Bachelor of Arts in Art History
About Art History
Art history is an academic discipline concerned with the production, consumption, and experience of art, architecture, design, mass media, and other artifacts that manifest themselves visually or tangibly. Art historians may study any period, region, or cultural tradition. To analyze the so-called “visual culture” of every period and place, and to understand its relationship to cultural contexts and social functions, art historians may employ diverse methodologies. Students pursuing the B.A in Art History must practice verbal and written communication as well as skills of interpretation, critical-thinking, and research.
Art History at Cal Poly Pomona
We offer the only independent B.A. in Art History in the California State University system in Southern California. There are only two such degrees in the entire CSU. Most campuses instead offer the B.A. in Art with an option in Art History. This distinction gives our students due recognition for their expertise in the field when they apply for employment or to graduate programs.
Our majors study the production, reception, and experience of art, architecture, design, mass media,
and other artifacts that manifest visually or tangibly. Art historians may study any period, region, or cultural tradition. Our courses span the globe and every age. We regularly offer courses in areas as diverse as “Contemporary Art,” “Medieval Art,” “Japanese Art,” and “Art and Architecture of India.” Through such courses, students become familiar with significant works and styles, differing ways of interpreting them, and an understanding of the social functions and impacts of visual and material culture.
Students pursuing the B.A in Art History must practice verbal and written communication as well as skills of interpretation, critical thinking, and research. These are foundations for various career paths. (A summary of common careers for those with a B.A. in Art History is included in this brochure.) To best prepare students for careers, our curriculum requires students to take elective courses to gain additional expertise or a minor most compatible with their goals. The faculty is dedicated to advising our students in this highly personal, yet consequential, process.
Careers in Art History
The faculty takes an active role in advising students about their career options. There are many possible paths, and each requires a unique track of preparation. The faculty therefore provides the students with a menu of common career paths and suggests what they can do while obtaining their B.A. in Art History to prepare them and make them competitive. Below is a list of common career paths with a brief explanation of requirements and recommendations for pursuing them:
Scholarship and university teaching in art history or visual studies
Required credentials: Ph.D. in Art History or Visual Studies is required. Depending on the field of specialization, a Ph.D. in Classical Studies or Archaeology may be an appropriate alternative.
Recommended while an undergraduate at CPP: Students may pursue minors offered at CPP that are compatible with their interests in graduate education. The History Minor, for example, is always complementary to art history. Alternatively, since a Ph.D. in Art History or Visual Studies will require an examination in graduate school in two foreign languages, one of which must be French or German, additional coursework or a minor in French may be desirable. (To give students a minimum of preparation, the B.A. in Art History already requires a year of French or German.) Students with an interest in the burgeoning field of digital humanities—which includes digital art history, a growing specialization within art history scholarship—may wish instead to pursue the minor in Digital Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts.
Curatorship (for museums, galleries, or other institutions and events)
Required credentials: typically, a master’s degree is required for museum curating. M.A. degrees in Art History, Museum Studies, or Curatorial Studies are relevant.
Recommended while an undergraduate at CPP: pursue a museum or gallery internship while a senior.
The art history faculty regularly announces and encourages internship opportunities at local museums. But we offer academic credit for only one, a Gallery Assistant Internship supervised by the Curator
of the university’s Kellogg Art Gallery and Huntley Art Gallery. For the Gallery Assistant Internship at the Kellogg and Huntley galleries, students assist in the research of artists and artworks, art- collection inventory, production of exhibition checklists, art labeling and captioning, cataloguing, archiving and documenting collections, and maintenance of data. The position is ideal for students interested in learning art collections management and other related museum and gallery skills. Required duties also include gallery attendance (greeting patrons, attendance-taking, distributing visitor surveys, providing security for artworks), general gallery maintenance (painting, cleaning, etc.), assisting with installation and de-installation of artworks (help with moving walls, art handling, hanging and presenting artwork, unpacking and packing of artworks, lighting of artworks), assisting with receptions and events, promotion through social media, and some administrative and clerical duties. Majors in art history may be given specialized projects to build further professional skills and expertise.
Collections management (for museums or other collecting or exhibiting institutions of art) or librarianship
Required credentials: collections managers typically work in museums, but may work in any institution that requires taking care and managing a collection of objects. Librarianship is vast. There are librarians in corporate, public, academic, museum, and government institutions. For collections management, it is common to have a M.A. in Collections Management or a master’s degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS). Those wishing to pursue Art Librarianship should additionally pursue a M.A. in Art History. Some graduate programs, such as the Pratt Institute in New York City, ready students for both degrees.
Recommended while an undergraduate at CPP: students who want to do collections management for museums or other exhibiting art institutions should consider a museum internship while a senior. Those who think they might want to work in libraries should consider interning as a page in a library. They may need to take a college-level course in statistics that includes descriptive and inferential statistics and pass it with at least a C. Admission to the MLIS at UCLA, for example, requires such a course.
Museum education (for museums or other exhibiting institutions of art)
Required credentials: M.A. in Museum Education or Museum Studies is typical. Recommended while an undergraduate at CPP Consider pursuing a museum internship while a senior.
