Earning a Master's in Art History Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Art History Online?

Students earning their master's in art history online explore various art movements throughout human history and cultures. They also study different societies, traditions, religions, and architectural styles all over the world. Many enter an online art history master's program because of their passion for the topic; this often translates into careers where they can share their love of art history with others, such as museum curation or art history education.

An art history master's program online provides distance learners with the flexibility to balance personal and/or professional commitments while earning their degree. This means they can work full time or care for their families and complete coursework when it is most convenient. Programs may also be available in either part-time or accelerated formats, giving students additional considerations to accommodate their responsibilities. Earning your art history degree online may be cheaper, too, as online learners often receive discounted rates or are eligible for in-state tuition prices.

The guide below provides information about what to expect from a master of arts in art history online, as well as potential career options and salary outlooks.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Art History Graduates

Master's in Art History Salary

An art history degree prepares graduates for an array of job prospects, including in traditional industries such as art museums or education. However, graduates also hold positions in fields like information technology or advertising. Given the diversity of career tracks master's degree holders can pursue, the salary outlook for art history graduates varies widely. Yearly earnings range from around $35,000 for recent graduates, to about $80,000 for experienced professionals. But those numbers depend on several factors, including location, position, and industry.

Master's in Art History Careers

A master's in art history online prepares graduates to leverage their expertise in the real world. They often pursue careers working for museums, art galleries, or art-related nonprofit organizations. These professionals may find themselves in several different positions, such as curating collections, archiving artifacts, planning fundraisers, developing museum tours, or organizing the logistics of transporting art. Art history graduates may become educators, teaching others at museums or in higher education.

Curator, Art Gallery

Annual Median Salary: $45,924

An art gallery curator assembles art collections at museums, galleries, and exhibitions. They develop themes for certain presentations, and choose artists or pieces of art that demonstrate those themes. Curators need a sound background in art history, as they regularly draw from the background in the field.

Museum Registrar

Annual Median Salary: $41,955

A museum registrar manages collections and exhibitions. Registrars may organize the logistics of shipping art to and from museums, help with the maintenance and preservation of art pieces, or manage museum tours. They may also coordinate artwork on loan from other museums.

Museum Educator

Annual Median Salary: $35,567

Museums offer educational programming to its visitors through tours, presentations, after school classes, extracurricular activities for kids, or lectures for adults. These professionals design the tours and plan the educational programs. They sometimes oversee volunteers, and train the volunteers to participate in instructional events.


Annual Median Salary: $47,347

Archivists at museums create catalogues and systemize various items, such as art pieces, artifacts, documents, and manuscripts. These days, archivists often use technological tools to help them organize and preserve these items. Archivists possess an expertise in their field, and a master's degree can be good preparation for this career.

Source: PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Art History Program?

Students in online art history master's degree programs explore the field from ancient to contemporary times. Graduate programs usually also require methodology and research courses, as well as coursework devoted to a specific time period, art movement, or geographical location. Sometimes courses may focus on one influential artist or school. While curricula vary by program, the list below provides a sample of the available courses in a typical online master's degree in art history.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Art History

Methodologies of Art History

Schools of theory and methodology change as frequently as art itself, and students learn how art historians have approached the discipline over several centuries. The course may examine theories such as semiotics, social history, or gender studies, and students are expected to conduct research and engage in critical analysis.

Museums and Society

Museums are one of the primary ways people engage with art, and this course examines the cultural and political roles museums play in society. Learners study concepts like museum construction and exhibition curation, as well as how curators strategize and acquire pieces. The course also examines specific museums as case studies.

Italian Renaissance Art

An art history master's program typically offers courses that explore one specific time period or movement. This particular course concentrates on Italian art from 1300 to 1550, and examines paintings, sculptures, and architecture from that time. Students learn about some of the most influential artists in history, like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael.

Contemporary Visual Art and Postmodernism

The field of art history also explores artists and expressions from the 20th and 21st centuries. Contemporary art and postmodernism introduces students to movements like photorealism, new abstraction, minimalism, and performance art. The courses also places these movements in larger cultural, social, and political contexts.

Buddhist Art

Several programs offer courses in global art history, such as Buddhist art from India, Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea. Students learn about the figure of Buddha, as well as calligraphy, sculptures, painting, and architecture. The course gives an overview of the Buddhist religion to provide students with a necessary context.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Art History Prepares For

  • Smithsonian World Art History Certification: Art history graduates may want an extra credential to help them stand out in the job market. The Smithsonian World Art History Certificate includes short-term intensive courses with topics including Moroccan architecture, Impressionism, and art in Fin-de-Siecle Vienna. Students must complete 10 courses to earn this certificate.
  • ISA Appraiser Credential: The International Society of Appraisers (ISA) offers a credential for those wanting to appraise art and other valuable items. Along with an online art history master's degree, this credential trains professionals to understand the worth of fine art. Those interested can prepare for this credential through ISA courses and webinars.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional associations allow students in online art history master's programs to learn more about their field and connect with other students and professionals. Distance learners may find professional associations especially helpful, as they can network with others at conferences, symposiums, and local meetings. In addition, students receive helpful access to academic resources and scholarly journals, as well as job boards, career services, or mentorship programs.

  • Art Museum Network: Founded in 1996, the AMN provides a directory of articles, presentations, and videos related to art history and museums. Students and professionals may use AMN to find sources for their research.

  • Association of Historians of American Art: This organization provides a forum for professionals interested in American art, and especially Native American art. Members can apply for travel grants to attend the group's conference and symposium. They can also network remotely through the association's membership directory.

  • American Alliance of Museums: The AAM provides several resources for art museum professionals and students. Members can read about career management and find mentorship opportunities. They can also access podcasts, blogs, and magazines.

  • Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art: Students with a particular interest in 19th century art can attend an annual conference and a graduate symposium. Graduate students can also apply to present their research.

  • Association of Art Historians: Located in the UK, this association is open to students and professionals from all over the world. Members receive access to a jobs board and the group's Art History academic journal.

  • Americans for the Arts: This organization operates as a network for people working in every area of the arts. Art history students and professionals can find academic resources through the group's research hub.

  • International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art: Established in 1998 in Paris, this association publishes a journal that publishes the field's latest academic research. Students can also find scholarship and fellowship opportunities.

  • College Art Association: This student organization provides professional development fellowships for graduate students, in addition to publishing and travel grants. Members can listen to podcasts, search for internships, and browse job postings.

  • Artsy: This organization offers a database of artwork, resources about art content and context, and famous artists' biographies. The site's education section includes several articles on contemporary and historical art.

  • International Journal of Art and Art History: This academic journal publishes research on art history from all time periods and locations. Individuals with access to this journal can find a wealth of information for their research and work.

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