Free Online Lectures and Courses for Art History

Whether in education, curation, preservation or sales, art historians help interpret and conserve the art of the past and present. Careers in the field vary widely. Many students of the discipline go into museum jobs like curator, docent, exhibition technician, or preservationist, but there are a number of other fields in which this degree can be used.

Art historians are needed in education, both within and outside of museums, as well as in retail: be it in art galleries, appraisal companies and antique shops. An art history degree may also be used in specialized positions within law enforcement, governmental agencies, or consulting firms.

Sample Courses

Students in art history generally start with an overview of the major traditions and periods in art, including courses on ancient, medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and contemporary art. Students can also take courses in studio art to complement their historical studies and provide deeper insight into the discipline. Often, undergraduates take courses in their freshmen or sophomore year about visual fundamentals and color theory, as well. As students continue in the major, they will likely take courses on methods of interpretation in art history, including iconography, semiotics, and social history. As upperclassmen, students usually specialize in a period or type of art.

Possible Specializations

Many students choose to specialize in one of the artistic periods mentioned, possibly focusing on a region, as well. Alternatively, students can specialize in the history of design, architecture, sculpture, or other types of art. Art history majors often have interdisciplinary majors or double majors, combining their studies in the art department with studies in anthropology, religion, history, literature, or philosophy.

Degree Types

The majority of positions for art historians require an advanced degree, whether those jobs are in museums, education, or journalism. Here’s what students can likely do with each type of degree:

Associate

Art history students typically get associate degrees in order to transfer those to a 4-year college or university. By itself, an associate degree can earn students positions in retail, such as at antique dealer shops or art galleries, but will not qualify those students for most museum positions.

Bachelor’s

Art history students with a bachelor’s degree have numerous opportunities for employment. Entry-level jobs at museums, such as working as a docent, often require this degree and can be a means of moving forward in the field. Students can also go into publication or journalism related to art history.

Master’s

Many art history students opt for a Master’s degree, since this is often required for employment in museum positions like curation, conservation or preservation, though some of those positions will require a doctorate. Those who wish to teach art history will also need at least a master’s degree.

Ph.D.

High-level museum curation, appraisal and conservation requires a doctorate, as do many jobs in art history academia. Students wishing to go into art litigation will need a law degree to go into governmental or private law firms.

Ideal Candidates for Art History

Students benefit from a flexible view of academia, since art history often involves interdisciplinary study. Courses call on students’ analytical and critical thinking skills to examine and assess art, so students should be detail-oriented and enjoy solving complex problems. Communication skills are also essential, since the art historian’s job is to communicate the meaning or interpretation of art to others, whether in a museum, gallery, academia or other realm.

Career Pathways

The employment outlook for art history students depends greatly on that person’s chosen field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, archivists, curators, and other museum workers will see that job field grow at an average pace of 11% over the next decade, with strong competition for jobs. On the other hand, professors and teachers of art history won’t be in as much demand: this field will only grow by about 2%, though teaching jobs as a whole are expected to experience faster than average growth.

Museum workers, including curators, earn a median annual wage of $44,410, while professors generally earn somewhere near $73,650. Art teachers as a whole group earn a median annual salary of $62,160. Of course, salaries will depend greatly on the museum or educational institution at which the student finds employment, as well as depending upon that student’s level of expertise or specialization.

If you want to learn more about what it means to be an art historian, connect with museums or professionals in your area. You can also reach out to art galleries, current students, and colleges and universities in order to learn more about this field.

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Get More Out of Your Online Art History Courses

Art History Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • Art Journal

      Published by the College Art Association, this journal strives to encompass art criticism, interconnect various forms of art and art history, and give publication voice to art historians and artists.

    • Facture

      Published biennially by the National Gallery of Art, this journal "explores themes in the materiality and history of art, addressing all aspects of the discipline."

    • Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

      This blind peer-reviewed journal is published internationally and covers art history "of the built environment and spatial practice."

