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 and Art History degree should you get?
These 10 programs vary widely in their emphases, requirements, and curriculums. For example, while some schools stress the importance of integrating art and art history with commitments to sustainability, other schools offer ways to specialize in business, education, and more.
Though all of these degrees are very different, each will provide a broad, comprehensive introduction to art history, from classical through modern art. Therefore, find the best fit for your career aspirations and personal goals.
And for those who want to work on their own creative projects while earning a degree, be sure to apply for MFA programs, which stress studio time and portfolio development.
Finally, regardless of all the differences, each of these programs are mostly or fully online. Distance education is a flexible, affordable way to earn your degree and advance your career. So, be sure to check out College Choice’s 50 Most Affordable Online Colleges for a Master’s Degree.
How much money do people make with an online Master’s in Art and Art History degree?
How you implement your art and art history degree in the real world will determine the kind of money you make. And though everyone around you has probably already voiced their concerns over artists’ paychecks and stability, fret not. One of these degrees can easily equal job security and solid income.
For example, museum curators make nearly $50,000 a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the BLS also notes a 13 percent job increase in just the next few years!
But since there’s a lot you can do with one of these degrees (more on that below), consider the full range of possibilities. A professor of art makes over $70,000 a year on average, as do graphic designers, and creative directors make upwards of $93,000, all according to PayScale.
What can you do with an online Master’s in Art and Art History degree?
As we just wrote above, a graduate degree in art and art history can serve many purposes. You can easily find yourself in the gallery, classroom, and office alike. A diversity of industries, from higher education to community advocacy and the nonprofits, are in need of folks with a passion for the arts.
Just take these programs as an example. They offer a variety of learning environments, curriculums, and specializations, and their graduates reflect that diversity. Indeed, graduates from these 10 programs have gone on to become:
- Arts Administrators
- Academic Librarians
- Museum Education Specialist
- Arts History Professors
What are the requirements for an online Master’s in Art and Art History degree?
Most of these Master’s in Art and Art History programs require two full years of study and creative production. Though some can be completed in less time (we’ve been sure to point those programs out).
In your first year you will take classes that introduce art history through a global perspective. You won’t just learn about Western art, but you’ll study art from around the world and through marginalized cultures.
Then, in your second year you will either specialize or dive deeper into electives to pursue those areas of art history that are most important to you. You may be working on your own projects at the same time, connecting with peers about their projects and offering critical feedback.
Finally, some of these programs encourage or require you to complete a thesis or final portfolio. We’ve been sure to note those.
What are the best online Master’s in Art and Art History degrees?
While some of these programs are offered through large universities and others through small arts colleges, all 10 share one thing in common: they are the nation’s Best Online Master’s of Art and Art History programs.
To determine the best programs we first examined each school across the nation that offers the degree online. From there we explored other crucial factors, such as academic reputation and student retention, the latter being a sign of student satisfaction. Finally, we took into account graduate salaries and tuition rates to get an idea of the return on investment.
This exhaustive research helped us determine the nation’s best programs for advanced training in art history.
See our rankings methodology page.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $11,567
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
College Choice Score: 99.21
Average Net Price: $28,506
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.
College Choice Score: 98.82
Average Net Price: $22,183
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
University of Nebraska
College Choice Score: 94.46
Average Net Price: $15,520
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
College Choice Score: 94.01
Average Net Price: $11,993
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.
College Choice Score: 93.14
Average Net Price: $14,084
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.
Maine College of Art
College Choice Score: 90.35
Average Net Price: $29,923
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
College Choice Score: 88.95
Average Net Price: $27,169
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
College Choice Score: 88.95
Average Net Price: $27,169
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
College Choice Score: 88.25
Average Net Price: $36,746
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.