A Career Roadmap for Aspiring University Art History Teachers

Embarking on a journey towards a career as a university art history teacher can be both exhilarating and daunting. Aspiring educators in this field are tasked with not only mastering the rich tapestry of art history. They also have the responsibility to hone their teaching skills to inspire and enlighten future generations of students. 

The US BLS forecasts a 9 percent job growth for museum workers, curators, and archivists by 2028. A growing interest in these jobs comes from the fact that many, after completing an art history program at college, opt for such roles. However, there are several others who want to teach college-level art history or contemporary art in general after graduation. 

This career roadmap aims to guide individuals in their pursuit of becoming university art history teachers.

Cultivate a Passion for Art and Teaching

The foundation of any successful career in art history education lies in a genuine passion for both art and teaching.

Aspiring teachers should immerse themselves in the study of art history, exploring various periods to develop a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. Additionally, they should seek out opportunities to gain teaching experience, whether through tutoring, volunteering, or assisting professors in the classroom.

Cultivating a deep love for art and a desire to share that passion with others will serve as the driving force behind their journey.

Pursue Higher Education

A solid educational background is essential for aspiring university art history teachers. Most institutions require a graduate degree, typically a Master's or Ph.D., in art history or a related field.

During their graduate studies, students will have the opportunity to specialize in their areas of interest. They can also conduct original research and develop their teaching skills through coursework and teaching assistantships. 

An MS in art history education can help immensely in this regard. After all, graduate students need to pick a master’s program that aligns with their academic and career goals. This is what most art history faculty members at top colleges do. Only then will it be possible to excel in this line of work.

Gain Teaching Experience

Teaching experience is invaluable for aspiring university art history teachers. Graduates should seek out opportunities to teach undergraduate courses, either as teaching assistants or adjunct instructors, to gain hands-on experience in the classroom.

These experiences allow individuals to refine their teaching techniques, develop their communication skills, and establish themselves as competent educators within their field. Additionally, aspiring teachers can benefit from participating in teaching workshops, conferences, and seminars to further enhance their pedagogical skills.

According to Indeed, if you want to become an art history professor at some point, you will need around eight years of teaching experience. This is assuming you have already gotten your PhD after your master’s program. Hence, the sooner you start teaching, the quicker you get to reach this top spot in the profession. 

Build a Strong Publication Record

In academia, research and scholarship play a crucial role in advancing one's career. Aspiring university art history teachers should strive to build a strong publication record by conducting original research and presenting their work at conferences.

Publishing in reputable journals and academic presses not only demonstrates expertise in the field but also enhances credibility and visibility within the academic community. A robust publication record is essential for securing tenure-track positions and advancing in the ranks of academia.

Prepare for the Job Market

Securing a tenure-track position in academia can be highly competitive. Aspiring university art history teachers must be prepared to navigate the job market effectively. This includes crafting a compelling curriculum vitae, developing a strong teaching portfolio, and honing interview skills.

Candidates should also be willing to consider diverse career pathways, including adjunct positions, postdoctoral fellowships, and non-tenure positions, as stepping stones to tenure-track positions. Flexibility, perseverance, and a proactive approach to career advancement are essential traits for success in the academic job market.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for an art history teacher in the US is $53,050. However, this annual salary can be around $78,000 in some cases, depending on the college and the person’s experience. Hence, you should consider switching jobs from time to time for better pay, as well as to gain more extensive experience. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the subject matter of art history?

The subject matter of art history encompasses the study of artistic movements, styles, and individual artworks across different cultures and periods. It examines the historical, cultural, and social contexts shaping artistic production and reception.

What subjects are taught in an art history class?

Art history classes cover a broad spectrum of topics including ancient civilizations, Renaissance art, modern movements, and contemporary trends. Students study artistic styles, cultural contexts, and historical significance to develop a comprehensive understanding of art through the ages.

Is art history a good major?

Yes, art history is a valuable major for those passionate about understanding visual culture, history, and society. It provides a strong foundation for careers in art-related fields and fosters critical thinking skills.

In conclusion, embarking on a career as a university art history teacher requires dedication, perseverance, and a commitment to lifelong learning. By following this career roadmap, aspiring educators can navigate the complexities of academia and achieve success in their chosen field. 

Through their dedication, they have the power to shape the future of art history education. At the same time, they can inspire generations of students to explore the rich and diverse world of art and culture.

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