Online Master's Programs in Art History

Pursuing a master's in art history online gives graduates the credentials and qualifications needed to take on exciting roles in some of the world's best museums, galleries, and auction houses. Whether you already possess an undergraduate degree in art history and several years of experience in the field or you studied something unrelated and want to change careers, this degree can help you reach those goals.

If you want to better understand the merits of earning a master's in art history online, read on to learn about standard courses, available specializations, common careers, average salaries, funding options, and professional networking opportunities for workers in this field.

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

Individuals who earn a master's in art history online degree develop a nuanced and advanced set of knowledge and competencies that can serve them well in many roles. Aside from gaining a deep understanding of historical time periods and artistic trends, learners also build highly transferable skills related to oral and written communication, research, and analysis. Learners who decide to pursue a specialization also build concentrated knowledge in a particular style, mode, or era of art.

Online and on-campus degree-seekers listen to lectures, complete readings, submit assignments, participate in group projects, and take examinations. However, online students can participate from any location with a steady internet connection. Some online art history programs may require learners to participate in a practicum at an approved museum or art site, but this can usually be done near a student's home.

What Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Art History Program?

The courses discussed in this section can give students a general sense of common art history coursework, but those looking for more in-depth and detailed plans of study should check with individual art history departments.

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    History of Photography: Learners enrolled in this class explore the evolution of photography over time, beginning with its invention in the early 19th century and ending with the continued improvements being made in digital photography. Students also familiarize themselves with photography artists.
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    Women Artists Throughout History: Degree-seekers taking this class learn about major female artists throughout history, including Kahlo, Hesse, and O'Keefe. Learners also discuss common themes in their works of art and how artistic communities have helped and/or hindered them over time.
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    Contemporary Art: This class familiarizes students with current trends, criticisms, and issues within the world of contemporary art. Special emphasis is given to ensuring artists of diverse backgrounds and interests are allotted space to show their work.
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    Art History Writing: Designed to help students build their art history vocabulary, this course provides the skills needed to write thoughtfully and precisely about individual and collective pieces of art. Students learn how to use words to define aesthetics and provide insightful criticism.
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    Exhibit Design: An important class for degree-seekers who aspire to work in museum and/or gallery settings, this course instills skills and competencies related to exhibition design. Students learn about exhibition graphics, foam core models, and creating accessible spaces for patrons and visitors.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Aside from completing coursework, students enrolled in a master's in art history online program must also create a final project.

Those who wish to work in more curatorial settings usually opt for a culminating portfolio, case study, or exhibition design plan as a way of building marketable job skills. Individuals who aspire to academic and/or research posts typically research and write a thesis that explores a piece of art, several pieces of art, or a movement within art history from a fresh or unique perspective. Some programs may also require degree-seekers to participate in a practicum or internship.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master's in Art History Program?

Master's in art history online programs cover a vast spectrum of topics, and many departments offer specializations to help learners develop nuanced skills and knowledge in their chosen area. A few of the most common specializations are discussed below.

  • Ancient Art: This specialization supports individuals interested in learning about the foundations of all art. Learners consider pieces originating from places like Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and China.
  • Modern Art: Degree-seekers passionate about art created from 1750 until the present gravitate toward this specialization, which exposes them to subjects in painting, sculpture, photography, and other art forms.
  • European Art: Europe serves as a major player in the world of art history, beginning with ancient pieces and moving through Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Modern eras.

How Much Can I Make With a Career in Art History?

Graduates of master's in art history online programs can choose from several careers, depending on how they want to use the degree and in what type of setting they hope to work. While no degree can guarantee a particular title or salary, the jobs highlighted below are commonly held by art history graduates.

Art Historian

Art historians work in academic and research settings to gather information about works of art and artistic movements. They may study papers and documents related to art, analyze paintings, and trace artistic developments throughout history in various areas of the world.

Median Annual Salary: $61,140

Job Growth 2018-2028: 6%

Art Director

Using their knowledge of art history and movements, art directors create new visual styles and design elements used in printed and online materials. They may work in house for a single publication or maintain a portfolio of freelance clients based on their interests and financial goals.

Median Annual Salary: $92,780

Job Growth 2018-2028: 1%

Art Curator

Curators work in museums, galleries, libraries, and other spaces that share art. They catalog new materials, ensure authenticity, provide appraisals, research pieces, write plaques, design exhibits, and educate the public about the significance of individual pieces or movements within art history.

Median Annual Salary: $53,780

Job Growth 2018-2028: 10%

Online Master's in Art History Program Accreditation

One of the most important steps a student can take is to ensure their master's in art history online program holds proper accreditation. Within this discipline, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) provides programmatic accreditation. You can check and see whether your prospective schools hold accreditation by using NASAD's searchable directory.

Degree-seekers should also look for schools that maintain institutional accreditation. You can use the Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to find approved schools.

How to Pay for a Master's in Art History Degree

Because the price of higher education continues to rise each year, would-be students are constantly looking for ways of reducing out-of-pocket costs. The following section explores common methods for paying for your master's in art history.

  • Federal Funding: Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows students to see if they qualify for grants, work-study funds, and student loans provided by the U.S. Department of Education. The department disburses funds on a rolling basis, and students must fill out the FAFSA each year.
  • Fellowships: Many museums offer fellowships to help learners continue expanding their art history knowledge. Learners seeking a study abroad experience may also be able to find an international fellowship.
  • Employer Assistance/Reimbursement: Students already working in art history roles may be able to receive employer-provided tuition assistance. This allows up to $5,250 per year to be excluded from the employee's income, thereby lessening taxes.

Scholarships for Master's in Art History Students

Support Creativity Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award supports graduate students working toward art history master's programs in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania. Applications are due by May 1.

Amount: $1,000

Apply for Scholarship

Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Art history graduate students who submit applications by November 15 will receive consideration for this award.
Amount: $2,000

Amount: $2,000

Apply for Scholarship

Rick Chace Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Graduate students enrolled in museum studies or related programs are eligible to apply for this non-renewable award.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Terra Foundation Fellowship in American Art

Who Can Apply: Students looking to spend a year at the Smithsonian American Art Museum conducting research can apply for this 12-month award.

Amount: Up to $60,000

Apply for Scholarship

Metropolitan Museum of Art Fellowships

Who Can Apply: Graduate students enrolled in art history and related programs can apply for these fellowships. Recipients can work on interdisciplinary projects and study objects in The Met collection.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Professional Organizations and Resources

Joining a professional association, whether as a student or a professional, can give you access to networking events, continuing education programming, career support, certification, and funding opportunities. The list below describes some relevant art history organizations.

  • College Art Association: Since 1911, CAA has supported the intersection of arts and academics. The group offers an annual conference, awards, grants, podcasts, job postings, and publications.
  • Association of Historians of American Art: AHAA has served American art historians since 1979, providing members with annual sessions, biennial symposiums, a membership directory, book reviews, travel grants, and professional opportunities.
  • Association for Art History: Members of AAH gain access to job postings, professional opportunities, international events, and industry news.
  • Association of Art Museum Curators: Joining AAMC allows you to take advantage of awards and fellowships, national conferences, webinars, professional practices guides, and information about open curatorial roles.
  • Midwestern Art History Society: MAHS provides a great example of what to look for when seeking a regional professional association. The group offers publications, awards and grants, an annual conference, and a career center.