I Want To Be an Art History Major. What Kinds of Classes Should I Take in High SchoolStudents who know they want to obtain an art history major can prepare by taking certain kinds of classes in high school. These include related courses in art and history as well as additional classes that can teach useful skills and knowledge. Taking the right classes in high school can make it more likely students will perform well in college art history programs as well as enjoy a successful career afterward. Students should consider adding any of these classes to their schedules.

Art History

Some high schools offer courses in art history directly, often at the AP level. Students lucky enough to attend a school that offers art history classes should, obviously, take them. These classes will introduce students to the subject of art history and provide an introduction to the basic principles that govern this field of study. High school art history courses will usually cover a broad history of art while making note of some of the most important and influential artistic movements. Because many of these courses will be at the AP level, they may provide college credit. This allows students to skip taking basic classes in college and dive right into more specialized classes in their area of interest.


Aspiring art historians should almost always take art classes while in high school. Some high schools offer more specialized classes such as in animation or sculpture, but most high schools simply offer several levels of general art classes through which students can progress throughout their years in high school. Art historians need to have a strong understanding of how art is created, including the materials, techniques and design principles used. Most high school art classes cover some basic topics of art history, including important artistic styles and movements. Students who take art classes will have more direct, hands-on exposure to creating and working with art, a valuable background when pursuing a professional career as an art historian.

General History

History classes are usually required in some capacity in high schools, but future art historians should take more than the bare minimum and strongly consider taking most history classes available to them. Many are simply general history courses, usually focusing on American history, but these classes still have their advantages. They teach future art historians valuable skills all historians need to possess, such as the ability to conduct research, provide a correct analysis of a topic and argue their point of view, among other valuable skills. These courses provide students a general introduction to broad swaths of history which students can then dig into deeper with more specialized history classes in both high school and college. After all, it is always better to start with a general understanding before progressing into more detailed topics.

Specialized History

Most high schools offer some history courses focused around a certain time or place. These classes are also advisable for aspiring art historians to take, especially if they center around a culture or time period that is of interest. Like general history courses, students who take these classes will learn critical research, writing and presentation skills that will aid them in both college and their careers. They will also learn about historical topics, time periods and figures in greater detail, which will be advantageous knowledge and experience when moving on to taking classes at the college level. It is important to remember that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, historians usually require a master’s degree to work in the field and art historians are often no different, so preparing for that as early as possible is best.

English And Composition

Similar to history classes, English classes are almost always required for graduation. Future art history majors should pay attention in their high school English classes, however, because these courses teach students how to be analytical about a piece of written art. They also teach good writing skills and the ability to present or argue a point of view. Students who have the opportunity to take composition or creative writing courses, in particular, should sign up for them as well to further improve writing ability. The Guardian confirms the importance of writing ability to a career as an art historian, no matter in what capacity a student ultimately finds employment.

Foreign Language

Familiarity with a foreign language can prove to be very beneficial for art historians. Most high schools offer Spanish language classes, while others offer French, German and less common languages such as Italian or ancient languages that are useful for art historians. Most art historians will have an era, style or specific culture they want to focus on in their professional careers. This is usually what they find the most interesting. Being able to read and speak the language of a country where certain art comes from offers several significant benefits. This knowledge allows an art historian to read primary sources in their original languages, communicate more easily with art professionals from that culture, arrange deals and travel with ease.


A workshop class can be beneficial for future art historians because many art historians work in the fields of restoration and preservation according to The Balance. This necessitates good dexterity, the ability to work with one’s hands and familiarity with important tools of the trade. A high school shop class will not provide hands-on experience with tools used to restore and preserve artwork, but it does consist of a good foundation for teaching students proper safety in a workshop environment as well as how to handle projects with care.

Art history is a specific subject that often does not have many courses offered at the high school level. However, some schools do offer art history courses and there are many other classes, both required and elective, future art historians would benefit by taking. Students who want to get an art history major should strongly consider taking these kinds of classes in high school.

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