advising on potential purchases
- Making appraisals
- Staying aware of trends
Substantial knowledge of art, art history, and the art industry is essential to finding a job as an art consultant. This position is mostly freelance, but a few businesses employ full-time art consultants.
Antique Dealer ($45,000 per year)
Do you love watching shows like American Pickers and Antiques Roadshow? Do you long for the moment you can tell a family their heirloom is worth more than they’ve dreamed?
If so, you might want to work as an antique dealer.
The job is exactly what it sounds like: buying and selling antiques. Additionally, you might have to appraise and assess antique items for their value.
This job requires intimate knowledge of the antiques industry, so an internship might help you increase your knowledge and experience.
You may find work in places including antique stores, auction houses, or stores. You might also work as a freelance antique dealer. You should expect to travel as you might have to make some on-site appraisals.
This is sample of the careers you might consider if you’re pursuing a degree in art history. Use these options as a springboard for discovering other potential careers.,
The Realities of Being an Art History Major
Here’s what a member of our Paying for College 101 group who works in professional development with/for artists had to say about those who have certain misconceptions about artists these days.
“The concept of ‘starving artist’ is very 20th century. The 21st century artist now goes into the field as a small business owner and entrepreneur, because that is what they are. If your child is a creator, they should search for arts programs/curricula that teach them not only to refine their work and technique, but show them how to create and run their business.
They will need to know how to budget, how to price themselves, how to promote and market themselves, how to pitch their work and fundraise and how to protect their intellectual property and negotiate agreements.
This is what they need to look for in a program. Schools like SCAD function this way now.”
*All salaries taken from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,Occupational Outlook Handbook, Human Resources Specialists, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists.htm (visited October 4, 2023).
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