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A person who wants to begin a graduate program in art history may want to know how long it takes to complete a master’s degree. Knowing how long it takes to finish the degree allows a person to plan other aspects of their life. This information also helps a person to know how long they might have to juggle work, family and educational responsibilities.

Non-thesis Track Programs

Master’s degrees in art history are available in non-thesis track and thesis track options. The non-thesis track program will have more of a hands-on focus. The coursework may include a practicum or fieldwork at a particular art institution, historical society, historical site or art gallery. This practicum is usually part of the credits required for graduation. The student may have to deliver an oral presentation or paper about their experience.

Thesis Track Programs

Thesis track prams usually require a student to speak two or more languages. The thesis itself requires the student to conduct original research and write it in an original paper fit for publication. The thesis must also be delivered orally and defended. It is like a mini dissertation. The thesis track option is often a precursor for earning a doctorate in art history.

Credits Required for a Master’s Program for Art History

A Master’s in Art History typically requires 60 credits. Most students who are in a full-time program can complete those credits in two academic school years. Delays in thesis work might extend that time because the thesis does not give credit, but it is required for the completion of the degree at some universities.

Courses in a Master’s Program in Art History

Art history programs have a basic curriculum and multiple specialty tracks. The basic curriculum assumes that the student’s background and bachelor’s degree are not in art history. The courses typically include art theory, art criticism, research methods, historiography, minimalism, Mesoamerican art, postmodernism, art writing or reviews, photography, art methods and archiving or curating techniques. Some of the specialty tracks include specific periods, such as medieval art. Other art history tracks might focus on a type of art, such as Baroque or pottery.

Length of Program Based on Desired Career

How long it takes to earn a master’s degree in art history is also correlated with a person’s career plans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), archivists, curators and conservators need at least a master’s degree as well as a fellowship or internship. A person who wants to work in one of these jobs on a full-time basis will need to have extensive experience. A Certified Archivist certification from the Academy of Certified Archivists may also be required. A person whose career plans include becoming a historian and conducting independent research will likely need to go on to a doctorate program. They would be on a thesis track, and their master’s degree might take more time. Some doctoral programs award the master’s degree once the courses are completed, then they award the doctoral degree upon completion of the dissertation and publication of an original research paper in a first-rate, peer-reviewed journal. An art historian who stops at the master’s degree level may qualify for a low- to a mid-level job in a historical center, art museum, gallery or other public or private facility focused on the arts, explains the BLS.

Each university’s master’s degree program requirements are a little different. A university that requires extensive fieldwork or an involved project for graduation may find that its graduates need more time to complete their degrees. Knowing the general answer to how long a typical master’s degree in art history takes to earn could help a person make informed decisions about their personal, educational and financial future.

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