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Guide to studying History of Art, Architecture & Design

A History of Art, Architecture & Design degree is typically a challenging, engaging and creative experience undertaken by students with a range of backgrounds and interests.

Fresco in St. Charles's Church in Vienna


  1. What's History of Art, Architecture & Design?

  2. Why study History of Art, Architecture & Design?

  3. What jobs can you get as a History of Art, Architecture & Design graduate?

  4. What do graduates do and earn?
  5. What qualifications do you need?

  6. What degrees can you study?

  7. How will you be assessed?

  8. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

What's History of Art, Architecture & Design?

The History of Art, Architecture & Design emerged as an intellectual discipline which involved – and continues to involve – the close analysis of art and its interpretation as a telling product of human societies.

As it became more widely studied during the 20th century, it became the diverse and dynamic discipline it is today, drawing on psychology, psychoanalysis, sociology and anthropology (among other disciplines).

Since the 1980s at least, there has been a growing awareness of the need to find adequate ways of understanding art, architecture and design and their consumption beyond the previously-accepted 'canon' of high art.

For example, the works of female artists and other social groups previously overlooked within the area, or artefacts produced in the world beyond Western Europe and North America.

Why study History of Art, Architecture & Design?

During a History of Art, Architecture & Design course, you'll gain a solid understanding of the subject as a highly significant product of the broader culture or society in which it's made and consumed.

A degree in this area offers a number of professional skills, not least the interpretation and production of carefully-considered, well-supported and confident arguments in writing, presentation and visual display.

Furthermore, studying an area you’re passionate about provides an ideal academic experience which pushes you to look closer, think harder, and express your findings with greater clarity; all in the interest of achieving a more profound understanding of human history.

Work placements or internships organised by your department will give valuable real-life experiences. Courses offering a year abroad will give you an appreciation of different cultures.

What jobs can you get as a History of Art, Architecture & Design graduate?

A wide variety of careers are open to graduates, including law, publishing, media, education, museums, and the commercial art world.

What do graduates do and earn?

In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of History of Art, Architecture & Design have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.

The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate History of Art, Architecture & Design students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.

Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18

What qualifications do you need? 

Universities often expect you to have studied at least one essay-writing subject at A Level or equivalent (for example History or English Literature).

Otherwise, the range of subjects studied at school or college is rarely specified and applications are typically welcomed from potential students with diverse academic backgrounds. Specific requirements vary at each university or college.

Tips for your university application

Admissions tutors look for personal statements that show you haven't just got the interest, but also the motivation required to look, read and find out about art, architecture and/or design for yourself.

If you’re thinking about applying for a History of Art, Architecture & Design degree, it’s therefore worth considering how best to communicate that motivation, for example by describing instances when you’ve engaged independently with a particular artwork, building or exhibition and what it was that you learned from that experience.

What degrees can you study?

  • History of Art
  • History of Art with Gallery and Museum Studies
  • History of Art and Literature
  • Film Studies and Art History
  • Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History

Group of Students Studying at University

How will you be assessed?

You can expect to be taught in small seminar groups for modules focused on particular periods, issues or themes in art, in which tutors encourage you to analyse images, discuss the topic in question and give presentations to the class.

Tutors might also take you to see artworks in situ, whether through trips to museums, galleries and architectural sites in the UK or overseas, or within the art collections associated with some departments themselves.

During the first and second years of a degree, seminar modules are usually complemented by larger lecture modules which offer a broad overview of art and its histories, as well as the variety of approaches (or methodologies) used by art historians.

Modules are usually assessed through a mixture of essays, classes presentations and exams, though this will vary between departments.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Postgraduate opportunities in this subject include full-time, part-time and distance research and taught programmes across a wide range of subjects.

The University of East Anglia, for example, offers postgraduate taught and research courses in World Art Studies and Museology; or you could focus on the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.

Each university will have different areas of specialisms, ranging from history of art to aesthetics and antiques.

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