Art and Art History Degree & Career Guide

What to expect from an art and art history degree program

Art and art history degree programs provide many opportunities where creativity intersects with cultural exploration and scholarly inquiry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of craft and fine artists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, which may be driven by sustainable demand for visual content in areas like media, advertising, and digital platforms. Museum curators, archivists, and conservators are expected to see a 10 percent growth during the same period, reflecting the continued importance of preserving and exhibiting cultural artifacts.

Beyond these fields, graduates frequently pursue varied career paths, including positions as art educators, graphic designers, art therapists, and gallery managers, among others. The flexibility of art degrees, offered at all levels, from associate to doctoral, enables individuals to enter the field at any point in their educational journey.

Types of art and art history degrees

Associate degree

An associate degree in art or art history is designed for creative individuals seeking a foundational understanding of artistic principles and cultural contexts. Graduates can pursue entry-level positions such as gallery assistants, museum technicians, or art education aides. Depending on your route, the curriculum may include studio art, art history classes, or a combination of both. In studio art classes, students will develop painting, drawing, sculpture, and critical analysis skills. Meanwhile, those focusing on art history will delve into art movements, learning to interpret and articulate artistic ideas. Many curriculums include practical elements, such as portfolio development and exhibition curation, to improve students’ ability to demonstrate their creative prowess.

  • Degrees available: Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Fine Arts (AFA), Associate of Science (AS)
  • Minimum credits: 60
  • Average length of program: 2 years full-time

Bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree in art or art history can be the key to comprehensive artistic exploration for students passionate about visual expression and cultural understanding. These programs cultivate creativity while honing critical thinking and analytical skills. The curriculum typically includes courses in studio art, art history surveys, and specialized coursework, allowing students to develop technical proficiency and a nuanced understanding of art’s historical and contemporary contexts. Emphasis is often placed on cultivating a personal artistic voice and fostering a well-rounded foundation that prepares graduates for roles in museums, galleries, art education, and curation.

  • Degrees available: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Minimum credits: 120
  • Average length of program: 4 years full-time

Master’s degree

A master’s degree is an excellent educational route for students seeking advanced expertise and leadership roles in art, and there are many different types of degrees to help achieve specific goals. For example, an MA emphasizes scholarly research and art historical analysis, preparing students for roles in academia, museum curation, or research. On the other hand, an MFA is geared towards studio practice, refining artistic skills for careers as practicing artists or art educators. An MS in Art History often integrates a more scientific or technical approach, suitable for conservation or archival work roles. These diverse paths cater to students with distinct aspirations, providing a nuanced, specialized education that aligns with their career goals.

  • Degrees available: Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), Master of Science (MS)
  • Minimum credits: 36
  • Average length of program: 2 years full-time

Doctorate degree

A doctorate in art or art history is crafted for scholars seeking the apex of mastery. Geared toward the curious, analytical mind, a Ph.D. in Art History emphasizes original research, critical discourse, and the completion of a substantial dissertation. It opens doors to academia, museum curation, and research leadership. In contrast, a Doctor of Fine Arts (DFA) or Doctor of Arts (DA) caters to aspiring practicing artists, focusing on innovative studio work and a significant creative project. Graduates with a Ph.D. are equipped for roles in higher education, curatorial positions, and scholarly research. At the same time, DFA or DA holders find opportunities as professional artists, influential contributors to the artistic community, and leaders in creative industries.

  • Degrees available: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Fine Arts (DFA), Doctor of Arts (DA)
  • Minimum credits: 60
  • Average length of program: 4 years full-time

Specialization options

Whether you opt for an art or an art history degree will lead to different specialization options that can help you align your education with your future career.

Pursuing an art degree offers a canvas for creativity and a spectrum of possibilities for specialization, mainly for those who wish to become practicing artists. However, these degrees can also lead to opportunities in art education.

  • Painting: Focuses on various painting techniques, styles, and mediums.
  • Sculpture: Involves three-dimensional artistic creation using materials like clay, metal, or wood.
  • Drawing: Emphasizes the development of drawing skills through various mediums.
  • Graphic Design: Concentrates on visual communication, combining artistic skill with technology to create designs for print and digital media.
  • Illustration: Focuses on creating visual representations for various purposes, such as books, magazines, or digital media.
  • Photography: Explores the art and techniques of capturing and manipulating images through photography.
  • Digital Arts and New Media: Explores the intersection of art and technology, encompassing digital media, interactive installations, and virtual environments.

Meanwhile, students interested in pursuing an art history degree can shape their academic pursuits by choosing a specialization like the following – preparing them for careers as historians, curators, and educators.

