History of art

Studying the history of art is like a journey through time, giving insights into human creativity, cultural evolution, and the timeless dialogue between artists and society.

The study of the history of art unveils human creativity and expression. It also promotes critical analytical skills, an understanding of cultural contexts, and a deep appreciation for visual storytelling.

Studying the history of art opens up many career opportunities like art curation, museum management, art conservation, education, art, and cultural consultancy. The ability to interpret visual pieces is valuable in sectors where creativity, cultural understanding, and a discerning eye are essential. 

The impact you could make
  • Contribute to the preservation and conservation of artistic and cultural heritage for future generations.
  • Take part in academic research, expanding knowledge in art history.
  • Promote cultural awareness and community development.
What you could study
  • Museums and society
  • Making and meaning in architecture
  • Reading art history
  • Making and meaning in western art
  • Modern British art
  • Art and the environment

Study options

Options to study in this field include:

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  1. Ask which modules they really enjoyed.
  2. Find out how easy it was for them to make friends on their course.
  3. Do they have any tips on your personal statement?
  4. Did they do anything to prep for uni before they went?
  5. Are there books, podcasts or YouTube channels they would recommend?

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Example module
“My two favourite areas are Renaissance art and technological advances such as within architecture and perspective, and the early stages of modernism, leading with the impressionists into controversial avant-gardes such as the Dada movement."
Second year history of art student, University of Edinburgh
Example project
"My favourite project was an essay about post-fascism era art. I love how eclectic the course is."
Second year history of art and curating student, University of York
75% of students
studying history of art would recommend the subject to others
(UCAS subject guide survey 2023)

Subjects it's useful to have studied first

Some history of art courses or apprenticeships will have requirements for previous qualifications in certain subjects. Entry requirements vary, so always check with the provider.
Hard skills you'll develop
  • Comparative art analysis
  • Visual analysis
  • Historical knowledge
  • Museum and gallery practices
Soft skills you'll develop
  • Attention to detail
  • Creativity
  • Flexibility
  • Curiosity and open-mindedness

Careers: Where it can take you

Find out more about your career prospects from studying history of art. The following information is based on a typical arts officers, producers, and directors role.
Available jobs
77,347 vacancies in the past year
8.68% growth over next eight years
Average salary
Up to £65,384

Career options

Art, performance and design
Information services

What is a… cultural heritage manager?

Cultural heritage managers work on the preservation, promotion, and management of cultural heritage sites. They have the responsibility for safeguarding historical and artistic legacies, ensuring that these sites remain not only intact but also accessible to current and future generations. From ancient landmarks to traditional art forms, they find the balance between conservation efforts and sustainable tourism, creating a connection between communities and their cultural heritage. 

Getting in: Entry requirements

Find out more about what you'll need to study history if art at university or as an apprenticeship.

Average requirements for undergraduate degrees

Entry requirements differ between university and course, but this should give you a guide to what is usually expected from history of art applicants.

A levels
Scottish Highers
Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma or SQCF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative

The expert view

The British art market
The British art market was the second largest internationally next to the US in 2022, with aggregate sales of art and antique estimated at $11.9 billion (£9.7 billion).

Explore further

Go deeper into topics around history of art with the following.
  1. The Art of the Steal

    A documentary looking at the Barnes Foundation art collection and its controversial move to Philadelphia.
  2. TED Talks – Art History

    Observe our modern times through the lens of art history with these compelling, masterful talks.
  3. Keep up-to-date

    Keep up-to-date with the latest exhibitions across the UK on the Royal Society of British Artists website.

Application advice

Whether it's personal statement tips or what to write in a cover letter, our application advice will help you get ahead in your history of art journey.
Skills, experiences, and interests to mention
  • Emphasise your curiosity and open-mindedness to exploring artistic traditions, cultures, and historical periods with a genuine interest in learning.
  • Showcase your analytical and critical thinking skills, giving examples of how you’ve approached the analysis of artworks or historical contexts.
  • Shout about your genuine passion for art and its historical context, discussing specific artworks, movements, or periods that have inspired you.
  • Emphasise your cultural awareness and appreciation, showing an understanding of the importance of cultural contexts in interpreting artworks.
  • Mention any personal artistic projects, whether it's creating art, participating in art-related groups, or engaging with artistic communities.

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