Art history careers

Training in art history can prepare students well for a wide variety of careers. This is because art history relies on the simultaneous use of several different and complementary skills, including the visual analysis of images, the historical and contextual analysis of their meaning, and the effective presentation of these analyses in written and spoken form. These skills are highly relevant in the increasingly image-driven world of modern culture, but since launching a career can still be tricky, it helps to have some sense of the options that others have pursued, and a list of resources that may be helpful in identifying professional opportunities.

Art historians can use their training in universities, museums, and galleries, as well as in many settings beyond the “art world” as traditionally understood. In universities, art historians work most frequently as professors and in addition to teaching they write books and articles, give professional and public lectures, and sometimes they work with museums as advisors, authors, guest curators, or consultants. In museums, they can work as administrators, curators, conservators, art educators, and docents; in galleries they may work as appraisers, researchers, consultants, and sales staff; in business they may work as corporate curators or collecting advisors. Art historians write as art critics and commentators for print or electronic media, and they also work as editors, librarians, and tour guides. 

Professorial, curatorial, and other senior positions typically require graduate training in art history. Further specialized training is also required for students who wish to become architects or lawyers; art law and intellectual property law are currently growing fields. Art historians’ skills in close looking and the decoding of images can also open up careers in fields as diverse as forensics, intelligence analysis, and advertising.  

College Art Association

All art history student are encouraged to acquaint themselves with College Art Association, the major professional organization for artists and art historians working in the US.

Visit College Art Association

Society of Architectural Historians

Visit Society of Architectural Historians

American Alliance of Museums

Visit American Alliance of Museums

Archaeological Institute of America

Visit Archaeological Institute of America

Art Dealers’ Association of America

Visit Art Dealers’ Association of America

Renaissance Society of America

Visit Renaissance Society of America

Art Libraries Society of North America

Visit Art Libraries Society of North America

Meet with Professors

All art history students are also encouraged to seek out their professors for consultation about career planning and professional development, starting early in the undergraduate program. Such consultation can open up research and internship opportunities, and it can also just help to provide orientation to the field. Don’t be shy!

Studio art careers

Do you consider yourself to be supportive, generous, or empathetic? Are you interested in learning about mental health, criminal probation, or community development? Does it sound like fun to empower others, handle a crisis, or develop resources? Could you see yourself working at a clinic, a community center, a non-profit organization, a church, or starting your own private practice?

Careers in this community focus on understanding people, supporting them through difficult times, and equipping them to grow and thrive.

Do you consider yourself to be creative, expressive, or imaginative? Are you interested in learning about developing public relations campaigns, stage production, or creating museum exhibits? Does is sound like fun to work in a less structured environment with the freedom to voice your originality? Could you see yourself planning art projects or sporting events for others to enjoy?

Careers in this community focus on composing, writing, designing, and performing.

Do you consider yourself problem-focused, thoughtful, or eco-friendly? Are you interested in learning about human/environment interactions through design and conservation efforts that support sustainable living?

Careers in this community focus on studying the design of environs and structures and applying knowledge to promote and support the environment and human health and aesthetics.

Do you consider yourself to be nurturing, curious, or solution-focused? Are you interested in learning about how the body works and how to keep it healthy? Does it sound like fun to work at a hospital, clinic, laboratory, or recreation center? Could you see yourself working with specific populations, like athletes, children, senior citizens, or animals?

Careers in this community focus on decreasing illness and injury and supporting others to be healthy and wholesome.

  • Elderly Cognitive Art Program Director

Do you consider yourself to have strong communication, management, or numerical skills? Are you interested in learning about marketing a product or conducting a financial analysis? Does it sound like fun to try to persuade or influence those around you? Could you see yourself working in a corporate environment collaborating with others to accomplish company goals?

Careers in this community focus on leading people and projects, developing business plans, and preparing accounting records.

Do you consider yourself to be ambitious, resilient, or optimistic? Are you interested in learning about developing public policy or addressing issues through governmental initiatives? Does it sound like fun to argue legal issues or lead a civic improvement project? Could you see yourself working for a city, state, or federal agency or non-profit organization?

Careers in this community focus on public affairs, politics, and serving the community.

Do you consider yourself inquisitive, analytical, or insightful? Are you interested in learning about scientific issues or applying technical concepts to solve problems? Does it sound like fun to perform lab experiments or utilize a microscope to examine cells? Could you see yourself investigating scientific principles by collecting and analyzing data?

Careers in this community focus on designing and conducting research to improve products, processes, and ways of living.

Do you consider yourself to be helpful, patient, or understanding? Are you interested in learning about best methods to reach students or setting curriculum standards? Does is sound like fun to explain ideas and concepts to a classroom of learners? Could you see yourself teaching others to assist with understanding and comprehension?
Careers in this community focus on facilitating learning by guiding and encouraging others.

Art Residencies:

Do you consider yourself to be a systematic, precise, or efficient person? Are you interested in learning about preparing statistical charts, writing code, or analyzing data? Does it sound like fun to test computer programs and software applications? Could you see yourself working in a constantly changing high-tech environment?

Careers in this community focus on developing computer systems, managing computer networks, and interpreting and presenting data to address industry problems.

Career resources for UI undergraduate students

The Pomerantz Career Center provides high-quality resources and services to students, alumni, and employers. The site has information designed to help you move through the various stages of the job search process, including the Handshake@UIowa website as well as information on upcoming employer visits, internships, and careers after college.

Meet with a career coach

Plan for your future.

All undergraduates can meet with a career coach to explore interests, skills, strengths, and values as you plan for after graduation.

Schedule an Appointment

Participate in a mock interview

Practice, practice, practice.

Experience first-hand what an interview might be like by participating in a Mock Interview where you can practice interviewing, ask questions about the interview process, and be critiqued by volunteer employers from surrounding communities.

Sign Up for a Mock Interview

Attend a career fair

Find your next opportunity.

Network with employers and learn more about job and career opportunities in a variety of areas right here on campus.

Attend a Career Fair

Write an effective resume

Stand out to future employers.

Learn the level of detail needed to get noticed in the applicant pool and by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) software, including tips on how to format your resume, effective use of power verbs, a formula for crafting bullet points, and more.

Get Started with Resumes

Find or create an internship

Get on-the-job experience.

We'll guide you through the process of finding an internship, creating your own opportunity, and evaluating internship offers.

Find Your Internship

Explore majors and careers

Start the career exploration process.

Learn more about how your personal attributes impact potential success and satisfaction with different career options and work environments. Or, start by exploring career fields and find majors that align with your interests and skills.

Take a Career Assessment