History of Art

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All academic programs offered at the UM help students develop valuable transferable skills. In our increasingly visual world, the breadth of History of Art offers a vivid perspective on the course of human history through the study of works of painting, sculpture, architecture, decorative arts, and graphic media. As a History of Art concentrator you will be developing your global competence and visual literacy: the ability to read material artifacts as expressions of cultural beliefs, values, and practices, both in their original and subsequent contexts. As you gain familiarity with works of art and architecture from all over the world, you will learn to analyze the rhetoric and politics of visual culture and engage in sophisticated cultural historical analysis.

History of Art concentrators develop a broad range of abilities ranging from specific knowledge of artistic periods and artworks to visual literacy and well-honed research, writing, and communication skills. The program has close connections with many museums in the region, including the UM Museum of Art.

Related fields include Architecture, Literature and Culture, Asian and African Studies, Music, Theater and Dance, Museum Studies, History, International Studies, Communication Studies, Screen Arts and Cultures, Archaeology, Sociology, Psychology, and Anthropology.


Visual Literacy and Analytical Skills

“Reading” images from a wide range of cultures
Understanding how objects communicate with the environment
Defining quality / weighing values
Thinking critically
Recognizing the school / period / artist of a work of art
Analyzing the artistic qualities of everyday objects
Understanding the impact of technology on the dissemination and reception of visual objects

Communication Skills

Writing and speaking effectively
Conveying complex information
Describing the impact of art
Presenting theories / ideas
Speaking to groups
Clarifying others’ thought and ideas
Helping others see the messages in our visual environment

Interpersonal / Cross-Cultural Skills

Developing visual sensitivity to a range of cultures
Understanding how the making of art has changed across time
Interpreting a culture’s values and beliefs
Explaining the present by understanding the past
Working in teams

Research / Project Skills

Working with primary sources
Using online image and archival databases
Gathering and analyzing information
Examining evidence
Organizing information / materials
Determining origins of artworks
Evaluating research results


Employers seek out individuals who can demonstrate excellent verbal and written communication skills, teamwork and interpersonal skills, initiative, and a strong work ethic. Student organizations, campus employment, and study abroad offer valuable opportunities to add to the skills you are developing in your classes. Helicon, the History of Art student organization, sponsors a range of events and publishes the Helicon Review, a journal of student work. Other options include working as a docent or volunteering at area museums. Finally, a summer internship may be the best way of all to test out a career field and develop marketable skills; art history students typically find internships in museums and galleries, as well as in business, fashion, and media.


History of Art concentrators develop both general and technical skills that serve as building blocks for a wide range of careers. For example, the ability to articulate the aesthetic and political impact of images may be equally useful whether working in journalism, marketing, or a museum. Many concentrators go on to graduate or professional school. The list below is a sample of careers undertaken by Art History graduates.

Visual Literacy and Analytical Skills

Graphic artist / layout editor
Documentary editor
Set designer
Picture researcher (film or publishing)
Exhibit designer
Curator, museum and freelance open book icon
Advertising executive
Art dealer
Art gallery director
Corporate arts adviser
Web designer
Online archivist
Design consultant / interior designer
Arts consultant
Conservator / restorer
Fine arts handler

Communication Skills

Public relations specialist
Art critic
Museum educator
Arts writer / reporter
Book / journal / magazine editor
Arts Programmer (TV / radio)
Volunteer coordinator
Educational coordinator
K-12 teacher
College instructor open book icon

Interpersonal / Cross-Cultural Skills

Travel leader / tour consultant
City cultural event planner
Foreign service officer open book icon
Arts therapist
Physician open book icon
Attorney open book icon

Research / Project Skills

Grants specialist
Museum director open book icon
Museum registrar
Museum development officer
Arts council director
Records manager
Corporate history preservation officer
Registrar of historic places
Director, municipal parks and historic sites
Operations supervisor
Development officer
Research associate
Data analyst
Legislative analyst
Historic preservation officer

open book icon = Further Study Required

For more career information, see O*Net at http://online.onetcenter.org/


Within the field of Art History, there are many possible areas of specialization, by culture, time period, or medium. The concentration requires a minimum of 30 credit hours, with a minimum of four courses at the 300 level or higher, including at least one seminar. A 15-credit hour minor and an honors program are also available. The program encourages study abroad and participates in the Museum Studies minor, as well as the joint program in Classical Art and Archaeology. For more information, consult the department website below.

Department of History of Art
110 Tappan Hall

Newnan Advising Center
1255 Angell Hall


To learn more about museum internships and careers in art history, visit:  www.lsa.umich.edu/histart/resources

To begin connecting to professionals in fields that interest you, create your own LinkedIn account:

To identify internships or job opportunities, visit Handshake: https://careercenter.umich.edu/article/handshake

On-campus jobs (work-study and non work-study jobs) are listed at:

Maize Pages list hundreds of organizations for students to get involved in: http://studentorgs.umich.edu/maize

The Career Center
3200 Student Activities Building

The Career Guide series was developed by the University of Michigan Career Center, Division of Student Affairs, in cooperation with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. ©2011 Regents of the University of Michigan