Sometimes offered as a PhD in Fine Arts, an art history doctoral program offers intensive research into art and its history, theories and manifestations in modern society. Some schools offer different tracks within their PhD programs, such as education and art criticism. Program specializations are available in many different eras and areas of art such as ancient, medieval, 20th century, African, or Asian art. Over the course of this program, students will need to complete a dissertation and may be required to work in leadership roles in museums and other art or history-related facilities.
If you want to apply to this program, you will need at least bachelor's degree (although a master's degree is preferred), proficiency in German, French, Spanish or other languages and a GPA of 3.0 or above. Previous art coursework may also be required.
PhD in Art History
A PhD program typically involves coursework, seminars, exams and a dissertation. Most programs also offer students the opportunity to gain teaching experience through graduate teaching assistant positions. For students with only a bachelor's degree, some programs award a master's degree en route to a PhD. Since PhD students can pick from several areas of specialization, course titles may vary. A sampling of class titles includes:
- Art history methods and theory
- History of 19th Century art criticism
- History of 20th Century art criticism
- American visual culture
- Contemporary art theories
- Organizing public forums on art
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Holders of a Ph.D. degree can find opportunities in post-secondary teaching, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). The BLS also predicted 11% job growth for the postsecondary teaching field from 2018 to 2028.
The median annual income for postsecondary teachers of art, drama and music was $69,960 in 2018, according to the BLS. Other possible job titles for those who successfully complete a Ph.D. in art history include art gallery manager, museum curator and elementary school art teacher.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Elementary and secondary teachers must be licensed by the state, and licensing requirements vary from state to state. Postsecondary teachers and museum curators do not have to be licensed. There are also professional organizations, such as the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works that may offer continuing education seminars and conferences.
Individuals interested in studying studio art at the doctorate level should look into PhD programs in fine arts or art history. These programs cover art through the ages, with plenty of options for specialization in many different cultures and eras of art.