PhD Vs. M.A. for Art History

Mar 20, 2019

Art history can be studied at the master's and doctoral levels to prepare for careers in a range of fields. Find out about the length of these programs, what is required for graduation, and how to apply.

Students interested in studying art history at the graduate level can most commonly pursue a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree program. These programs include research opportunities and prepare students for a variety of art history-related careers. Learn about some of the similarities and differences between the master's and doctoral programs below.

Details Related to Art History Graduate Degrees

M.A. in Art History

Master's degree programs in art history can be completed in 2 years and generally require a final thesis or research project, but some programs may allow students to choose a practicum experience in place of a thesis. This can allow students to gain hands-on experience that is necessary for entering the workforce. Depending on the program, students may be able to focus their studies in various areas of concentration, such as ancient, modern, or medieval time periods, or include interdisciplinary study across different related fields. Typical master's programs require around 30 credit hours to complete and offer courses that cover topics like art history methods, theory, and research. Some programs may require students to be able to read the language which applies to their art studies. Graduates are usually prepared to work in the public or private sectors in a range of fields, like business, law, or communications, as well as in a variety of settings, such as art galleries, museums, auction houses, or libraries.

PhD in Art History

Art history doctorate programs may take as much as 5 to 10 years to complete and may allow students to earn their M.A. in Art History along the way. PhD programs often require 60 credits beyond a master's degree or 90 credits beyond a bachelor's degree. This allows students to focus their studies even more so than in M.A. programs, with some programs offering concentrations in areas like African, Greek and Roman, Chinese, Renaissance and Baroque, American, and Medieval and Byzantine art. Students in these types of PhD programs are usually required to also complete qualifying exams, a dissertation, and have the reading knowledge in 1 to 2 foreign languages. Graduates of doctoral programs in art history may pursue careers as museum curators, college professors, researchers, and more.

Common Entrance Requirements

The admissions process for M.A. and PhD in Art History programs is fairly similar, with the main difference being that PhD programs may require students to have more prior coursework in art history. In general, applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree and may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement, usually around a 3.0. Most of these programs also require the GRE. Typical application materials include transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, a personal statement, and a writing sample. Some doctoral programs may also have students fill out a foreign language survey and/or at least be familiar with the programs faculty and research to later identify possible advisors.

Master's programs in art history are usually shorter and less specialized when compared to doctoral degree programs in the field. However, both degree levels can require students to complete a final research project and meet a foreign language requirement.


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