Art History Masters Degree Program Overviews

Master's degree programs in art history examine the contexts of artistic creativity in the world, helping students develop critical thinking and visual analysis skills while widening their perspectives on art.

Essential Information

Art history is the study of art, artistic trends and creative developments throughout history. Master's degree programs in art history take about two years to complete, and students may have the option to focus their studies on a specialization such as a particular time period, architecture, or photography. Most programs at this level also require students to demonstrate proficiency in a second language.

While some programs offer non-thesis tracks, most programs require a thesis project intended to develop students' research skills in preparation for continued study in a PhD program and pursuit of academic careers. Non-thesis track students usually participate in practical training experiences, since they tend to seek careers in museums, galleries and art institutions.

Prerequisites for these programs may include a bachelor's degree, completion of the GRE, and submission of official transcripts.

Master's Degree in Art History

Applicants to art history master's degree programs are required to have bachelor's degrees, although not necessarily in art history. However, many programs recommend previous knowledge in art history, and may administer qualifying placement exams to evaluate candidates' existing knowledge in art history. These exams may include image, essay or oral examinations.

Art history programs are, in general, cross-disciplinary. Many courses in graduate-level art history programs focus on theory, criticism or research. Throughout a master's program in art history, students gain awareness to issues and perspectives in art history. Typical course topics include:

  • Historiography
  • Minimalism
  • Mesoamerican art
  • Postmodernism
  • Art criticism
  • Photography

Popular Career Options

A master's degree in art history allows individuals to seek jobs with museums, historical associations, art institutes, community colleges, auction houses and galleries. Common positions for graduates of art history master's degree programs include:

  • Art historian
  • Art teacher
  • Art director
  • Gallery assistant
  • Archivist

Continuing Education Information

Students looking for advanced research-based and postsecondary teaching positions can pursue a Ph.D. in Art History. Art historians with Ph.D. degrees can pursue higher-level positions with museums, universities and art institutions.

Graduate students interested in art history can pursue degree programs that take a closer look at several artistic periods, sometimes allowing students to specialize in certain areas of the study. These programs can prepare students for careers as art historians, teachers, and more.

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