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What Degree Do You Need to Become an Art Gallery Director?

by Teresa J. Siskin

Requiring more than just a knowledge of art, work as an art gallery director involves administering the everyday operations of your gallery, from managing staff to developing marketing campaigns. The many hats you wear in this role require adequate educational and professional development to keep you on the competitive edge of your field.

Undergraduate Degree Options

The path to a career as an art gallery director begins with acquiring a bachelor's degree in fine art, art history or museum studies. For smaller art galleries, a bachelor's degree in fine art, art history or museum studies may suffice for a director position. A bachelor's degree program or a supplemental minor in arts management in arts management are also good options, as each helps to develop the business acumen necessary for gallery management.

Supplemental Coursework

Since gallery directing requires well-developed business management skills, supplementing your major with a minor or extra course work in business or economics can be beneficial. An educational background in marketing or public relations can also be helpful, because as director you will need the skills to market your gallery and the artists you represent. Another asset in preparation for a career as an art gallery director is the development of foreign language skills, particularly if you intend to deal in international artists or represent your gallery at international art fairs.

Graduate Degree Options

Completion of a master's or doctoral degree within the fields of art history, museum studies or arts administration can make you a more competitive candidate for lower-tier gallery director positions and eligible for director jobs at larger art galleries where advanced degrees are preferred. While graduate degrees in art history can expose you to many of the issues involved in gallery management, graduate programs in museum studies and arts administration offer more tailored preparation for a career in gallery management, from coursework in finance and fundraising to curatorial or managerial internship requirements.

Additional Considerations

Many gallery director positions prefer candidates who have several years of gallery or museum management experience already on their resume. If this qualification is holding you back, you can develop your management skill set through internships and assistantships with galleries or museums as you work toward your desired position of gallery director. Some university gallery director positions come tied to faculty positions as well, which can be a great option if you wish to teach in addition to running a gallery. Some positions also desire their candidates to be well versed in grant writing as well as be prepared to serve as the gallery figurehead, representing the organization at both local and national events, fairs and conferences, so plan on travel and public relations as being an important part of your job.

About the Author

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.

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