May 29, 2023  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Art History, M.A.

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Priority Admission Application Deadlines:

Also offered as a Bachelor’s/Master’s Pathway

Contact Information

College: The Arts
Department: School of Art and Art History

Contact Information:
Other Resources:

The M.A. program in Art History provides students with training in art history, theory, and methods to prepare them for careers in art collections, education, and cultural institutions, and for further graduate study at the Ph.D. level. Courses are offered in art from antiquity to the present. We see art history as an integral part of social and cultural history in a global context and our classes are interdisciplinary in scope. The major is unique in featuring small, intensive seminar-style courses. Students receive individual attention from an active, award-winning research faculty, who expose students to the most recent approaches in the field. Course work can be supplemented by international travel and study-abroad programs sponsored by the School of Art and Art History. The Contemporary Art Museum, Graphicstudio Institute for Research in Art and the Kennedy Family Visiting Artist/Scholar program are all valuable resources contributing to course content, study and possible internship opportunities in the program.

The degree provides an excellent foundation in graduate level art-historical analysis, research, and writing, an outstanding springboard for either continuing graduate studies (Ph.D.) to become a university professor, or professional work in a variety of arts fields including museums, non-profit and commercial galleries, libraries, education and publishing. Some of the positions in the arts held by our graduates include: museum curator, museum registrar, non-profit art gallery director, commercial art gallery director or administrator, museum educator, museum director, art critic, art librarian, visual resources professional, corporate art collection curator, state arts agency administrator, university administrator and program director, art history instructor K-12 and college, and after further graduate work, tenured university professor.

M.A. Art History students are guided by the art history faculty in selecting their area of research after completing a year of graduate study.  This major features an endowed chair in modern and contemporary art history.


Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Major Research Areas:

Ancient, Late Medieval, Renaissance, Early Modern, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, Contemporary, Islamic. 

Admission Information

Must meet University Admission and English Proficiency requirements, as well as requirements for admission to the major, listed below.

For priority consideration: The electronic application and fee payment for USF Graduate Admissions must be completed by January 15 at  Supportive application materials can be submitted online beginning September 30 to January 15 at  All official transcripts must be postmarked by January 15 and sent directly to the School of Art and Art History.

Applications will be accepted to June 1, but submissions after January 15 are less likely to receive scholarships and funding.

Application requirements:

  • A GRE General Test Score, taken within five years preceding application, is required. Applicants who have graduated from USF with a major in art history in the last five years are exempted from this requirement. Official GRE scores must be sent to USF’s Office of Graduate Admissions by the test administrator
  • a CV/Resume
  • a research paper dealing directly with Art History or a related discipline (literature, political history, psychology, philosophy or classical studies).
  • Three letters of recommendation from people who can professionally assess the applicant’s ability to do scholarly and academic work.
  • A short essay of one to two pages explaining the applicant’s research interests and goals for graduate study in art history. A personal interview by the Art History faculty may be requested.
  • Admission is competitive. Fulfillment of the above-listed minimal admissions requirements does not guarantee acceptance into the program. All submitted materials of each applicant, including the Research Paper, statement of research goals, and the letters of recommendation, are reviewed by the Art History Faculty to assess academic potential.

Undergraduate Deficiencies in Art History

  • Students pursuing graduate studies in Art History, who do not have an undergraduate degree in Art History may be required to take additional classes preliminary to acceptance.
  • Exceptions can be granted only with consent of the Art History faculty.

Language Requirements

Reading knowledge of the foreign language most relevant for study and research in the student’s area of specialization must be acquired before the end of the second semester of enrollment in the major. Students consult with their advisors to determine the language most appropriate to their scholarly interests. Please see the Academic Advisor for exceptions to this rule.

The student may take appropriate courses in the Department of World Languages. Whenever the courses are available, the student should be encouraged to take one of the special one semester foreign language courses designed for graduate students.

When these courses are not available, the student may take two semesters of a beginning foreign language course. These courses may not be taken pass/fail or audit. In order to fulfill the foreign language requirement, the student must receive a letter grade of “B” or better in both courses. Courses taken to fulfill the foreign language requirement can count toward up to eight hours of electives necessary for graduation and the grades in these courses will be computed in the student’s graduate GPA.

Students may elect to take the GSFLT (Office of Graduate Studies Foreign Language Test). The student must achieve a score of 450 or above on the test in order to fulfill the foreign language requirement.

Students may take a proficiency exam in which they translate, from a foreign language into English, materials relevant to their particular disciplines. The form of these proficiency exams should be devised by the appropriate language professors from either of these two units.

Transfer of Credit

There is no automatic transfer of non-degree seeking student credit or graduate credit earned at other institutions or from other graduate majors in the University towards M.A. degree requirements.  The School of Art and Art History has designated a six hour limit on all credit taken as non-degree seeking student status.  Any transfer of credit or non-degree seeking student hours to be used toward M.A. degree requirements are only granted after a faculty review at the time the student has been accepted into the M.A. major.

Curriculum Requirements

Total Minimum Hours -  38  Credit hours

  • Core – 8 hours
  • Area courses – 16 hours
  • Electives – 8 hours
  • Qualifying Paper option – 10 hours
  • Thesis Option – 6 hours

(38 hours minimum thesis option; 42 hours minimum qualiying paper option)

Core Courses (8 hours)

Core Courses (8 hours)

Area Courses (16 hours)

Area Courses (16 hours minimum)

To learn about a range of art-historical methods, graduate students are required to take seminars in a variety of historical periods and taught by different faculty.  A student should, if possible, have at least one graduate class in each of these three areas:

  1. Ancient/Medieval/Islamic
  2. Renaissance/Early Modern (15th-18th centuries)
  3. Modern/Contemporary (19-21st centuries).

