Earning an art degree prepares painters, photographers, sculptors, and multimedia artists to hone their craft, while an art history degree prepares graduates for careers as museum curators, art gallery assistants, or art teachers. Artists also gain valuable skills while critiquing each other's work and organizing exhibitions and shows, which can translate into jobs in nonprofit organizations or event management.
With a broad base of critical thinking and technical skills, art and art history graduates work in a variety of growing fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects, for example, that positions for fine artists, multimedia artists, and museum curators will grow between 6-13% by 2026, making now a terrific time to pursue a degree in the field. By completing a bachelor's in art and art history, graduates are opened to numerous career opportunities while also studying their passion.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Art and Art History?
Art and art history degree programs provide core abilities in the fine arts, and the degree often includes a technical element for artists who rely on computer programs or work with difficult materials. As a fine arts degree, an art program trains students how to be fine artists, while also building skills in critiquing, analyzing, and creating visual work. Some programs include a design option for students interested in visual or graphic design. Art history majors also gain valuable skills for careers in museums or galleries, along with the writing and research abilities to succeed in a variety of other fields.
Prospective art and art history students benefit from their program's support system while in school, which may include networking opportunities with local artists, museums, and galleries. Some art programs offer opportunities to exhibit student work or build a professional portfolio while in school. As students near graduation, art and art history programs can also offer help finding internships and locating job opportunities. After graduation, many fine arts careers hire candidates with a bachelor's in art and art history for entry-level positions as museum educators, multimedia artists, and designers.
When choosing between different art and art history programs, prospective students may wish to weigh the benefits of an online bachelor's degree. Online programs provide opportunities to collaborate with fellow students and critique work, while completing any degree requirements (such as an internship) locally. The online or hybrid format may also appeal to professionals pursuing a degree around their work obligations. Students moving straight from high school into a bachelor's program, or those with a strong local art program, may prefer an on-campus option.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Art and Art History?
An art and art history bachelor's degree prepares graduates for a variety of career paths in the arts, humanities, and education. Some graduates with an art degree become fine artists and produce work in their chosen medium to sell. Art and art history majors may also work as educators, in museums curating exhibits and teaching visitors about the museum's collection, or in fine arts galleries. Majors with a specialization in design can work as graphic designers or interior designers (depending on their background), and graduates with strong computer skills may work as multimedia artists.
- Fine Artist
Fine artists create art for exhibition and sale. They work in a variety of artistic mediums, drawing on different techniques and materials to create art. Some work in glassware, textiles, or paint, while others are illustrators, photographers, or sculptors. Fine artists may work for a commercial art studio or may be self-employed.
Median Annual Salary: $49,160
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Museum Curator
Museum curators oversee a collection of artwork or historic items in a museum or gallery, and they help design exhibitions featuring the museum's collection. They may also play a role in preserving or processing collection materials. Larger museums may require curators to hold a master's degree, while smaller museums may hire candidates with a bachelor's in art or art history.
Median Annual Salary: $47,360
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
- Graphic Designer
Graphic designers communicate ideas visually, and often rely on computer software to create an original design. They develop the layout for advertisements and magazines, and graphic designers also create production designs. They may work for a company or in a freelance capacity, and a bachelor's in art or design often meets the entry level job requirements.
Median Annual Salary: $48,700
Projected Growth Rate: 4%
- Multimedia Artist
Multimedia artists create visual effects and animation for companies, including video games, storyboards, and CGI effects. A bachelor's degree in art with experience in computer graphics programs qualifies candidates for entry level positions in the field.
Median Annual Salary: $70,530
Projected Growth Rate:8 %
- High School Teacher
High school teachers create lesson plans, assess student learning, and educate young learners in a particular subject. Art and art history majors may become art teachers or teach social studies. In some states, graduates with a bachelor's in art and art history may need additional educator training to qualify for a teaching license.
Median Annual Salary: $59,170
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
How to Choose a Bachelor's Program in Art and Art History
Prospective students have many choices when it comes to earning a bachelor's degree in art and art history. From liberal arts colleges to specialized art and design schools, students may struggle to narrow down their options. By considering key factors such as the cost, location, and time to degree, prospective art and art history majors can find the program that best fits their interests and career goals.
The cost of an art degree varies depending on the institution. When considering costs, students need to research tuition, fees, and associated expenses such as housing, commuting, and parking. Public schools offer a lower tuition rate for in-state residents, and many institutions provide discounts for fully online students. Location can also affect the ability to gain internship opportunities and network for jobs after graduation. Finally, the time to degree may make an expensive program less costly if students can transfer in college credits.
In addition to these factors, prospective art and art history students also need to consider the specializations available at each program. An art student interested in printmaking, for example, may only wish to consider programs that offer a track in printmaking. Students can also research the graduation requirements to learn how many general art classes they must take versus the specialized courses in their track.
