The Master of Arts program in art history requires a minimum of 30 s.h. of graduate-level coursework and is offered without thesis. Students are expected to acquire a broad knowledge of art history and to become familiar with major periods and monuments of world art. They also become proficient scholars, receiving training in research methods and theory necessary for subsequent scholarship at the Ph.D. level.

Students must maintain a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.50. Only one semester of academic probation is allowed. All M.A. candidates, including transfer students, must complete at least 24 s.h. in residence at the University of Iowa.

Students must earn a grade of B or higher in semester-long courses numbered 3000 or above in five of the following 10 distribution fields: African (including Oceanic), architecture, Asian, ancient (3000 B.C.E. to 300 C.E.), medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, 18th- and 19th-century European, American (including pre-Columbian, Native American, and African American), and modern/contemporary. These courses must be taken after the B.A. degree is granted.

Students must complete a qualifying paper that demonstrates their ability to conduct scholarly research and convey ideas in writing appropriately for the discipline and for the student's specialization field.

The College of Education offers an M.A. program in art education; see Teaching and Learning in the Catalog.

Required Courses

Students must satisfactorily complete ARTH:4999 Capstone Seminar in Art History during their first fall semester of enrollment and must register for an art history seminar in their first, second, third, and fourth semesters of enrollment.

They also must satisfactorily complete ARTH:6020 Art History Colloquium every semester that they are enrolled for 9 s.h. or more or are serving as teaching or research assistants. Students who are not employed as teaching or research assistants or are registered for less than 9 s.h. are strongly encouraged to attend the colloquium.

Courses outside the curriculum of the School of Art and Art History's art history division do not carry art history credit. Cross-listed courses not taught by art history faculty members also do not carry art history credit.

Directed Studies

Directed Studies (ARTH:6040) is designed for graduate students who already have taken one or more advanced courses in a specific art history field. It provides students with an opportunity to work one-to-one with a professor to continue specific research interests developed in lecture courses or seminars, or on topics that eventually may be the subject of a thesis or dissertation. Directed Studies cannot be substituted for a lecture course already offered in the program. Students must discuss their decision to take Directed Studies with the professor involved and obtain the professor's approval. The Directed Studies topic must be within the professor's range of expertise.

Students meet with their Directed Studies professor once a week. The hours of work and written assignments required for the course must be equal to a comparable regularly scheduled course. Directed Studies is not available through Distance and Online Education.

Language Requirement

Students must demonstrate proficiency in French or German by the end of their third semester. They may demonstrate proficiency by:

  • completing two years of university-level coursework in the same language; or
  • earning a grade of B or higher in a 3000-level advanced language course; or
  • achieving at least an 80 percent proficiency score on the level five milestone of the relevant Rosetta Stone language program; or
  • in exceptional circumstances, making a direct petition to the faculty after receiving the recommendation of their advisor.

Credit earned in language courses does not count toward the degree.

M.A. Committee

The M.A. committee consists of a student's advisor and two additional tenured or tenure-track faculty members in art history.

M.A. Qualifying Paper

Prior to graduation, each candidate must complete a qualifying paper on a topic that stems from a term paper written for an art history graduate seminar or a 3000-level course. The paper should be between 5,000 and 7,500 words in length (20 to 30 pages exclusive of bibliography and illustrations). A student chooses an advisor who specializes in the student’s field of concentration. In cases where a student wants to focus on a topic that involves more than one field, the art history faculty strongly recommends that the student work closely with faculty members in both fields.

Final Examination

The final examination constitutes an oral defense of the qualifying paper. The final examination meeting with the M.A. committee normally takes place toward the end of a student's last semester of coursework.

Deadline date for submission of materials to the Office of Graduate Admissions is December 15 for the art history program; admission is for fall.

Application materials should be uploaded onto a student's admissions profile (see instructions below under "Application Procedures"). All applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College and the School of Art and Art History requirements.

School of Art and Art History Requirements

Prospective graduate students must meet the School of Art and Art History's admission requirements for the specific degree program they plan to enter. They must submit application materials to the University's Office of Graduate Admissions and to the specific program they wish to enter. Program-specific application requirements and deadline dates are listed below.

All applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website.

Although exceptions may be made when other components of the application are strong, art history applicants should have a combined verbal and quantitative score of at least 300 and an analytical writing score of at least 5 on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test. Art history applicants must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in art history or a related field, and have an undergraduate g.p.a. of at least 3.25 on a 4.00 scale.

Applicants whose first or official language is not English and whose previous academic degrees were not earned at an English-language institution must score at least 100 (internet-based) on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). All applicants must have a minimum TOEFL iBT speaking score of 26 and a listening score of 25. An application is not reviewed if scores are lower than the requirements specify. As an alternative to the TOEFL, applicants may take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). They must have a total score of 7.0, with no subscore less than 6.0. In addition, all IELTS test takers, regardless of score, are required to take an on-campus English Proficiency Evaluation. The Duolingo English Test (DET) with a score of at least 105 also is accepted.

