Color your career with one of the nation’s best online master’s in art and art history degrees.
Are you captivated by visual art and its long, complex history? Do you believe we should interpret art through the frame of history? Can you envision yourself in a museum promoting better education on the arts?
Then a master’s in art and art history may be for you!
What kind of online master’s in art history degree should you get?
If there are special editorial call-outs, please be sure to go over the word count limit to include them. For example in psychology, you cannot be a practicing psychologist in the United States without an advanced degree, and an online program will require hands-on training.
Art history students can pursue degree concentrations in museum studies or specific historical studies. Some of the best degree programs in art history don’t require any specialization, but specializations make students more marketable to specific employers.
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A specialization in museum studies prepares students to work as museum personnel. They learn about the ways museums acquire their collections, ethical issues involved in operating a museum, and how to effectively manage those collections. This type of program often comes before a doctoral program, as a museum curator will sometimes need a PhD.
Historical studies programs let students focus on a specific theme, period, or region’s artwork. These programs allow students to specialize in topics like German art from multiple eras, or European artistic movements. In these courses, students look at the ways in which artists in their chosen area were influenced, as well as the ways in which they influenced future work. They also learn how to conduct research on art history.
How much money can you make with an online master’s in art history degree?
With an art history degree, you can move on to work in various museum and gallery roles. Common job titles within the field include museum curator, archivist, museum technician, and conservator. The median salary for workers in this field in 2018 was $48,400 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Museum curators tended to draw higher salaries than other personnel.
The job outlook for museum personnel is relatively good. Current data projects 13% growth in museum jobs between 2016 and 2026, which is higher than average.
What can you do with an online master’s in art history degree?
Common positions for art history graduates include museum curator, conservator, and archivist.
- Museum curator – Museum curators acquire, store, and exhibit a museum’s collections. Their work includes negotiations for new pieces, media representation of works, and authentication of art objects. Some curator positions may require a doctoral degree, though others may not.
- Conservator – Conservators use specialized equipment to handle and preserve works of art. This job can also involve a heavy research element, as they document findings, look into appropriate means to preserve specific works or materials, and write for scholarly journals.
- Archivist – Archivists focus on the preservation of documents and other works. This job can often be supplemented by a specialization in a specific historical era.
What are the requirements for an online master’s in art history degree?
- Undergraduate degree – A degree in a related field from an accredited institution will usually be required. Some schools will also expect a minimum GPA, ranging from 2.75 to 3.0.
- Letters of recommendation – Two to three letters of recommendation will be required at most institutions.
- GRE scores – Students should expect to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) before applying
- Statement of intent – Whether referred to as an artist’s statement, statement of intent, or cover letter, students should expect to write a statement of what they intend to do in the program.
- Writing sample – Most schools will want a writing sample that covers art or art history topics, or a related topic like aesthetics.
What are the best online master’s in art history degrees?
If you’ve resolved to pursue a master’s degree in art history online, use these rankings to find the programs with the best overall value. Drawing on data available from U.S. News & World Report and Payscale.com, these rankings use a mix of academic quality and return on investment to determine which programs really have the best offerings.
To place highly in these rankings, schools must match value, satisfaction, and academic quality. Higher-ranking schools deliver solid post-graduation salaries with low tuition cost, have strong reports of student satisfaction, high graduation rates, and solid student-to-faculty ratio.
See our rankings methodology page.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Northwestern State University of Louisiana is located in Natchitoches. It is a member of the University of Louisiana System and serves more than 10,000 students. Though NSU was originally founded as a teachers college, today the university provides more than 50 academic and professional degree programs.
Through its ecampus, NSU offers a Master of Arts in Art. This program frames the study of art media and personal skill development within the context of history. This is a 33 credit-hour degree that takes students through a historical, cultural, and contemporary approach to art making. Graduates have gone on to become:
- Museum Curators
- Art and Culture Educators
Most notable about NSU’s program is that it is a low-residency, online degree. This means that it requires two three-week campus summer sessions or a full semester on campus at the beginning of the program. Such hybridity makes for an ideal program for those who want to study from a distance while still reaping the benefits of the on-campus, cohort experience.
Azusa Pacific University is a Christian, evangelical school located in Azusa, CA. It is a private school that offers more than 100 academic programs across all degree levels. Its online campus is highly regarded and provides dozens of both academic and professional development opportunities.
Azusa Pacific offers an MA in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism that is fully online. This program is a blend of theory and practice as they relate to modern art criticism. This is a two-year, 36 credit-hour program consisting of 12 courses. Some of those classes include:
- Methodologies of Art History
- Theories and Practices of Abstraction
- Writing Art Criticism
- Visual Culture
Azusa Pacific’s online model is among the most flexible distance education programs one can find. You are not required to be online at any given time. Rather, you work at your own pace each week while completing assignments and still engaging in discussion. Online courses at APU were specifically created for working professionals and were designed to maximize the interactions a student has with their peers and faculty.
Saint Charles, MO
A private university based in Saint Charles, Missouri, Lindenwood University is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA. It is organized into nine schools and colleges through which it serves more than 8,000 students. Lindenwood offers over 120 degree programs across many subjects, disciplines and departments.
When you earn an MA in Art History from Lindenwood you can study either fully online or in a hybrid environment. Whichever model you choose, this degree provides a large foundation in visual arts, culture, and history. Lindenwood emphasizes both traditional and contemporary approaches to art criticism and history.
