How Much Does an Art Historian Make?

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Updated: December 14, 2023, Reading time: 8 minutes

Woman looking at paintings displayed on a gray wall

The art historian profession is both exciting and complex, making determining the average salary a true challenge. I was first faced with this issue a while back when I was trying to apply to a couple of art historian job offers. However, after a bit of research, I got my answers.

If you are trying to find an answer to the question “How Much Does an Art Historian Make?” keep reading, and I will tell you all my discoveries.

How Much Does an Art Historian Make?

The annual salary for a position in art history typically falls within the range of $44,182 to $55,798 in the United States. Their skill at appraising and deciphering art from various eras and genres is evident in this payment.

Woman viewing paintings on a museum

Many relevant factors might make the average annual salary vary in this fascinating creative discipline that examines art’s cultural and historical value. These variables include:

Main Factors Impacting an Art Historian’s Salary

When it comes to salaries, there are often so many determinant factors that can make the average salary change. Let’s analyze the specific variables related to the average salary of an Art Historian.

Experience and Expertise

Experienced art historians with specialized knowledge can fetch more compensation. Years spent engaged in art add to a deep awareness of numerous styles, periods, and cultural settings.

Educational Background

Academic qualifications play a significant role in determining an art historian’s earning potential. Advanced degrees, such as a Ph.D. or a master’s in art history, can lead to more lucrative opportunities in academia or prestigious institutions.

Geographic Location

The demand for art historians and the cost of living differs greatly depending on where you live. Cities or areas with vibrant art scenes may pay more to attract and keep skilled artists.

Institutional Setting

Salary levels can vary depending on whether one works for a museum, an educational institution, or a private company. Universities or museums with ample resources might provide more attractive benefit packages.


Because of their distinct knowledge, art historians focusing on a particular historical era, artistic movement, or cultural context may become more in demand and have higher income potential.

Publications and Research

An art historian’s reputation and pay can be improved through active participation in scholarly endeavors like writing books or articles and conducting significant research, especially in academic and research-oriented programs and professions.

Networking and Professional Associations

Participating in pertinent associations and developing a solid professional network can lead to job growth and pay increases. Networking also results in collaborations, speaking engagements, and other opportunities for recognition.

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Market Demand 

Salary levels may be impacted by the labor market’s general demand for art historians. There may be a strong demand for professionals in this industry to recruit and keep qualified workers, leading to an increase in salary.

Effective Negotiation Skills

Salary outcomes can be significantly influenced by one’s ability to negotiate. Skillfully negotiating their benefits packages can help art historians get better pay and other perks.

Art historians can succeed in this dynamic and culturally stimulating field by being aware of and adept at managing these variables, which will help them make well-informed judgments about their career routes and negotiate competitive pay.

Which Career Paths Can an Art Historian Take?

The job outlook for museum workers, curators, and archivists is projected to experience 9% growth from 2018 to 2028, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are some career paths of an art historian.

Art Teacher 

Through teaching and guiding pupils in various art mediums, an art teacher encourages creativity and expression in their students. They create lesson plans, impart skills, and promote artistic expression. 

Along with fostering an understanding of art history, art teachers help students find their own creative voices through practical tasks and helpful criticism.

The average salary is $54,000 annually, ranging between $40,000 for art teachers with little experience and $60,000 for experienced art teachers.

Art Professor

An art professor instructs students in various art fields at the university level. They lead artistic growth, instruct classes, and frequently conduct research or produce original works of art. They might also mentor students, provide criticism, and support the institution’s creative and intellectual communities.

In addition, they frequently produce nonfiction books and submit articles and research papers to academic journals and publications. An art professor’s annual income ranges from $60,000 for those with little experience to $98,000 for those with extensive expertise. The average compensation for an art professor is $87,000.

Woman looking at paintings displayed on a gray wall

Museum Curator

A museum curator oversees a collection of artifacts, artworks, or historical objects. They research, acquire new items, create exhibits, and work with educators. Curators play an essential role in preserving cultural heritage, interpreting history, and engaging the public by carefully curating museum collections.

The annual earnings of museum curators span from $43,000 for novices to $60,000 for seasoned professionals, with an average compensation of $58,000.

Art Archivist

Art archivists manage and preserve artistic collections by organizing artwork-related documentation, images, and records. They oversee correct classification and storage, contributing to historical research and display preparation. Their function is critical in ensuring that artistic history is preserved and accessible to future generations.

Art archivists typically earn between $43,000 and $60,000 annually, with an average compensation of $54,000.

Art Gallery Manager

A Gallery Manager oversees an art gallery’s day-to-day operation, including curating shows, managing staff, planning events, and promoting artists. They work with artists, clients, and curators to improve the gallery’s reputation and financial performance, guaranteeing a dynamic and engaging environment for visual arts enjoyment.

Gallery managers can earn varying annual salaries, ranging from $40,000 for newcomers to $50,000 for seasoned professionals, with an average compensation of $45,000.

Key Characteristics of a Great Art Historian

There are many characteristics of a great art historian. They include:

In-Depth Knowledge

A great art historian profoundly understands art history, spanning various periods, styles, and cultural contexts. Their knowledge allows them to analyze and interpret artworks with depth and insight.

Passion for Art

Sincere excitement and an intense love of the arts are essential qualities. Proficient art historians approach their profession with a profound understanding of the expressive power of images and a dedication to imparting this enthusiasm to others.

Analytical Proficiency

Art historians with outstanding analytical proficiency can analyze and deconstruct artworks, revealing nuanced layers of significance and historical background. They can assess artistic influences, styles, and approaches critically.

Man writing notes while a big pile of books are in front of him in a library table

Research Acumen

Acquiring historical information, confirming interpretations, and advancing the discipline require strong research abilities. A competent art historian does in-depth, painstaking research to deepen their knowledge.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is crucial for conveying complex artistic and historical concepts to diverse audiences. Great art historians can articulate their insights with clarity and passion, whether writing scholarly articles, lecturing, or curating exhibitions.

Curiosity and Open-Mindedness

A great art historian approaches their work with curiosity and an open mind. They are willing to explore diverse perspectives, question assumptions, and adapt their understanding in light of new information.


While rooted in scholarship, great art historians bring creativity to their interpretations. They appreciate the imaginative aspects of art and can connect historical context with the creative process, offering fresh perspectives.

By embodying these key characteristics, a great art historian advances their own career and also contributes significantly to the enrichment and understanding of the broader cultural and historical landscape through the lens of art.

Is it Hard to Become an Art Historian?

Becoming an art historian can be challenging due to the rigorous academic requirements, including advanced degrees in Art Education, and the competitive nature of the field. However, passion for art, dedication to extensive research, and a commitment to continuous learning are essential attributes that can pave the way for success in this rewarding profession.

What Do Art Historians Do?

Art historians examine and evaluate artworks while investigating their historical, cultural, and aesthetic contexts. To advance our understanding of art, they carry out studies, produce academic publications, and organize exhibitions. 

Is There a Demand for Art Historians?

The demand for art historians varies, with opportunities in academia, museums, galleries, and cultural institutions. While competition can be intense, the passion for preserving and interpreting art and interdisciplinary skills can open doors. Networking and staying abreast of industry trends enhance prospects in this dynamic field.

How Much Does an Art Historian Make - fact


Art historians are paid according to a complex system that considers their education, experience, and the changing nature of the art market. Their pay is commensurate with their stewardship of cultural assets and the significant influence their contributions have on safeguarding and enhancing our common creative heritage.

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