The stereotype of "starving artists" may persist to this day, but in reality, tens of thousands of Americans make a living by creating art. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), craft and fine artists earned a median salary of $49,160 in 2017, and those in the top 10th percentile earned six figures. The BLS projects that roles for artisans will grow by 6% between 2016 and 2026, with approximately 3,100 new jobs being added to the industry in that time frame.

With new media and artistic technologies being developed all the time, the field of artistry and art history provides an exciting and modern profession for those who feel drawn to the art world. Read on to learn about how to choose an art history program, common coursework, additional educational paths, and some of the related roles available to graduates of these programs.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Art and Art History?

Many prospective students consider associate degrees in art history if they are interested in pursuing a creative career but also want to develop some administrative skills along the way. Art and art history programs exist both for artists and arts administrators, so the degrees are versatile. Learners pursuing an art history degree must decide whether they want to enroll in an on-campus program or a distance learning program.

Most recent high school graduates choose to study in campus-based programs, which provide a transition point from living at home with parents, and help students learn to live independently while also gaining an education. Distance learning, conversely, often appeals to graduates who have been out of school for a while and plan to work while taking classes. Online degrees offer an extra level of flexibility, allowing working students to balance their professional lives with their education.

When considering an associate degree in art, students should also think about the benefits each school can offer them. Learners in art programs should seek out networking opportunities to meet other art students, and take advantage of lectures from artists who make a living with their craft. As they near graduation, art students should visit their career services departments for job and internship assistance. After they graduate, learners can still rely on their school for networking and alumni events, or professional development assistance.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Art and Art History?

Some argue that liberal arts degrees lead to fewer career options, but they actually provide students with a host of transferable skills. Liberal arts degrees can prepare graduates for any of the below positions. Students should also do additional research to find jobs that fit your personal and professional needs.

Retail Sales Associate

This role may initially seem outside the art and art history field, but many students choose to work retail at art supply or craft stores to learn even more about the world of art, artistic mediums, and the necessary tools for creating art.

Median Annual Salary: $23,370

Craft or Fine Artist

Whether working in oil paints, ceramics, raw materials, glassware, or fabrics, craft and fine artists use their creative skills to produce original works of art. These artists typically sell their work in a variety of settings, including in galleries and online.

Median Annual Salary: $49,160

Travel Agent

Travel agents with a background in art and art history enjoy sharing their knowledge with travelers looking to experience great art all over the world. These agents work with clients to find suitable destinations based on particular needs, book flights and travel, and organize activities.

Median Annual Salary: $36,990

Administrative Assistant

Though administrative assistants usually work in formal business settings, such as law or corporate offices, those with associate degrees in art history can find meaningful work with art-focused companies, governmental agencies, or nonprofits.

Median Annual Salary: $37,870

How to Choose an Associate Program in Art and Art History

Degrees focused in art and art history typically take two years of full-time study to complete, while part-time learners might complete them in three years. Specific classes play an important role in choosing your art program, since students interested in a particular type of art should make sure they can access classes on that topic while in school. Prospective students must also decide how they want to learn: While this guide focuses on campus-based art history associate degrees, those interested in distance learning options can review Best College's ranking of the top online associate in art and art history programs.

Most associate-level programs do not require a practicum or internship, but learners who want to augment their educational experience can seek out local artists and potentially organize an internship for college credit. Many students completing two-year programs choose to stay close to home, which allows them to pay in-state tuition and save money on housing expenses. Either way, learners should consider whether their prospective program is located in an area with employment opportunities, and if not, whether they are willing to relocate after graduation.

Associate in Art and Art History Program Admissions

Admissions at the associate level tend to be less competitive than for four-year degrees or graduate programs, but prospective students must still provide a range of application materials. Materials typically include a completed application, one to three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and either a high school diploma or proof of GED. Online programs' admissions processes can be even more detailed, since their admissions panels must also determine whether aspiring students have the focus and dedication they would need to thrive in an independent learning environment.

Admission Materials

  • Application: All schools require applications and, while these do not take long to complete, students should begin gathering the required materials at least a few weeks before the due date to make sure they have everything they need.
  • Transcripts: Higher education institutions require transcripts all previous high schools and colleges. These must be sent directly by the schools, which usually charge a small fee.
  • Application Fee: Application fees for community colleges typically range from $25 to $75, and are nonrefundable. Students demonstrating academic merit and/or financial need may qualify for fee waivers.