Lindenwood makes getting an advanced degree all the more compelling with its fast-track, one-year MA. You will still gain the same foundation as the two-year program, but will engage in a more rigorous curriculum. This is an ideal route to go for those who want to quickly advance their careers. Graduates have gone on to become:
- Art Historians
- Museum Specialists
- Art Advisors
- Visual Resource Curator
The Kearney campus within the wider University of Nebraska System was first founded as a teachers school. And while still strong in education today, UNK is also known for its programs in the fine arts, humanities, business, and technology. Approximately 7,000 students attend UNK.
UNK’s eCampus provides an MA in Art Education with an emphasis on Museum Education. This program puts you at the nexus of history and contemporary art, museums, and education. In addition to classes on art pedagogy and curriculum design, you will also take courses such as:
- Art History Survey for Art Educators
- Non-Western Art History
- Women in Art
- Cultural Studies through Art
For those who want to inspire young people to fall in love with visual media, there is no better program. Highly distinctive to UNK is the commitment to visual literacy through interpretation and community. Students engage in gallery activities, have group discussions, and participate in studio projects.
Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University is a public school based in Hays, Kansas. Around 15,000 students attend FHSU, enrolled in one of the university’s five colleges. FHSU specializes in business, education, technology, and arts degrees.
For those who desire a broader academic experience, Fort Hays State University has the perfect program for you: a Master of Liberal Studies with a concentration in Art History. With a core steeped information literacy, students gain a foundation in knowledge origins and implications. They then build off that through courses covering the gamut of art history:
- Ancient Art History
- Renaissance/Baroque Art History
- 20th Century Art
- Non-Western Art History
Because of the broad and multidisciplinary nature of this liberal arts program, you are already set up to have a very individualized experience. But FHSU goes one step further, allowing students to collaborate closely with advising faculty to tailor their degree and their culminating research projects.
Radford University is based in Radford, Virginia. It is a public school that offers degrees specifically in art, business, education, tech, and the health sciences. More than 9,000 combined undergraduate and graduate students attend Radford.
Radford’s College of Visual and Performing Arts offers a MFA in Studio Art degree with a curriculum founded on international art history. This is an ideal program for those who want to work on their own creative projects while becoming an expert in the historical contexts of visual expression. Classes include:
- Studio Management
- Critical Writing in Art
- Research and Thesis
Radford University has many recognitions, awards, and merits to its name. It is considered one of the most affordable universities nationwide, titled a “Best Bang for the Buck” school. It is also ranked among the top public schools in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
The Maine College of Art is located in the arts district of Portland, Maine. It is the oldest arts school in the state and is currently home to a modest 600 students. The campus is home to the renowned Institute of Contemporary Art.
The MFA program at MECA is low-residency, so you can study and create from home and attend just two eight-week summer intensives in beautiful Portland, Maine. The curriculum is comprised of studio production and critical analysis. You’ll also participate in individual research, working on a master’s thesis that you’ll defend at the end of the program. Courses include:
- Art History Survey I and II
- Women and Art
- Introduction to Media Studies
- Critical Approaches to Contemporary Art
MECA has one of the most unique MFA low residency programs in the nation. It’s called the MFA on the Road and it gives students the opportunity to travel to cultural hubs for immersive experiences. Each year MECA provides departmental travel plans that students can then easily attend to connect with peers, faculty, and art world networks.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
The Minneapolis College of Art and Design is a private school specializing in the visual arts and art history. It is home to around 800 students who study everything from comic books to sustainable design.
For those who want an art program that is committed to green practices, look no further than MCAD. The college offers an MA in Sustainable Design that is fully online. This program investigates the intersections of art industry and sustainability. As a student you will gain a thorough understanding of the theories, applications, and strategies behind sustainable design. Graduates have gone on to become:
- Sustainable Graphic Designers
- Sustainable Product Designers
- Eco-Fashion Designers
- EcoGreen Packaging Designers
MCAD has been called one of America’s “Top Ten Design Schools.” In addition to its academic, creative, and research accomplishments, MCAD has earned this accolade for many reasons. For example, it shares its campus with the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and it operates its own prestigious gallery as well as a student-run gallery.
Savannah College of Art and Design
Based in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, Savannah College of Art and Design is a private school. More than 13,000 students attend SCAD, and they come from all around the country and world to study at the college. Indeed, students represent all states and more than 100 countries.
For the more entrepreneurial among you, SCAD offers an MA in Business Design and Arts Leadership degree. This art degree is for leaders who want to develop successful companies while also bringing innovative, artistic, and culturally minded expressions into the world. SCAD’s core curriculum is comprised of the following courses:
- Principles of Business Design and Arts Leadership
- Business Complexities in Creative Industries
- Finance and Accounting for Creative Industries
- Strategic Decision-Making for Enterprise Success
SCAD is considered a top arts school in the South. And it is nationally recognized for having some of the best graduate programs in design, media, fashion, and communication. Further, its online programs are top-ranked by U.S. News & World Report.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is located in Philadelphia. It is the nation’s first and oldest art school. Its art museum is also the oldest in the US, and is internationally renowned for its archives and collections. Around 300 students attend PAFA.
PAFA offers a low-residency MFA program that is mostly distance-based but requires three intensive summer terms on campus. In addition to your own studio art and cohort workshops, you will take a number of traditional courses as well, such as:
- Reframing Theory
- Writing on Art for Artists
- Critical Issues
PAFA’s program is a unique blend of individual creation and community involvement. For example, you will participate in several core critique groups throughout the program as well as the visiting artist program. This means you’ll have the flexibility of online learning and the networking opportunities of a traditional degree.