    • Metropolitan Museum Journal

      From one of the country's most prestigious art museums, this topical journal provides scholarly analysis of art both past and present.

    • The Journal of Design History

      An Oxford University Press publication, this journal touches on all areas of design history as well as the history of crafts and applied arts.

  • Trade Magazines

    • Apollo Magazine

      Touting itself as "The International Art Magazine," Apollo explores both current art as well as art history around the world, looking into areas less covered ...

    • ARTNews

      This magazine reports on all areas of the arts, including visual and performance, but also devotes space to art history investigation and analysis.

    • El Palacio

      For those interested in southwestern art history, El Palacio reports on New Mexico's art and art history; it's also one of the oldest museum magazines in the ...

    • Folk Art Magazine

      This magazine, published by the American Museum of Folk Art, covers history features and interviews related to folk art in the United States.

    • Smithsonian Magazine

      Published by the Smithsonian Institution, this is one of the most widely read and respected magazines on art and art history in the United States.

    • The Burlington Magazine

      This century-old magazine seeks to present "what is best and most interesting in the world of art," including features, debate, research and discovery.

Art History Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • "Take a Chance" Grant

      Deadline: February 1

      Award Amount: Up to $1,000

      This grant from the FAIC is for imaginative and innovative art history and conservation projects that may not otherwise be funded; applicants must be Foundation members.

    • AAH Collaboration and Individual Awards

      Deadline: May 1st and November 1st

      Award Amount: £200- £5000

      These grants from the AAH provide financial assistance for art history professionals in museums to undertake research or exhibition projects, both on an individual and collaborative basis.

    • American Academy in Berlin Fellowship

      Deadline: TBD

      Award Amount: $5,000 per month, plus room and board

      This grant goes to art history professionals and other scholars to travel to Berlin for a semester or year and conduct research along with the American Academy in Berlin.

    • CAA Travel Grant

      Deadline: February 1

      Award Amount: $500

      This grant for graduate students of art history funds travel to the annual CAA conference, which consists of lectures, sessions, and workshops that support art history professional development.

    • College Art Association Fellowship Grant

      Deadline: October 1

      Award Amount: $5,000

      This grant is for art historians and artists in MFA or PhD programs; the financial award is to be used in job-search expenses, purchasing materials for work and other professional growth activities.

    • John Fleming Travel Award

      Deadline: December 1

      Award Amount: £2,000

      This grant from the AAH is open to undergraduate and graduate students of art history and is meant to help students organize travel that will contribute to their research in the discipline.

  • Scholarships

    • FAIC Individual Professional Development Scholarship

      Deadline: February 15 and September 15

      Award Amount: Up to $1,000

      This scholarship is for FAIC members and is meant to help fund "seminars, courses, research or other continuing education endeavors" that add to applicants' ...

    • University of Oklahoma School of Art & Art History Scholarships

      Deadline: March 1

      Award Amount: Varies

      The U of O offers over a dozen scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students in the art history department; many scholarships require a 3.0 GPA or ...

    • University of Utah Art History Scholarships

      Deadline: February 1

      Award Amount: Full tuition

      Utah offers numerous scholarships for incoming freshmen interested in art history, as well as undergraduates in the field, in order to pay for students' full ...

    • William and Mary Art History Scholarships

      Deadline: First Monday in April

      Award Amount: Varies

      The College of William and Mary offers three art history scholarships to help students pursuing studies in that field pay for their college tuition; funds are ...

Art History Internships

Art History Student & Professional Organizations

  • Student Organizations

  • Professional Organizations

    • Art Historians of Southern California

      This organization, founded in 1959, strives to bring together art history professionals on the west coast to "engage in dialogue about the most current scholarship and professional practice."

    • College Art Association

      The CAA, founded over a century ago, is made up of both professionals and advocates in art history and the arts in general; its mission is promoting arts education and development.