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Art History Graduate Programs

There are two main kinds of graduate degree programs in art history that prepare students for different kinds of careers. Learn about some of the requirements, possible careers and admission standards for each degree.

Graduate degree programs in art history are typically only available as a Master of Arts or Doctor of Philosophy degree program. These programs allow students to study different types of art and focus on a particular area in the field through their studies and/or research. Here we compare and contrast the 2 different degree programs to help you choose which degree may be right for you.

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Comparing a Master's in Art History to a Doctoral Degree in Art History

Master of Arts in Art History

Master of Arts (MA) in Art History degree programs are fairly common and may be available in full- or part-time formats. Students usually need 30 to 40 credits to complete the program, can typically finish these degree programs in 2 to 4 years and may be able to choose from a range of specializations, such as African art and architecture, history of Western art, East Asian art and archaeology and history of photography. Some of these programs may require students to have reading knowledge in a foreign language and/or complete a thesis, but it is pretty common for these programs to offer a thesis and non-thesis option where non-thesis students take more coursework or complete a hands-on practicum experience. Most MA programs in art history are designed to prepare students for doctoral study in the field, but graduates can find jobs in research, exhibition management or curating positions. Students in these programs may take courses in topics like methods of art history, practices of art history, Asian art, contemporary art, theory of photography and other courses specific to their concentration.

Doctor of Philosophy in Art History

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Art History degree programs must usually be taken full-time, take more than 5 years to complete and typically require a dissertation. Students in the program are also expected to have reading knowledge of at least 2 foreign languages, complete qualifying exams, take around 60 credits of coursework and some programs may require doctoral students to participate in a teaching program to teach undergraduate courses. Students typically choose a field of study within art history and coursework is tailored to the concentration and research interests, but these programs may include seminars in special topics within art history, courses in historical studies, courses in critical studies and research credits. Graduates of doctoral programs in art history may take careers as postsecondary educators, independent researchers or museum curators.

Common Entrance Requirements

Applicants to master's degree programs in art history must have at least a bachelor's degree, while applicants to doctoral programs may need a master's degree specifically in art history or a related field. Most of these programs at either level usually want students to have some prior coursework in art history and some programs may have a minimum GPA requirement around a 3.0. However, art history graduate programs usually differ in terms of the GRE, with some requiring the exam scores and others not, but many programs require students to include their official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and a writing sample with their application. Some master's programs may also ask for a resume, while some doctoral programs may include an interview process after the first round of admissions.

MA and PhD degree programs in art history differ in length, foreign language requirements and additional responsibilities, such as teaching undergraduate courses. However, both programs allow students to focus on a particular area of study and usually culminate in a final project, thesis or dissertation, based on the degree level.


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