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Overview of Master Degree Program in Art History

Majors Overview April 5, 2013

Art history is the study of developments throughout history, artistic trends, and art. An art history graduate degree program prepares students for careers in educational, gallery, and museum settings related to art; it takes around two years to complete the program.

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Art History

A graduate degree in art history is designed for students who want to strengthen their knowledge of historically significant periods of artistic creativity. Typically, a degree program in art history allows students to examine the historical and social context of artistic time periods. Students will develop visual analysis and critical thinking skills, widen their perspectives on art, and gain theoretical and critical consciousness with art. Individuals might be asked to concentrate in their studies by selecting an art history specialization, such as photography, architecture, Rococo, Baroque, African art, and East Asian art. Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in a second language through a majority of programs at this level.

Each candidate is required by a majority of programs to complete a thesis project, though several programs offer non-thesis track. Before students decide on what track to pursue, they will need to consider their career goals. Students with thesis track usually complete research and coursework relevant to a particular area of art history, and their career goals generally involve pursuing a doctoral degree in Art History and pursuing a career in education. Students with non-thesis track typically participate in practical training experiences because they tend to pursue careers in art institutions, galleries, and museums.

Educational Requirements

Candidates who are applying to the master degree program in art history will need to have an undergraduate degree, although not necessarily in art history. However, a majority of programs recommend individuals to have prior knowledge in art history. Several programs have qualifying placement examinations to determine whether or not an individual has existing general understanding of art history. These examinations can include oral exams, essay, or image. Prospective students will be required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores and official transcripts for evaluation.

Course Topics

In general, art history programs are cross-disciplinary. Graduate-level programs in art history concentrate on research, criticism, and theory. Throughout the graduate program in art history, students gain perspectives in art history and awareness to issues. Course topics usually include:

•Art criticism
•Mesoamerican art
•Gothic Painting

Career Options

Students who have earned a master degree in art history will be able to seek jobs with galleries, auction houses, community colleges, art institutions, historical associations, and museums. Popular positions for students who have graduated from an art history master degree program include:

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

Information on Continuing Education

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

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