What can I do with a degree in Art History and Theory?

People attending an art exhibition at the School of Fine Arts, Ilam campus
© Restricted/University of Canterbury

Art History and Theory involves the study of visual culture, and the institutions and practices, such as collecting, patronage, art education, art criticism and iconography, that support them.

Through their Art History and Theory degree, graduates develop a valuable set of skills that are transferable to a range of careers. These skills include:

  • Highly developed skills in visual analysis and interpretation
  • Knowledge of history, literature, philosophy, and religion as it relates to works of art and architecture
  • Interpretive and analytical thinking
  • Understanding of the influences on contemporary society
  • Thinking critically and creatively, and challenging received ideas
  • Logical and qualitative thinking
  • Problem solving skills
  • Oral and written communication
  • Research and computing skills.

Opportunities to apply your learning outside the classroom are available, for example undertaking an internship can deepen your skillset, awareness of others, working knowledge and employability.

Career destinations related to Art History and Theory include organisations and sectors such as:

  • Museums
  • Art galleries
  • Governance and policy
  • Arts management
  • Fine arts auctioneers
  • Archives and libraries
  • Heritage and conservation
  • Journalism, media and public relations
  • Publishing
  • Event management
  • Education
  • Tertiary sector
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Tech industry and start-ups
  • Databases and image libraries.

Career possibilities are diverse. Recent UC graduates are found in a variety of organisations ranging from: art galleries to government departments, insurance to legal services, art suppliers to power companies, libraries to schools, alumni relations to health boards.

Graduates with this degree are employed in a range of jobs — see examples below with key tasks.

Note: Some of the jobs listed may require postgraduate study. See the ‘Further study’ section.

Curator

  • Designs and coordinates exhibitions
  • Manages collections
  • Conducts research and communicates information

Art gallery manager / director / assistant

  • Assesses and selects art
  • Plans and presents exhibitions, events, seminars, outreach activity
  • Works with artists and negotiates purchases

Librarian, library assistant

  • Categorises and catalogues library materials
  • Selects materials for library use
  • Helps customers find and use materials

Policy analyst / advisor

  • Identifies and investigates issues and opportunities eg, in society, law or governance
  • Interprets existing policies and briefs leaders
  • Prepares reports and recommends changes

Editorial assistant

  • Proofreads material and coordinates changes
  • Adds elements in production eg, graphics
  • Answers publication queries

Learning advisor

  • Develops learning resources or courses
  • Uses technology to deliver training
  • Advises how to develop skills or plan studies

Secondary school teacher

  • Plans and delivers instructional lessons
  • Evaluates performance and provides feedback
  • Sets and marks assignments and tests

Digital content analyst

  • Develops a brand’s digital marketing strategy
  • Increases web traffic and online engagement
  • Oversees social media and search optimisation

Manager, project manager

  • Oversees the effective use of resources
  • Responsible for certain aspects or overall operation of an organisation, unit or project
  • Plans, budgets, supervises, instigates, solves

Marketing assistant / associate

  • Collects and analyses market insight
  • Prepares and implements marketing plans
  • Works with others to promote goods or services

Sales manager

  • Identifies and develops new markets or business
  • Manages client relationships and presentations
  • Implements sales and marketing strategies

Arts administrator / manager

  • Manages logistics, budgets, schedules for events, venues, managers
  • Contributes to marketing materials and media
  • Develops new projects and initiatives

Research officer / assistant

  • Organises and conducts research
  • Develops and tests theories, interprets results
  • Writes reports and publishes research

Database assistant

  • Administers data infrastructure
  • Maintains an organisation’s database
  • Provides analytical support to others

Entrepreneur and CEO

  • Develops an idea to form their own business
  • Gets involved in a start-up
  • Offers services as a freelancer/consultant

Get started with Entrepreneurship here.

As they progress, students and graduates often join professional bodies or organisations relevant to their area of interest. These organisations can provide regular communications and offer the chance to network with others in a community.

Social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can provide avenues to keep up-to-date with industry knowledge, networking opportunities, events and job vacancies.

Learn from our students' experiences

For more information

see the Art History and Theory subject page