Museum experience is encouraged for all students, but course credit for museum internships is limited to those seeking a Certificate in Museum Studies.

Electives (8 hours)

Determined by individual consultation with Grad Director.

Thesis and Qualifying paper options

Students either write a qualifying paper or thesis to complete the requirements of the major.  Students should consult with the Graduate Coordinator and the faculty to determine which option is the best for them; the final decision rests with the faculty.  For either option, a B+ average or above is required in courses taken to fulfill Major graduate credits, for students to move on to this final phase of their graduate studies. 

The M.A. in Art History is a two-year major for students who attend full time, but the thesis option often takes longer to complete.

Qualifying paper option (10 hours)

Students in the qualifying paper option complete ARH 6055   and an additional 8 hours in art history area courses (5000-level or above).

The qualifying paper should demonstrate the student’s ability to do significant art-historical research, to persuade by effective use of evidence and argument, and to write fluently and clearly. The qualifying paper will usually be a substantially revised seminar paper and should be about 15-20 typed pages in length, excluding endnotes, bibliography, illustrations or other materials. Students choosing this option should form a qualifying paper committee by the end of the second semester of their first year. The Committee is composed of a major professor and a second  faculty member. Members of the Committee are faculty in the School of Art and Art History, of which one must be tenured or tenure-earning. The Major Professor will usually be the professor who oversaw the writing of the original seminar paper. Students pursuing this option download the relevant form at  Students are responsible for collecting committee members’ signatures. The M.A. Graduate Coordinator  must authorize all committee assignments with his/her signature

When submitting drafts of the qualifying paper to committee members, students must allow faculty members two weeks to read any given version.  Remember that first drafts usually have to be extensively revised, often several times, before the qualifying paper is accepted. Faculty are not normally available during the summer to read qualifying paper drafts.

The qualifying paper committee must approve the qualifying paper before the student can graduate. Qualifying papers must be submitted two weeks before the last day of classes of the semester in which the student wishes to graduate.  The major professor, in consultation with the other faculty member, notifies the Academic Advisor of the School of Art and Art History of approval of the paper before the end of the semester. If a paper is not approved, the student may revise and resubmit it a second time.  It is the student’s responsibility to stay abreast of Office of Graduate Studies deadlines and registration requirements in the final semester, which are available online at

Thesis Option (6 hours)

Students writing the thesis should work with faculty during the second semester to begin developing potential topics.  By the end of the first year, students who wish to write the thesis should decide on a thesis topic with a major professor from the art history faculty. The topic is usually related to research done in a seminar. During the following summer students prepare the thesis proposal.  The proposal should define a significant research problem and explain how the topic has the potential to contribute to scholarship in the field; it must include a research plan and a critical review of the scholarly literature on the subject area.  Thesis proposals will be presented to faculty and fellow graduate students in a public forum at the beginning of the third semester.  Each presentation is followed by discussion, which provides an opportunity for students to receive suggestions and recommendations from faculty and peers. If the proposal is declined, the student will be eligible to pursue a Qualifying Paper.

If the art history faculty approves the thesis topic, the student should form a thesis committee by the end of the semester in which they have successfully proposed a thesis topic,  and have thereby achieved thesis candidacy.

The Committee is composed of at least two members and the Major Professor.  The Major Professor and at least one other committee member must be chosen from tenured or tenure-earning art history faculty, or otherwise as approved by the Graduate Coordinator of the Art History Major.  Students forming the thesis committee download the relevant form at  Students are responsible for collecting committee members’ signatures. The M.A. Graduate Coordinator  must authorize all committee assignments with his/her signature.

While moderate in length and considerably more limited in scope than a doctoral dissertation, the M.A. thesis must demonstrate the student’s ability to do original, independent research of publishable quality.  The thesis should be approximately 35-40 typed pages of text – the usual length of a journal article – excluding notes, bibliography, illustrations or other materials.  When submitting drafts of the thesis to committee members, students must allow faculty members two weeks to read any given version. Remember that first drafts will have to be extensively revised several times before the thesis is accepted. Faculty are not normally available during the summer  to read thesis drafts.  The thesis committee must approve the final thesis before the student may schedule a date for the M.A. thesis defense.  The examining committee will consist of the thesis committee and at least two additional questioners who are chosen by the student in consultation with the thesis committee.  Students should keep in mind that the questioners must also be allowed two weeks to read the draft of the thesis after it is accepted for the defense by the thesis committee. The oral defense is open to the public. No defenses are scheduled during the summer.  Immediately after the orals, the examining committee meets to determine whether the student has passed the oral examination and whether the thesis is acceptable in its current form.

NOTE: It is usually necessary to make some changes in the thesis after the oral defense.  Allow at least one week between the oral exam and the Office of Graduate Studies deadline so that you will be able to make the changes.

Ideally, the student will complete the thesis and submit it in the fourth semester.  It is the student’s responsibility to stay abreast of Office of Graduate Studies deadlines and registration requirements in the final semester.  Check with the USF Office of Graduate Studies for specific deadlines and requirements for the M.A. thesis and graduation.  These are available online at .  All theses must be submitted electronically.

Bachelor’s/Master’s Pathway

Also available as a Bachelor’s/Master’s Pathway  

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