All students for whom English is not a first language and who have first-time appointments as teaching assistants (TAs) are required to take a test to assess their effectiveness in speaking English before they are assigned assistantship responsibilities. No applicant is considered for an appointment without an iBT speaking score of 26 and a listening score of 25. The English Speaking Proficiency Assessment (ESPA) is the test the University of Iowa uses to assess students' oral language and listening skills. The English Language Performance Test (ELPT) is a supplement to the ESPA test and is designed to measure the ability to communicate in English in a classroom context in one’s field of study. The ELPT is given to students who have scored 50 or 55 on the ESPA, and to foreign language TAs who have scored 45. To learn more about the ESPA and ELPT, visit the English as a Second Language Program website.

Application Procedures

Prospective students may apply online through the Office of Admissions website. After submitting their application, applicants will receive email instructions on how to access their admissions profile on MyUI. Applicants then upload the required supplemental documents through a secure portal. 

Required documents include transcripts from all colleges and universities an applicant has attended, contact information for three individuals (able to assess applicants' potential for graduate study) designated to provide letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and the Supplemental Graduate Application Information form.

Art history applicants should also supply a research paper (preferably from an art history course) or thesis that demonstrates potential to undertake graduate-level research in art history, and a personal statement of 1,000 words describing their intellectual development, academic interests, and career goals. The statement must name the University of Iowa faculty member under whose guidance the applicant hopes to work and indicate how that faculty member's area of expertise, or how the art history program is especially suited to the applicant's interests and goals.

Applicants should consult the Art History Graduate Bulletin on the School of Art and Art History website. No separate application is necessary for scholarships or teaching/research assistantships for applicants.

The Office of Graduate Admissions notifies all applicants by mail of admission decisions.

Fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and tuition scholarships are awarded to graduate students on the basis of artistic and/or scholarly record.

Teaching and Research Assistantships

Assistantships are awarded to graduate students on the basis of academic record, promise as scholars or artists, and demonstrated ability to do the job. Quality of performance in one's graduate program at Iowa is generally the major criterion for awarding teaching assistantships. The number of hours of work required depends on the amount of the award.

Scholarships and Fellowships

The School of Art and Art History offers a variety of scholarships and fellowships made possible by contributions from alumni who wish to support promising artists and scholars. These awards are made on the same basis as teaching and research assistantships.

Information for graduate scholarships and fellowships is included in the admissions package and is available in the School of Art and Art History main office.

Renewal or reappointment for fellowships and assistantships depends on adequate progress toward the degree (students must accumulate at least 18 s.h. of graduate credit each calendar year and maintain a grade-point average above the required minimum) and satisfactory performance of assistantship duties.

Decisions on assistantships and financial aid generally are made during the latter part of the spring semester for the following academic year. Applications and all relevant materials should be on file by January 15.

Many art and art history graduates pursue careers that match their degree specializations, such as commercial or graphic designer, conservation or museum curator or administrator, art educator, public artist, gallery and museum administration, art appraisal, and restoration, or community art center coordinator or instructor.

The Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans represent one way to complete a program of study. Actual course selection and sequence will vary and should be discussed with an academic advisor. For additional sample plans, see MyUI.

Art History, M.A.

Plan of Study Grid (Manual)
Academic Career
Any SemesterHours
30 s.h. must be graduate level coursework; graduate transfer credits allowed upon approval. More information is included in the General Catalog and on department website. a  
Maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.50.  
Students work with their faculty advisor in a field of concentration and to determine appropriate coursework and sequence; when a student wants to focus on a topic that involves more than one field, the art history faculty strongly recommends that they work closely with faculty members in both fields.  
Students must earn a grade of B or higher in semester-long courses numbered 3000 or above in five of ten art history distribution fields. b  
Students must attend at least six public lectures by visiting scholars in art history over the course of graduate study; proof of attendance is provided by short (150-250 word) written responses turned in to the DGS within two weeks of the lecture.  
First Year
ARTH:4999 Capstone Seminar in Art History 3
ARTH:6XXX Graduate Art Seminar c 3
Elective d 3
ARTH:6020 Art History Colloquium e 1
ARTH:6XXX Graduate Art Seminar c 3
Elective d 3
ARTH:6020 Art History Colloquium e 1
Second Year
ARTH:6XXX Graduate Art Seminar c 3
Elective d 3
ARTH:6020 Art History Colloquium e 1
Language Proficiency Exam f  
Qualifying Paper g  
ARTH:6XXX Graduate Art Seminar c 3
Elective d 2
ARTH:6020 Art History Colloquium e 1
Final Exam h  
 Total Hours30