Item 4

Master of Arts (MA) Degree

The Art History MA degree is designed to give students an advanced understanding of western art history. The program offers specializations in ancient art, medieval art, renaissance art, baroque art, 18th and 19th century art, and pre-war modern art.

The art historical curriculum is paired with six credits of fine art studio classes, which allow our students to become familiar with traditional methods of fine art production including painting, printmaking, and sculpture. This marriage of art history and fine art studies offers a perspective through which art and its historical trajectory can be uniquely evaluated and appreciated.

MA Art History Unit Requirements

Major 27 units
Directed Study 3 units
Studio 6 units
TOTAL 36 units

MA Art History Degree Requirements

  • Successful completion of Final Thesis Project
  • Minimum 2.0 GPA
  • Minimum grade of C in all required 36 units
  • Reading Proficiency in one of the following languages:

    French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Greek or Spanish*
    * If proficient in another European language that is not listed, consult with Admissions Office.
    NOTE: Students must demonstrate reading proficiency in at least one European Language prior to midpoint. European Language coursework cannot apply toward the Master's Degree.


Additional Information

MA Program Learning Outcomes

Graduate students will meet the following student performance criteria:

Art Historical Knowledge

  • Demonstrate advanced specialized knowledge of a specific period or field of art history, including the creative process and related intellectual issues, through a final written thesis.

Research and Analysis

  • Research and persuasively analyze/argue an art historical issue and/or theoretical position
  • Apply theoretical and methodological approaches to the interpretation of Western art and architecture.
  • Conduct independent scholarly research, highlighting a joint understanding of art historical issues and the creative process through a written thesis in the student's chosen area of specialization.

Communication Skills

  • Clearly express their ideas through scholarly writing and researched presentations.
  • Demonstrate reading proficiency in at least one Western European language.

Professional Readiness

  • Apply acquired specialized as well as broader art historical knowledge and research skills in a variety of contexts (scholarly, educational, curatorial, connoisseurial).

Academy of Art University Learning Outcomes
Graduates of the Academy of Art University will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Produce a body of work suitable for seeking professional opportunities in their chosen field of art and design.
  2. Solve creative problems within their field of art and design, including research and synthesis of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge.
  3. Communicate their ideas professionally and connect with their intended audience using visual, oral, and written presentation skills relevant to their field.
  4. Execute technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions based on an understanding of art and design principles.
  5. Evaluate work in their field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  6. Recognize the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary, on art and design products.
  7. Learn the professional skills and behaviors necessary to compete in the global marketplace for art and design.
The Foreign Language Proficiency requirement must be completed before the Midpoint Review is held. The Midpoint Review is traditionally completed during the 3rd semester or after having completed 18 credits of coursework.

The Foreign Language component can be completed by either:
Completing 12 units of the chosen foreign language while enrolled in the MA*
Completing 12 units of the chosen foreign language at another institution and providing the transcripts to the department (grades in the classes must be a C- or higher)
Passing the proctored Foreign Language Proficiency translation exam in the language of your choice
* language credits taken during the completion of the MA degree will not count as credits towards the MA in Art History degree.


The proctored foreign language proficiency exam is a 2-hour translation exam where the student will be asked to translate a 2-page translation in the chosen language. Students cannot use dictionaries or any other translation aid. The passage will be Art Historical in nature and will test the reading comprehension and ability to translate the text.

If you wish to take the exam, or have any questions regarding the foreign language requirement please contact your advisor and department director.


Please see Degree Breakdown for requirements for the program. Explore our course catalog and take classes based on your interests, either online or in our world-class facilities in San Francisco.

Graduate Degree Breakdowns

Master of Arts (MA)

The Master of Arts program in Art History is a 36 unit program intended to give the student a broad general knowledge of Western Art History, under the guidance of experienced and dedicated faculty. Students graduating from the program will be prepared for acceptance into a doctoral program in Art History or for careers in fields such as gallery and museum management, visual technology, arts administration, education, post-secondary teaching, scholarly research and writing, curating and restoration, and art and antique connoisseurship.

The program offers specializations leading to the M.A. degree in the following areas: Ancient Art; Medieval Art; Renaissance Art; Baroque Art; 18th & 19th Century Art; Modern Art (pre war).

Students enrolled in the program are required to demonstrate reading proficiency in one European language (French, German, Italian or Spanish) and will take six units of fine art studio courses taught within Academy of Art University's internationally renowned School of Fine Arts. Required studio curriculum is designed to familiarize M.A. students with traditional methods of fine art production including painting, printmaking and sculpture. This marriage of Art History and Fine Art studies offers a unique lens through which art and its history can be discussed, as well as providing graduates with a distinct skill set.

Students will complete their degree by writing an M.A. thesis, with the support and advisement of an Art History faculty member. The thesis will be written in the student's chosen area of art historical specialization demonstrating independent scholarly research, and highlighting their joint understanding of art and its creative process.

Admission to the graduate program

Students applying to the M.A. Art History program will have completed a Bachelor of Arts in Art History (or equivalent) or have completed a minimum of twelve (12) units (4 courses) in Art History. At least two of these undergraduate Art History courses must be at the upper-divisional level and must be passed with a C- grade or higher.

Students must also demonstrate reading proficiency in one European Foreign Language including but not limited to one of the following languages:

  • French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Greek or Spanish*

(*Note: If foreign language requirement is not met upon entry, students have until their Midpoint to demonstrate proficiency.)

Applicants must submit TOEFL scores or official transcripts demonstrating they have attended an English platform institution for a minimum of 4 years at the high school level or higher. For acceptance to the MA in Art History program, the TOEFL score must be 80 or above.

Applicants who do not meet the above criteria will be required to make up any deficiencies by enrolling in one to six Graduate School Preparatory classes to be determined by the department director.

Get to Know Us

Gabriela Sotomayor

Art History Director

Get to know our world-class staff and see why we’re one of the top arts universities in the country.
Meet Our Faculty
Gainful Employment Information