The Master of Fine Arts program in art requires a minimum of 60 s.h. of graduate credit. Students must maintain a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.00. The degree is offered with thesis and with emphases in the following studio art disciplines: ceramics, graphic design, three-dimensional (3D) design, drawing, intermedia and video art, jewelry and metal arts, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. Students must earn at least 24 s.h. of credit for the degree at the University of Iowa, including approved credit earned for the M.A. in art.

M.F.A. students must hold an M.A. in art equivalent to that offered by the University of Iowa. Transfer credit is decided by faculty review. Following completion of the M.A., students may be invited into the M.F.A. program.

Required Courses

The 60 s.h. of credit required for the M.F.A. includes at least 24 s.h. in a primary studio art emphasis, at least 12 s.h. in a secondary studio art emphasis chosen from one of those listed above, and 6 s.h. in art history and theory of art (if not already taken). Students must earn 8 s.h. in their primary studio art emphasis and 4 s.h. in their secondary studio art emphasis after being granted an M.A. in art. Students provide five images of their M.F.A. work for the Graduate Archive.

Committee Review

Students must undergo an M.F.A. committee review. They also must complete a written thesis and possibly a studio thesis. Students are reviewed by their committees at the end of the semester prior to the semester they intend to graduate.

Students are responsible for identifying a degree chair by the semester prior to the semester they intend to graduate. Committee members are selected in consultation with the degree chair by October 1 for spring or summer graduation and March 1 for fall graduation. The committee is comprised of the degree committee chair and three members of the graduate faculty at the assistant professor rank or above (two graduate faculty members from a student's major discipline, one graduate faculty member from a student's second studio discipline, and an additional member). Adjunct faculty, lecturers, and visiting professors may serve on degree committees with approval of the degree committee chair and a Graduate College petition request (renewable every three years).

M.F.A. students sign up for review through the graduate program coordinator. They obtain a form to be signed by both the degree committee members and a faculty member in the second emphasis studio discipline. These forms must be returned to the office no later than the University's official midterm day by 4:30 p.m.


A thesis abstract is given to all degree committee members and is due by September 15 for May or August graduation and by February 15 for December graduation. The thesis chair is responsible for meeting with the student immediately thereafter to direct thesis content and to coordinate meeting with the full committee.

A copy of the thesis is due to all committee members at least one month before the M.F.A. exhibition to be read in its final form prior to thesis defense. The thesis must be as complete as possible including photocopies (may be black and white) of approved figures that will be included in the final thesis. The graduate program coordinator will provide a student with complete thesis/artist statement procedures, including the Graduate College calendar.

A thesis defense of the M.F.A. work must be scheduled with the candidate's committee during the final semester in residence. The M.F.A. exhibition is the final examination and where the degree committee signs the final examination report.

The complete thesis in final form must be given to all committee members at least four weeks prior to the exhibition week. Graduate College regulations covering the specific requirements of the written thesis are found on the Graduate College Thesis and Dissertation website.

The thesis must be submitted by the Graduate College deadline. Committee members receive an email that provides a link to the finalized (post-format review) thesis and prompts them to verify the manuscript electronically; committee verification happens after the Graduate College format review. Any corrections to the thesis required by the graduate examiner or the degree committee should be completed immediately.

Students may earn 1 s.h. for writing a technical or substantial thesis by registering for ARTS:7000 M.F.A. Written Thesis, with approval of the thesis supervisor. Thesis credit earned in an M.A. program is not applicable toward M.F.A. requirements.

Deadline date for submission of materials to the Office of Graduate Admissions is February 1 for studio art programs; 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.

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 an 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, and a statement of purpose.

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

Studio art applicants' portfolio requirements are listed below. Images in the portfolio should be uploaded pdf files no larger than 72 dpi and 1240 by 1240 pixels. File size must not exceed 18 MB. Images must be numbered according to the order they are to be presented to the admissions committee, beginning with 01. Applicants must include an inventory list that includes each image's name, title, medium, size, and approximate date of work, as well as their name and emphasis. They may supply a link to their personal website.

Portfolio contents and submission requirements for each program are as follows.

  • Ceramics: 10 to 20 images.
  • Three-dimensional (3D) design, and jewelry and metal arts: eight images in the primary studio art discipline and two in a second discipline.
  • Graphic design: documentation of 15 to 20 projects. Applicant should include a brief description of each work, illustrated with embedded still images and supplemented by links to online media. The precise number of images varies according to the nature of the work. Contact the School of Art and Art History with questions.
  • Painting and drawing: eight images in the primary studio art discipline and two in a second discipline.
  • Photography: 20 images in photography and two or three images in a second discipline.
  • Printmaking: 10 to 20 images.
  • Sculpture and intermedia: applicants submit the following depending on their preferred area of emphasis.
  • Sculpture: 20 images in sculpture, including details, and two or three images in a second medium. Video links may be included.
  • Intermedia: documentation of five to ten projects, including a brief description of each work illustrated with embedded still images and supplemented by links to online media. The precise number of images varies according to the nature of the work; contact the School of Art and Art History with questions.

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.

Iowa Arts Fellowships

The Graduate College awards Iowa Arts Fellowships to two incoming or first-year studio art graduate students each year. For more information, see Iowa Arts Fellowships on the Graduate College website.

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 also is available from 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.

Many graduates pursue careers that match their degree specializations, for example, commercial or graphic designer, conservation or museum curator or administrator, art educator, public artist, or community art center coordinator or instructor.

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, M.F.A.

Plan of Study Grid (Manual)
Academic Career
Any SemesterHours
60 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, b, c  
Students must hold an MA in art equivalent to that offered by the University of Iowa; following completion of the MA, students may be invited into the MFA program.  
Students may pursue certificates (including the book studies/book arts and technologies certificate) in conjunction with completing the degree requirements for the MFA; for more information check with the Graduate Program Coordinator.  
First Year
Primary emphasis course d 4
Elective e 3
History and Theory of Art course f 3
Primary emphasis course d 4
Secondary emphasis course g 4
Elective e 2
Second Year
Primary emphasis course d 4
Secondary emphasis course g 4
History and Theory of Art course f 3
Primary emphasis course d 4
Elective e 3
Elective e 2
Third Year
Primary emphasis course d 4
Secondary emphasis course g 4
Elective e 3
MFA Committee Review h  
Primary emphasis course d 4
Elective e 4
ARTS:7000 M.F.A. Written Thesis i 1
Final Exam j  
 Total Hours60