Finally, some students may prefer the flexibility and accessibility of an online degree. The top online art and art history programs let students arrange their coursework around work and family obligations, allowing students to earn a degree on their own schedule.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Art and Art History
Accreditation ensures that degree-granting institutions follow the highest standards for educational practices. Regional or national accreditation evaluates an entire institution, measuring student learning outcomes, degree requirements, and faculty qualifications. By contrast, programmatic accreditation assesses a single program within the college or university, such as the business school, a teacher education program, or a social work program.
As with many other fine arts and humanities majors, most art and art history programs do not hold programmatic accreditation. Instead, art and art history departments receive accreditation through the regional or national accrediting agency. However, some specialized art schools hold programmatic accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, which sets standards for art degrees. Accreditation matters because only accredited institutions qualify for federal financial aid and meet the requirements for certain licenses and certifications. An accredited degree may also help graduates on the job market.
Bachelor's in Art and Art History Program Admissions
To apply to a bachelor's in art and art history program, candidates must submit required admission materials. These materials give students the chance to impress the admissions committee and demonstrate their ability to succeed at the college level. Some art programs set their own prerequisite courses before students can join the major, which students complete after being admitted to the college or university.
The admission process varies depending on the school, but most require an application, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and test scores. The process may require more involved interaction for online programs, however, and may include working directly with an admission advisor to complete the process. Students should research the admission process when deciding whether to apply to a particular school; this ensures they meet the minimum requirements and prerequisites before spending money on an application fee.
- Minimum GPA: Some art and art history programs set a minimum GPA for admission, which may be as high as a 3.0 GPA. Programs may admit students on a provisional basis if they do not meet a minimum requirement.
- Application: Most programs require an online or paper application, which lists the applicant's educational history, background, and any relevant information. Students may be able to complete the Common App, which lets students use one application to apply to any of 700 different colleges and universities.
- Transcripts: Students must provide high school or college transcripts, depending on the program. Incoming transfer students with at least one year of college credit often only need to provide college transcripts.
- Letters of Recommendation: Many programs require two or three letters of recommendation, which speak to the applicant's academic promise. Applicants should give their recommenders at least three weeks notice.
- Test Scores: Colleges and universities may require either SAT or ACT scores. Some schools waive this requirement for transfer students with at least one year of college credits.
- Application Fee: Most programs charge an application fee to review the admission materials. Students can apply for a fee waiver, and some schools do not charge a fee for applications.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's Program in Art and Art History?
A bachelor's degree in art and art history may offer concentrations in painting, sculpture, drawing, or fine arts. Each program designs its own graduation requirements, concentrations, and curriculum, however, so students should research their potential programs carefully.
|Painting||Painting students learn various techniques of painting and study the history of the medium, with an emphasis on the studio component of painting. Students often work together to critique each other's work, and artists incorporate the feedback into refining their art.||Art teacher, gallery curator|
|Art History||Students who take an art history track within an art or art history program study the changing nature of art, from ancient sculpture to postmodern graphic art. Majors may specialize in a particular area of art history, such as the Renaissance, modern art, or the Baroque period.||Museum educator, archivist|
|Photography||Photography majors study the history of photography, printmaking, and post-production. Most programs cover digital photography, with the option to learn darkroom developing. Photography students may also learn 3D design and illustration techniques as part of their education.||Photographer, photo retoucher|
|Design||Some art and art history programs offer design tracks, where students study graphic and visual design elements. Design students may also specialize in industrial design, interior design, or user experience design. Learners also explore traditional and computer design, which builds skills for a variety of careers after graduation.||interior designer, UX/UI design, industrial design, graphic design|
|Fine Arts||Some programs offer a general fine arts track for students who want to build skills in a variety of different disciplines. Fine arts students may take classes in sculpture, painting, drawing, 3D design, photography, and other studio or fine arts.||Art teacher, museum educator|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Art and Art History Program
Art and art history degree programs offer broad introductory classes in different mediums before students specialize in an area of fine art. Some programs require a foundation in art before majors take advanced classes in one area. While each program sets its own curriculum, many offer a version of the classes listed below.
Sculpture classes introduce art students to different methods, materials, and processes around making sculptures. Students build technical skills while learning how to critique sculpture. The class may also cover the history of sculpture and learn about different materials such as wood, plaster, metal, and clay.
Many art programs incorporate a drawing class that builds skills in sketching, illustration, and design. The course emphasizes the role of drawing in art practice, while students practice different drawing techniques and learn difference between abstract drawing and observational drawing.
In photography classes, students learn to design, process, and edit photographic art. The class may use digital imaging processes and require studio projects based on different themes. Students build critiquing skills and learn to interpret photographic art.
