Visual Arts PhD Program Overviews

Essential Information

Visual arts doctoral programs are rare, but many schools offer PhD programs in visual studies, which may offer a similar course of study in visual arts and related topics. Visual studies students examine and interpret artworks of various media forms, including digital technology, photography, painting, performance, sculpture, film, and architecture. Studio components are not normally part of the PhD program, which focuses on research and typically concludes with a dissertation. Other curricular requirements may include directed scholarly reading, graduate seminars, and teaching assistantships.

Admission to doctoral degree programs is competitive, and entry requirements include a bachelor's degree. While it's most common for students to have majored in an art-related field, other majors are usually considered as well. Some visual studies programs may be highly selective and admit a limited number of students each year.

PhD in Visual Arts or Visual Studies

Although students must take required courses, programs typically allow for a certain amount of flexibility. Through electives, students can design a portion of their curricula according to their individual research interests. Additionally, programs may allow or require students to take courses outside of the visual studies program in order to gauge different perspectives. Topics covered in the curriculum may include:

  • Art history
  • Visual art theory
  • Film and media

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a PhD in Visual Studies program may decide to work as artists or work in art-related careers in different industries. They may also qualify for jobs in research or academia. Possible options include:

  • Professor
  • Art museum director
  • Art business owner

Continuing Education Information

Individuals who want to diversify their knowledge or specialize in a specific area can enroll in graduate certificate programs. Options for these programs may include cultural studies, visual anthropology, art museum education, women's studies, and critical theory.

PhD programs in visual studies teach students to interpret artwork in various mediums. Graduates can enroll in graduate certificate programs or work as artists, researchers, or educators.

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