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Bachelor's in art and art history programs cater to students looking to transform their passion for art, sculpture, photography, or multimedia into marketable professional skills. The demand for workers with art skills and strong art history knowledge varies widely across professions. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for multimedia artists and animators to grow 4% between 2019 and 2029, while the number of archivists, curators, and museum workers is projected to increase 11% over that same time period.
Earning a bachelor's degree typically qualifies students for entry-level positions, and some career paths require a more advanced degree. Read on to learn more about the top online bachelor's in art and art history programs. For even more information, consult our bachelor's in art and art history program guide.
What Are the Best Online Bachelor's in Art and Art History Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 5:
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|1||Arizona State University||Scottsdale, AZ|
|2||Pennsylvania State University World Campus||University Park, PA|
|3||University of Massachusetts Lowell||Lowell, MA|
|4||SUNY Empire State College||Saratoga Springs, NY|
|5||Lindenwood University||Saint Charles, MO|
- How We Rank Schools
At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students. Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology here. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Art and Art History Programs
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Arizona State University
|Scottsdale, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
ASU operates several state campuses and regional centers, as well as an online division. The university enrolls more than 27,000 students and offers more than 300 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs through ASU Online.
ASU features several program options for students interested in earning an online bachelor's in art and art history, including BAs in art history, museum studies, and interdisciplinary arts and performance. The university also offers a BFA in art with a focus in digital photography; this was the first online studio art program in the nation. All bachelor's programs require 120 credits and a senior seminar and/or capstone project.
ASU Online offers six start dates per year. Distance learners pay a set tuition rate according to their program, course load, and transfer credits, without regard to the student's state of residence.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus
|University Park, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
The second-largest entity in the Pennsylvania State University system, Penn State World Campus began offering online programs in 1998. Today, this online division enrolls more than 20,000 distance learners and offers more than 150 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.
The school's letters, arts, and sciences degree features an interdisciplinary liberal arts curriculum. Coursework in this 120-credit program covers four key themes: research methods, communication skills, theory/application, and critical analysis. Core requirements also include courses in conflict resolution, international relations, psychology, and economics.
The online BA in letters, arts, and sciences program emphasizes an independent learning model, enabling students to tailor the curriculum to match their artistic interests. Degree-seekers complete the majority of courses asynchronously in online classrooms. All distance learners pay the same per-credit tuition rates for online coursework, regardless of where they live.
University of Massachusetts Lowell
|Lowell, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 63%||
One of New England's most popular providers of online courses, UMass Lowell offers more than 50 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across six academic colleges. The school enrolls more than 18,000 students on campus and online.
UMass Lowell's online bachelor's degree in liberal arts enables students to choose two concentrations from nine options, including art history, philosophy, and gender studies. Degree-seekers complete 120-122 credits of core, concentration, interdisciplinary focus, and foreign language coursework.
Distance learners may apply to this program at the beginning of any semester. Eligible students may transfer up to 90 credits of previous coursework toward their online bachelor's degree.
SUNY Empire State College
|Saratoga Springs, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
Established in 1971 in Saratoga Springs, New York, ESC uses a nontraditional learning model. The school's distinctive approach enables students to develop their own degree program through interdisciplinary study across 12 academic fields. ESC also oversees a popular online division.
This customizable degree program requires roughly 124 credits, combining general education classes with a liberal arts curriculum. Distance learners receive access to many helpful resources, including an online library, career services, and an IT service desk.
|Saint Charles, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Founded as a private school associated with the Presbyterian Church, Lindenwood maintains physical campuses in St. Charles, Missouri, and Belleville, Illinois. The school also oversees an online division. Students may choose from more than 50 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.
Lindenwood offers multiple paths that allow students to earn an online bachelor's degree in art and art history. Degree-seekers can pursue a BA in art and design, art history and visual culture, or pre-art therapy. Lindenwood also offers a BFA in art and design.
For all programs, distance learners complete 120 credits and conclude their studies with a capstone course. Some options, such as the BA in art history and visual culture, also require practicum experiences. Lindenwood uses a generous transfer policy and offers accelerated completion options for transfer students.
What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Art and Art History Program?
Pursuing a bachelor's in art and art history requires technical artistic skills and imagination, as well as strong analytical, critical thinking, and research skills.
An online bachelor's in art and art history usually requires 120 credits and takes most full-time students four years to complete. Online programs generally use a synchronous or asynchronous format, while hybrid models combine online and in-person components. It's important to select the option that best fits your schedule and learning style.
Most schools offer this degree as a bachelor of arts (BA), although a few may offer a bachelor of science (BS) study track. A BA tends to explore the arts from a broader perspective and incorporates a variety of courses in art and art history. A BS explores art topics through the lens of the sciences, technology, and/or mathematics. BS degrees are relatively rare in this field.
In addition to traditional coursework, students typically complete studio or lab time dedicated to drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, or graphic design. Most programs also require students to complete a practicum, internship, research paper, or a final portfolio.
Many programs offer concentrations, which allow students to align the degree with their specific career goals. Common examples include:
- Art history
- Fine arts
Pursuing a bachelor's in art and art history requires technical artistic skills and imagination, as well as strong analytical, critical thinking, and research skills. These skills are necessary for evaluating and critiquing art, as well as conducting research and collaborating with other experts.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Art and Art History Program?
