Why study history of art?
A Masters in the history of art not only prepares you for further research in the discipline - it's also a great gateway to a wide range of graduate jobs
This wide-ranging subject offers plenty of scope when it comes to postgraduate courses. Programmes vary from general art history - where you choose modules that deal with different periods and themes - to specialised degrees that are focused on a specific type of history such as British art, sculpture studies, or the history of collecting and collections.
Why choose history of art?
A Masters in the history of art is excellent preparation for further study or work in the art and heritage sectors, regardless of whether you're undertaking a generalised course or a specialised programme.
Postgraduate study in the subject equips you with relevant employability skills, specialist knowledge in a particular field of interest, and a range of methodological research techniques.
'Through a critical engagement with some of the key theories and approaches developed to interpret and explain works of art, architecture and design from the past to the present day, students learn to undertake independent research and produce original pieces of writing,' says Dr Sabine Wieber, lecturer in history of art, architecture and design at the University of Glasgow.
'A postgraduate degree in history of art also imbues students with a range of transferable work-related skills that are highly valued by employers, from visual and textual analysis to critical thinking and writing.'
What do courses involve?
There are many postgraduate programmes to choose from. The University of Birmingham, for example, offers MA Art History and Curating - one of the few programmes in the country that provides students with the opportunity to work with academic and museum professionals to curate an art exhibition in a public gallery.
MA History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, meanwhile, encourages students to tailor their course according to their needs. The programme regularly incorporates new module choices for students, such as gothic encounters, seeing Sienese art, and Persian painting and transcultural visuality.
Dr Amanda Lillie, chair of graduate studies at the University of York's department of history of art, says that the university's flexible MA History of Art programme enables students to 'focus on a historical period from medieval to contemporary art, follow a thematic strand, or pursue a diverse range of interests'.
As well as choosing from the department's range of study options, students can select up to two of their modules from those offered by other humanities departments and interdisciplinary centres at the university.
Sara Kirby studied MA Art and Design History at Kingston University, and says that applying research to her own investigations was particularly rewarding. 'The programme was all-consuming and inspirational, and helped to develop my cultural insight, analytical skills and research methodology,' she says. 'I also learned how to express ideas through different presentational forms, including filmmaking.
'I tailored the course to my research area - printed textile design. I interviewed designers, visited mills and, for my dissertation, questioned the impact of digital technology on creative practice and visual language.'
What do history of art graduates do?
While history of art seems quite a specific postgraduate course to take, the list of career opportunities are extensive.
'Our postgraduates leave us with a wide range of transferable and discipline-specific skills, providing them with an excellent platform from which to pursue their chosen careers,' adds Amanda.
'As a result, our graduates go on to work in diverse roles, including auctioneering, curating, conservation, teaching, journalism, librarianship, and research, within the UK and further afield. Many also go on to further study.'