  • Art Conservation: Involves the preservation and restoration of artworks, requiring expertise in materials, chemistry, and restoration techniques.
  • Contemporary Art Studies: Focuses on analyzing and interpreting art produced in the present day, exploring the cultural and social contexts of modern artistic expression.
  • Museum Studies: Concentrates on the curation, management, and exhibition of artworks within museums, galleries, and cultural institutions.
  • Art Education: Prepares individuals to teach art at various educational levels, emphasizing pedagogy, curriculum development, and community engagement.
  • Curatorial Studies: Trains students in the selection, organization, and presentation of art collections, fostering skills in exhibition design and interpretation.

The Best Art and Art History Degree Programs

This list features some of the best art and art history degree programs in the U.S. The schools on this list are non-profit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with high standards for post-secondary education.

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and student resources as well as admission, retention, and graduation rates. We also compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications, including U.S. News & World Report. Using this data, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Online Bachelor’s Degrees

Online Master’s Degrees

What Can I Do With a Degree in Art and Art History?

A degree in art or art history provides many job opportunities in both creative and scholarly sectors. Graduates can pursue diverse careers, including becoming museum curators, art educators, gallery managers, or practicing artists. Those with a penchant for preservation can explore art conservation, while others may enter roles in graphic design, illustration, or art therapy.

Some of the most popular and fastest-growing occupations include the following:

Fine Artist

Median annual salary: $53,140
Job outlook: 4% increase through 2032

Fine artists are creative professionals who express their artistic vision through various mediums, such as painting, sculpture, drawing, or multimedia installations. While it’s possible to have a career as an artist without a formal degree, many artists pursue a bachelor’s degree in fine arts to refine their technical skills and explore artistic concepts.


Median annual salary: $53,420
Job outlook: 10% increase through 2032

Responsible for acquiring, preserving, and interpreting collections of art or artifacts, curators are pivotal in shaping the narrative and educational impact of exhibitions. While some curators may enter the field with a bachelor’s degree and relevant experience, obtaining a master’s degree in art history is typically the pathway to advanced curatorial roles. Higher education equips curators with in-depth knowledge, research skills, and a nuanced understanding of art and cultural contexts, allowing them to curate exhibitions that engage audiences.

Postsecondary Art Teacher

Median annual salary: $77,280

Job outlook: 8% increase through 2032
Art teachers foster creativity and artistic skills in students of various age groups. Working in schools or community settings, they design engaging art lessons, guide hands-on projects, and cultivate an appreciation for artistic expression. At the postsecondary level, such as in college or art institutions, a master’s degree is typically required to pursue a career as an art teacher. This degree provides aspiring art teachers with pedagogical strategies, classroom management skills, and a solid foundation in art theory.

Student Resources and Organizations

Pursuing an art or art history degree online can be both exciting and nuanced. To assist you in making an educated decision, explore the following list of additional resources.

For high school students considering a degree in art or art history, joining a pre-professional organization or a club that fosters creativity and exploration may be beneficial. Organizations like the National Art Honor Society provide a platform for networking, skill development, and exposure to multiple artistic disciplines. Participating in art-related extracurricular activities, such as a school art club or local art workshops, can offer valuable hands-on experiences.

While pursuing a traditional degree is a familiar path, alternative options like specialized bootcamps or certifications in graphic design, digital arts, or specific software applications provide focused, practical training for those seeking more direct entry into certain artistic professions.

Frequently Asked Questions: Art and Art History Degrees

Should I get an art or art history degree in person or online?

Most institutions use an identical curriculum for both programs, so the choice between an in-person or online art or art history degree will depend on your specific preferences and circumstances.

In-person programs offer a traditional, immersive experience, fostering collaboration, immediate feedback, and access to physical resources like studios or libraries. On the other hand, online degrees provide flexibility, accommodating those with a full-time job or other commitments, and often leverage digital tools for virtual collaboration.

Both options have unique advantages, so it’s essential to consider your learning style, schedule, and the level of interaction you prefer when deciding between these options.

Is an art or art history degree worth it?

While some artistic careers may yield lower initial salaries than other fields, the intrinsic value lies in pursuing passion and developing critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Additionally, cultural institutions, galleries, and educational settings increasingly value employees with a significant understanding of art and its historical context – meaning that students with this skill set have immense value in the job market, even if the careers are less lucrative than other industries.

How much does an art or art history degree cost?

For the 2021-2022 academic year, undergraduate tuition averaged $26,901, while graduate tuition averaged $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year. It’s crucial to note that these figures can vary significantly based on factors such as degree level, institution, and residency status. Be sure to contact a financial aid counselor at your school to learn more about the overall cost of attendance and any funding opportunities that may be available to help you reduce expenses.

Interested in a degree instead?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.