Jul 15, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Art History, M.A.

College of Design, Art, and Performance  
Department: School of Art and Art History 

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


The M.A. 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, as well as for further graduate study at the Ph.D. level. Courses are offered in art and architecture 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 methodological and theoretical approaches in the field. Coursework 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 at doctoral level 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, or 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 (NASAD).

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 the posted priority admission deadline (http://www.grad.usf.edu/programs/search_all.php)  at https://secure.vzcollegeapp.com/usf/. All other application materials must be submitted online at https://usf.slideroom.com/#/login. All official transcripts must be postmarked by the posted priority admission deadline and sent directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions.

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

Application requirements:

  • Research paper, written in English, dealing with a topic in art history or a related discipline.
  • Three letters of recommendation from people who can assess the applicant’s academic ability, ideally from professors who have taught the applicant and are familiar wtih the applicant’s research and classroom participation.
  • 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.
  • CV or resume
  • Admission is competitive. Fulfillment of the admissions requirements does not guarantee acceptance into the program. All submitted application materials 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.

Pre-Requisite Language Requirements
Applicants are expected to have reading knowledge of the foreign language most relevant for study and research in the area of interest through one of the following options:
1).  Completion of two semesters of a beginning undergraduate foreign language course, with at least a “B” in both courses
2)  Completion of the GSFLT (Office of Graduate Studies Foreign Language Test) with a score of 450 or above.
3) Completion of 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. 
4) Graduate courses taken to fulfill the language requirement may count toward up to eight hours of electives required for the Major.
Applicants should consult with the Department to determine the language appropriate to their scholarly interests and the best option for meeting the pre-requisite requirement.

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 Courses – 8 Credit hours
  • Art History Seminars– 16 Credit hours minimum
  • Electives – 8 hours
  • Qualifying Paper Option – 2 Credit hours
  • Thesis Option – 6 hours
42 Credit hours minimum Qualifying Paper Option 
38 Credit hours minimum Thesis Option

Core Courses (8 hours)

Core Courses (8 hours)

Art History Seminars (16 Credit hours minimum)

ATo 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)

Electives (8 hours)

Students complete 8 credit hours total, 5000-level or above (Directed Studies may count as elective credits).

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 M.A. Graduate Coordinator and their faculty advisor 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 (2 Credit hours)

Students in the qualifying paper option complete  2 hours of ARH 6972   and an additional 8 hours in art history seminars-various topics (for a total of 24 hours of Art History Seminars).

The qualifying paper should demonstrate the student’s ability to conduct significant art-historical research, to persuade the reader by effective use of evidence and argument, and to write fluently and clearly. The qualifying paper should be a substantially revised seminar paper about 15-20 typed pages in length, excluding endnotes, bibliography, illustrations, or other materials. Students choosing this option must form a qualifying paper committee by the beginining of the semester in which the qualifying paper will be written.  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 are responsible for collecting committee members’ signatures. The M.A. Graduate Coordinator  must authorize all committee assignments with their signature.

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, in which case the student will need to take 8 additional credit hours of art history seminars to fulfill the qualifying paper option requirements.

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. 

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 and the Office of Graduate Studies.  Students are responsible for collecting committee members’ signatures. The M.A. Graduate Coordinator must authorize all committee assignments with  their 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 conduct 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 at least two weeks to read any given version. Students should 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 or while on research leave 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. 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.  Students should allow at least one week between the oral exam and the Office of Graduate Studies deadline so that they will be able to make the required 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  http://www.grad.usf.edu/ETD-res-main.php. All theses must be submitted electronically.

Bachelor’s/Master’s Pathway

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