Arts administration (for profit or non-profit institutions) or careers in art business (in auction houses, galleries, or art specializations
Required credentials: M.A. in Arts Administration or Arts Management or Art Business (depending on area of interest) is desirable. The Sotheby’s Institute of Art at Claremont Graduate University, for example, offers a M.A. in Art Business and a M.A. in Arts Management.
Recommended while an undergraduate at CPP: consider a minor in Finance, Marketing Management, Business Law, or General Management.
Art editing and publishing
Required credentials: with a B.A. in Art History, a student will have a good foundation in the subject area, but will need further development of skills in writing and editing, journalism, and publishing. This can be accomplished in many ways, including work experience and education credentials. A M.A. in English, Journalism, or Arts Journalism is a fine option for the latter.
Recommended while an undergraduate at CPP: consider pursuing an English minor, a Journalism minor, or a double major in English or in Communications.
Required credentials: a J.D. (Juris Doctor degree) specializing in intellectual-property law or, as offered by Duke University, a J.D./M.A. in Law and the History of Art.
Recommended while an undergraduate at CPP: choose a Political Science Minor, and, from the elective courses, select those pertaining to law. Take the LSAT exam (required for application to law schools).
Required credentials: M.A. in Art Conservation or Technical Art History is required.
Recommended while an undergraduate at CPP: graduate programs in this area may require a record of specific courses taken and/or work experience. For an example, see the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology’s UCLA/ Getty M.A. in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials http://conservation.ucla.edu/. The site lists the following as requirements for admission into the program, in addition to a B.A. in one of the acceptable areas (which includes art history): Education: A minimum of one academic year (2 semesters or 3 quarters) of study is required in each of the following areas: Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology, or Ethnography; Art History (studies in archaeological or ethnographic materials and/or traditions preferred); General Chemistry (with lab); Organic Chemistry (with lab). One other Science (i.e., Physical Chemistry, Biology, Geology, Physics, etc.) is preferred, but is not essential to be considered for admission. Experience: Between 200–400 hours (the equivalent of 5 to 10 weeks of full-time work) of documented practical experience in conservation. Appropriate experience (volunteer, paid, or a combination) includes fieldwork, laboratory experience, exhibit preparation, or similar responsibilities performed under the supervision of a professional conservator. A letter of recommendation is required from at least one conservation supervisor.
Admission to the undergraduate program is possible either as a first-time freshman or as a transfer student from a recognized college. Undergraduate admissions are processed and managed by the University.
Recently, the University has been designated as an impacted campus, altering the admissions process by instituting required filing periods and giving priority to students based on their geographical proximity to campus. This has limited enrollment of students who would have previously been admitted to the University.
Admission to the Bachelor Arts in Art History, leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree, is subject to the standard admissions requirements of Cal Poly Pomona.
For specific information, and application instructions, please refer to the Office of Admissions & Outreach:
Generally, admission of undergraduate students from high school to the university is determined by a formula that combines the high school grade point average and ACT (American College Test) or SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) score. In general, students in approximately the upper third of the high school graduating class are eligible for admission.
Freshman applicants must meet the minimum California State University eligibility requirements to be considered for admission. If you meet the minimum CSU requirements, Cal Poly Pomona will consider your application using supplemental criteria that may vary depending on the academic major you have chosen.
For additional information visit Cal Poly Pomona's Freshman Requirements and Deadlines page.
Admission of transfer students from community colleges is based on college grade point averages. As of fall 2004 admissions, the University is only accepting upper division transfers.
Upper division transfers must complete 60 semester (90 quarter) units of transferable coursework, including 30 semester (45 quarter) units of courses equivalent to general education requirements, with a grade of “C” or better by the end of the spring quarter to be considered for the next fall quarter.
For additional information on Transfer Admissions, please refer to:
Known for its outstanding academic programs, Cal Poly Pomona offers excellent education for international students who wish to pursue a degree in the United States.
Current and future International Students in Cal Poly academic programs must contact the International Center for information regarding visas, guidelines for maintaining academic progress, and procedures for internships and post graduation work.
For additional information on Incoming International Students and requirements, please refer to:
The goals of the program leading to the BA in Art History can be summarized as follows:
- Expose students to globally diverse artistic traditions.
- Develop discipline specific vocabulary and tools of analysis.
- Develop skills of research.
- Enhance critical thinking skills.
- Prepare students for art history related careers and graduate studies.
Student Learning Objectives
Students obtaining the B.A. in Art History should be able to
1. identify important works of art and design, artistic movements, and trends;
2. analyze works of art and design using art historical tools of visual analysis and discipline appropriate vocabulary;
3. explain how works of art and design relate to their context of production and reception;
4. demonstrate critical thinking about art historical, critical, or theoretical texts;
5. demonstrate skills of research and proper use of scholarly documentation.
In addition, students will gain
6. exposure to the creative process in the visual arts via the production of visual art work;
7. at least beginner-level competence in French or German languages via courses in these languages;
8. exposure to related humanities disciplines via courses in history, foreign languages, general-education courses, and electives.