Educational Paths for Art and Art History Associate Programs

After completing all the requirements of an art history associate degree, many learners decide to continue their educations. Graduates with art history degrees can select from a range of paths at the bachelor's level, including art creation, arts administration, preservation, or curation. The following section highlights just a few potential options for graduates with an associate degree in art history.

Studio Art

A bachelor's in studio art continues building on the skills developed at the associate level, with specific coursework in areas of art creation using varied mediums. Learners may take classes in photography, glassblowing, various painting styles, textile design, or any other medium of interest. Learners also delve into basic design software usage.

Art History

For those with a passion for great works throughout history, this degree focuses on recognizing and explaining art from different time periods, familiarizing students with individual styles. Learners can also take courses in areas of curation, preservation, or museum administration.

Graphic Design

Some learners practice art that closely resembles graphic design. A bachelor's in this area teaches students to expertly use a variety of software and design programs, while also honing their skills in areas of advertising, branding, and marketing. Graduates of these programs may work as freelance graphic designers, or in-house at specific companies.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate Program in Art and Art History?

The following section highlights some coursework commonly found in an art history associate programs. Most art programs at the associate-level offer some equivalent of the courses below, but students should do their own research to learn about their prospective schools' specific offerings.

Courses in an Associate Program in Art and Art History

The courses listed below help students understand the depth and breadth of a degree in art history. Some schools may provide more individualized courses of study or focus on specialized areas, so students should contact prospective schools and ask about the specific classes they offer.

Art Appreciation

This course, typically taken in the first semester of an associate program, helps students learn to appreciate art from cultural, social, religious, and historical perspectives. Students also examine various types of art and learn about the importance of each within the artistic context.

Life Drawing

Students in this course explore the human figure from a drawing perspective, paying close attention to topics such as anatomy, historical and contemporary ways of interpreting the body, and modernistic approaches to representing the human form. Many classes bring in models to help students understand shape and motion.

Renaissance and Baroque Art

This survey course introduces students to a specific time period in art history. Students study the various types of art created between 1300 and 1700, focusing on how the art produced during these times reflected -- or in some cases scorned or resisted -- the cultural and social moments of the day.

History of Photography

Learners with an interest in photographic art often take this course to learn more about the foundations of the discipline. The coursework highlights the important people who helped the field progress, along with the technical development that have enhanced the field over time. This class emphasizes the rise of photography as an art form.

Indigenous Art

With a focus on highlighting the artistic contributions of African, Native American, Pacific Islander, and Oceanic cultures, this class acts surveys each culture and helps students understand how art from these groups has influenced artists for centuries. Coursework explores art forms including architecture, decorative crafts, and visual arts.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Art and Art History?

Students pursuing an associate degree in art history usually take two years of full-time study to complete the program. Students who want to graduate in fewer than two years can expedite their programs with prior college credits, including those from Advanced Placement (AP) tests. Students can also take extra courses to speed up their degrees, or find an accelerated program that allows them to complete classes more quickly without sacrificing quality.

Learners who need to study part time, however, may need longer than two years to complete their associate degrees. These learners may end up paying more in fees, since they attend their schools for longer periods of time. That said, the cost of tuition should remain the same regardless of how long it takes to complete the program.

How Much Is an Associate in Art and Art History?

The College Board conducted a study of published tuition expenses for the 2017-18 academic year, finding that in-state students at public schools paid an average of $3,570 annually in tuition and fees. Out-of-state learners generally pay much more than their state resident counterparts.

Other expenses may include books, class materials, technology, and campus-based fees. According to College Board, books cost $1,420 annually, while other expenses add up to $2,410. Prospective students should also account for housing. College Board suggests that room and board at a two-year school costs approximately $8,400 each year. Depending on the cost of living in their region, students may save money by living with family or finding shared off-campus housing.

Professional Organizations in Art and Art History

Professional organizations allow students, working artists, and established art historians to gather and discuss their craft. These organizations provide meaningful community and networking events, along with opportunities for members to continue building their craft and develop professional skills. They also offer active job boards to help members find professional connections.

National Association of Independent Artists

The NAIA provides membership benefits such as artist resources, tips on holding art shows, advocacy, online galleries, and an active marketplace for selling pieces.

Association for Art History

The AHA serves the art historian community by providing advocacy efforts, an annual conference (at rotating locations), a journal, and professional development opportunities.

National Association for the Visual Arts

NAVA is a country-wide arts organization that supports and represents artists of all mediums, providing access to community events, advocacy, and exposure.