The exact curriculum of an online bachelor's in art and art history varies depending on the program or concentration you choose. For instance, an art focus typically entails more studio courses practicing drawing, painting, or photography concepts. Alternatively, an art history major tends to explore periods of art history and architecture. The following list describes a few common courses.
- Introduction to Art History
This course explores major art movements throughout history. Students examine the basic principles, techniques, and materials employed by artists in various periods, including the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Romantic periods. The curriculum may also incorporate a study of the major events that impacted culture and the arts throughout the ages. This class serves as a stepping stone to advanced art history courses.
A drawing class typically provides an overview of several common drawing techniques, tools, and principles. Students explore the differences between sketching, illustration, and design. Learners also discuss observational versus abstract drawing. The course promotes examples and hands-on experiences through assignments using models, objects, and original work.
- Research Methods
Students learn the techniques, tools, and methodologies used to conduct historical art research. Coursework develops essential scholarly writing and critical thinking skills. Students practice research using the same archives and databases that art professionals use in order to hone important practical skills.
This course explores design, development, and editing processes in photography. Students also learn about types of cameras, lenses, and film and explore the fundamental principles of lighting, balance, and contrast. Additionally, students develop the ability to critique and interpret photography. The curriculum typically emphasizes hands-on experience.
- Design Fundamentals
This class discusses two- and three-dimensional design concepts and basic drawing instruments. Coursework also examines issues in the visual arts, art philosophy, and techniques. Some design classes may incorporate an additional overview of graphic design, which is a vital professional skill for many art careers.
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What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Art and Art History Degree?
Jobs that can be pursued with a bachelor's in art and art history span several industries and specialty areas. Art major careers typically involve creating art or photography, designing graphics, and/or developing websites. According to the BLS, art and design workers earn a median annual wage of $48,130, which is higher than the median of $39,810 for all occupations. Demand for these jobs varies widely by career.
Professionals in art history tend to focus on careers in preservation, education, and/or archiving. This field is competitive, but growing — the BLS projects 11% job growth for archivists, curators, and museum workers between 2019 and 2029.
- Historic Preservation and Restoration
Careers in preservation and restoration span a variety of industries and specialties. Professionals may work with architecture firms, city planning offices, or museums. The primary goal of workers in this area is to preserve historic documents, artifacts, structures, and/or art pieces for display and research purposes. Job titles include museum technician, curator, and archivist.
Photographers take pictures for commercial, private, industrial, fine art, and journalistic purposes. Some positions require professionals to take pictures out in the field in rugged conditions, while others involve capturing valuable lifetime memories at meaningful events like weddings. Many photographers work as freelancers, but others work for publications or marketing firms.
Design careers are popular in a variety of industries. Professionals might design textiles for the fashion industry, create graphic art for marketing campaigns, or decorate and plan interiors for homes or office buildings. Graduates with an art degree typically pursue roles as graphic designers, interior designers, game designers, animators, or fashion designers.
The film industry offers several opportunities for art and art history majors. For example, filmmakers may consult with art history professionals to maintain historical accuracy for a film. Additionally, art professionals may help design sets, edit footage, or create graphic elements for movies. Careers such as director, producer, or screenwriter may require a more specific film degree.
If you possess a passion for exploring art history and the evolution of artistic techniques, as well as a knack for demonstrating how to do something, pursuing a career in education may be the right path for you. With a bachelor's in art or art history, candidates typically qualify to work at the elementary, middle, or high school level; these positions often require a teaching license. To become a college professor or pursue research opportunities, graduates must typically earn a master's or doctorate.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Art and Art History Programs
- Is art and art history a good major?
Pursuing an art or art history major can lead to wonderful career opportunities. However, some fields may be more competitive, and not every path boasts strong projected growth rates over the next decade. The best recipe for success is to establish your goals so you can select a program that develops the skills you need to launch a career.
- What can I do with a bachelor's in art and art history?
Graduates with a bachelor's in art and art history qualify for a variety of positions across several industries. A few common jobs include museum technician, curator, interior designer, photographer, and multimedia artist. It's important to note that while a bachelor's opens up the door to many entry-level opportunities, you may need to earn a graduate degree to qualify for career advancement.
- How many art and art history majors get jobs?
It isn't easy to transform an education in art or art history into a successful career. According to the Center for Education Statistics, the unemployment rate for bachelor's degree-holders ages 25-29 in 2018 was 2.9%. The rate was 3.7% for fine arts majors and 4.9% for graduates with a degree in the liberal arts or humanities. Starting a successful career may involve using your art skills in a field with higher employment rates, such as marketing, education, or design.
- How much money can I make with a bachelor's in art and art history?
Salaries vary widely depending on a worker's position, experience, and industry. For example, workers in the fashion industry earn a median annual salary of $73,790, while floral designers tend to make less than $30,000 per year. Overall, the BLS reports art and design professionals earn a median annual wage of $48,130.
- What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a bachelor's in art and art history?
According to PayScale, graduates with a bachelor's in art history earn an average salary of $61,010. The following positions rank among the highest-paying jobs in art or art history: creative director, interior designer, product designer, design manager, and visual designer. Workers in these roles make average salaries ranging from $78,000-$97,000.