- Introduction to Art History
Art history students often start with an introductory class, which covers major movements in art such as the Renaissance, romanticism, and postmodern art. They learn about important artists, their medium, and the context for their work. This class prepares art history majors for more in-depth study of particular periods in art.
- Senior Project
Many art programs incorporate a senior project for students based on their fine art specialty. Senior projects may include a research component, where students learn about artists that inspire their work, and a studio component where students create work and critique each other's work. The class may end with a studio exhibit to showcase the work.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Art and Art History?
Typically, a bachelor's degree takes four years of full-time study and requires a minimum of 120 credits. However, the length of an art degree may vary depending on the program and a student's educational background. Students with significant transfer credits, for example, may be able to finish a bachelor's degree in art and art history in only one or two years. On the other hand, students who choose a part-time option may require more than four years.
The program structure also affects the length of time to degree. Some art programs require an internship component, which may add time to the degree, or include a capstone project with an art exhibition. Art history students may need to also write a research paper as part of their graduation requirements. Because these requirements vary by program, prospective students need to carefully research the curriculum at each potential program.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Art and Art History?
The cost of an art and art history bachelor's degree varies depending on the program and the institution. In-state public colleges and universities charge the lowest tuition rate, for example, with College Board reporting that these institutions charged an average tuition rate of just under $10,000 a year in 2017/2018. Out-of-state public schools, by comparison, charged over $25,000 in tuition, with private schools exceeding $35,000 a year.
An art degree may cost less if students secure scholarships, grants, or other forms of financial aid. Some schools also offer tuition discounts for fully online programs. When calculating the cost of a degree, students need to consider additional costs beyond tuition, such as books and supplies, fees, and living expenses. Online students may save on commuting, parking, and childcare expenses, which can add up to thousands of dollars each year.
When researching the cost of different programs, prospective students should reach out to an admissions advisor to discuss tuition discounts, scholarships, and work study opportunities. Students may be able to lower costs by transferring in college credits earned at another institution or a community college, so transfer students also need to research each school's transfer credit policies.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Art and Art History Prepares For
Art and art history graduates pursue a variety of careers after graduation, most of which do not require a certification or license. However, artists who choose to specialize in education may decide to earn a teaching license or become a board certified art teacher. In addition, artists in graphics or animation may benefit from earning certifications in their specialty.
- Teaching License
Art and art history majors may qualify for a teaching license, depending on their state licensure guidelines. Graduates can become art teachers or teach history or social studies. Some states may require additional teacher preparation before candidates with a bachelor's degree qualify for a teaching license.
- Certified Art Teacher
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers board certification for art teachers who demonstrate their content area knowledge by passing an examination. Candidates must have at least three years of teaching experience and a bachelor's degree. The certification covers early and middle childhood or early adolescence through young adulthood.
- Unity Certified 3D Artist
Artists who work in the graphic arts can earn the Unity certified 3D artist designation by completing an examination that covers rendering, lighting, and animation skills. The certification remains valid for two years.
Resources for Art and Art History Students
The Art Jobs Board boasts over 500,000 artists using the free resource to find paid and unpaid job opportunities, with events and workshops to support artists.
The online resources at the Met website include learning resources for students, teachers, and professionals, with a full timeline of art history.
With over 40,000 images from museums around the world, Google's ART Project lets artists and art historians zoom in on images and learn about artists throughout history.
AIGA offers a jobs board for design openings across the country, including positions for graphic designers, UX/UI designers, and academic positions. The board also features freelance, internship, and pro bono opportunities for designers.
Artists looking for an appraiser can benefit from the Appraisers Association. Resources include a membership directory to locate a local appraiser.
Professional Organizations in Art and Art History
Students with a bachelor's degree in art and art history can leverage the numerous resources available through professional associations. These organizations bring together artists working in different mediums, and provide networking opportunities, awards and competitions, and professional development resources. Many organizations also offer career services, which include jobs boards where graduates can post their resume. By joining a professional organization, artists and art historians connect with professionals in their field to advance their careers.
Dating back to 1911, the College Art Association promotes the exchange of ideas between artists and art historians. The CAA publishes The Art Bulletin and Art Journal, hosts an annual conference, and provides information about job openings.
Founded in 1901, the Society of Illustrators supports the art of illustration and runs a museum in New York City. The Society hosts events, confers awards, and organizes competitions for artists.
NAIA offers opportunities to network, resources for hosting art shows, and information for artists to advance their career. Members receive access to a directory for networking, discount programs, and the NAIA newspaper.
A professional organization for art educators, NAEA members include K-12 art teachers, professors, future art educators, and teaching artists. The association publishes standards, provides resources on teaching, and hosts conferences and summer programs.
Dating back to 1914, AIGA brings together design professionals, advocates for the value of design, and offers professional development resources. Members receive access to the jobs board, member discounts, and health insurance enrollment assistance.