How to Become an Art Appraiser

Learn how to become an art appraiser. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in art appraisal.

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Do I Want to Be an Art Appraiser?

Art appraisers provide professionally researched opinions about the authenticity and value of pieces of art, antiques and jewelry for insurance purposes, tax valuation and auctions, as well as to aid property division during divorce proceedings. Appraisers must have an extensive knowledge of art history and the international art marketplace along with a thorough understanding of estate and income tax laws. They must also understand the principles used to determine the fair market value for art objects. Many hours might be spent sitting and performing computer research in this occupation.

Job Requirements

To become an art appraiser, a bachelor's degree, preferably in art history or fine arts, is typically required. Taking courses in finance or economics may also be useful. This is a career that requires hands-on experience to learn how to assess the value of art, so additional training and experience beyond a bachelor's degree is usually necessary. The following table describes some of the common requirements for art appraisers:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree is standard*
Degree Field Art history, fine arts or related field*
Experience Experience requirements vary by employers, but the IRS requires that appraisers have at least two years of experience related to the items they appraise for tax purposes **
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, research skills, knowledge of tax laws related to art appraisals and insurance, knowledge of art history and photography***
Computer Skills Experience with online reference tools***

Sources: *iSeek.org, **Internal Revenue Service (IRS), ***Edinboro University.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring art appraisers are expected to have knowledge of the many styles and time periods related to the history of art. Although programs specifically in art appraisal are not available, students can study art history and fine arts. These fields can help students develop the appreciation for art and the eye for judging art that will be needed in their careers as art appraisers. Courses in economics or finance may also be helpful since art appraisers have to become skilled at assessing the financial value of art. They will also have to meet IRS guidelines for appraising the value of art.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Future appraisers should consider interning for an art auction house or an appraisal firm during college to gain insight into the commercial aspect of the art world. It would also be useful to intern at art museums or galleries to gain experience in handling and evaluating art pieces.

Step 2: Earn a Certificate in Appraisal Studies

Earning a certificate in appraisal studies is not a requirement, but it may be helpful. This certificate can offer the kind of targeted training in personal property valuation that isn't available in a formal degree program. A few schools offer these professional certificate programs in partnership with the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). A bachelor's degree or related professional experience may be required for admission.

Core courses include an introduction to personal property valuation and other courses specific to personal property valuation, including research and analysis, report writing and the legal and commercial environment. Art appraisers are also expected to be current on the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), which is a set of professional and ethical guidelines issued by the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB). Students may cover the USPAP in a core or elective course, as well as studies on writing appraisal reports, photographing art works and appraising antique jewelry.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. Becoming a member of a professional organization is a good way to improve career opportunities. The International Society of Appraisers (ISA) and American Society of Appraisers (ASA) offer entry-level memberships. Applicants can join as candidates, and after they pass a series of steps, they gain full membership. These organizations offer up-to-date, industry-standard information and training opportunities, as well as access to jobs, marketing and networking opportunities. Furthermore, IRS regulations demand that appraisers state their educational qualifications and membership in professional organizations in every appraisal report. This information may be used to judge the validity of personal property valuations made by art appraisers.

Step 3: Find Work at an Art Appraisal Firm

Appraisal firms and auction houses are the largest employers of appraisers. However, some appraisers choose to work as independent contractors. Successful art appraisers must develop a reputation for honesty and accuracy in order to gain credibility with their clients and the IRS. Spending a number of years practicing the craft helps appraisers enhance their skills and reputation in this industry.

Success Tip:

  • Consider graduate programs in art history. Appraisers sometimes have to consider the color and tone preferences, anatomical proportions of figures and angles of brush strokes to authenticate a painting. Completing a master's or doctoral degree program in art history can be useful though it is not necessary. The scholarly research required for these postgraduate programs would later help to authenticate works of art and estimate their value.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Certification is not required to practice as an art appraiser, but obtaining credentials can be beneficial to an art appraiser's career. Certification offers future employers and clients a level of confidence that an art appraiser has met the industry standard-level of knowledge and competence for this profession. Certification programs are offered by the ASA and ISA. To become certified, applicants should have least 2-3 years of professional experience and a bachelor's degree. In addition, candidates also have to successfully complete required courses, pass examinations and have their appraisal reports reviewed.

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