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Master of Arts in Art History - admission requirements

Mission statement
The ASU art history faculty, one of the largest areas in the School of Art, is a dynamic center for the investigation of the visual. We seek to train students to engage with visuality in multiple ways and offer a diverse curriculum intended to foster critical understanding of aesthetics, production, patronage and consumption of art. We have three degree tracks: BA (Art History and Museum Studies), MA, and a cross-institute Ph.D. (in Design, Environment and the Arts). We work to tailor programs to student interests at undergraduate and graduate levels. There are ten full-time faculty study objects and images across time periods (from ancient to contemporary culture) and geographies around the world (Asian, European, the Americas), embracing multiple approaches and methodologies. We work at the intersections between disciplines, investigating media, geographies, borders, margins, interstices, points of mediation and technological developments throughout history. Collectively we also focus on four “niche” areas in our teaching, research and community activities: images and technologies; art in social and political contexts; histories and theories of visual culture; and art and visuality.

MA student policies and procedures are established by several university groups. The Graduate Education sets basic policies and minimum requirements. Additional program requirements are established by the Art History faculty and the director of the School of Art. Graduate Education policies and procedures are provided in the Arizona State University Graduate Catalog under Graduate Policies and Procedures and revised each year. MA students are responsible for being aware of the policies in the catalog on which they were admitted to.

Application deadlines
The deadline for completed applications is January 15. This deadline is for admission beginning the following fall semester. We do not admit for spring semester.

Application requirements
You must have a bachelor’s degree from an institution whose credits are acceptable to Arizona State University and GPA of 3.0 or better for the third and fourth years of undergraduate study. Credits from undergraduate degrees that are pending must have been completed by August 15 of the year in which you enter the MA program.

If you hold a degree in something other than art history, you must complete at least four upper-division art history courses (12 semester hours) with a B or better beyond such general survey courses as ASU’s ARS 101 and 102. Upon the completion of at least six of these, you may be accepted with deficiencies, on the understanding that the remaining hours will be completed during the first semester in the program. The 12 hours of deficiencies will not count as MA hours.

Please read all details listed below prior to applying.

Official transcripts
You must have one set of official transcripts from every college and university from which you earned a bachelor’s degree or higher sent to:

Mailing address:
Arizona State University
Graduate Admissions Services
PO Box 871003
Tempe, AZ 85287-1003

FedEx, DHL, or UPS:
Arizona State University
Graduate Admissions Services
1151 S. Forest Avenue #SSV112
Tempe, AZ 85287-0112

Graduate record exam
The Graduate Record Examination is required for admission into art history. Scores must be official and sent directly from the testing agency to ASU Graduate Education.

Required application materials

Statement of intent
The statement of intent should address your reasons for applying to graduate program in general, and the Herberger Institute School of Art in particular, as well as professional goals. It should not exceed two typed pages. Please submit with your application to Graduate Education.

Research paper
A formal scholarly research paper for review is required. Please submit with your application to Graduate Education.

Letters of recommendation 
Art history requires three letters of recommendation from professionals in the field and/or from faculty with whom you have studied. Please follow the instructions for letters of recommendation and submit with your application to Graduate Education.

Your résumé may include highlights of your academic success. Please submit with your application to Graduate Education.

International students 
Please refer to international student information on the ASU Graduate Education website.

Regular admission
If you qualify under regular admissions, you have no conditions to meet and are eligible for assistantships and scholarships. The minimum number of hours for an assistantship is six and the minimum number of hours for a scholarship is nine.

Regular admission with deficiencies
If your grades, test scores or portfolio are at an acceptable level but do not have the academic background expected for the MA in Art History, you may be required to complete courses to remedy deficiencies. In such cases the letter of admission specifies the courses that must be completed before you are awarded a graduate degree. In the School of Art these courses must be completed with a grade of B or better during the first year of study. Any extension beyond one year must have the approval of the temporary advisor and the chair of the graduate studio committee. Deficiency hours may not be applied toward the minimum hours required for the degree program.

Provisional admissions
If you do not meet minimum academic standards but have counterbalancing evidence to suggest the potential for success may be admitted on a provisional basis. You will be reviewed by area faculty following 12 hours of graduate study, at which time the School of Art will recommend to Graduate Education either a change to regular admission or withdrawal from the program.

Transfer credit

Students may transfer credits taken before admission to a graduate degree program as non-degree credit; up to 12 credit hours can be applied toward the MA degree. Additional information regarding transfer credit can be found in the Graduate Catalog.

Academic integrity

As students in the MA program of this college, it is expected that you set a good example of academic integrity for the undergraduate and graduate students in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. As you will be enrolled in graduate-level courses, you can set a good example by being in class early, assuming a leadership role in the classroom, getting engaged in classroom discussion, exercising scholarly discipline, turning in all assignments on or before deadlines and setting and achieving high personal goals. Graduate Education guidelines about academic integrity can be found in the Graduate Catalog under Graduate Policies and Procedures section.

Academic standing

To be eligible for a graduate degree at ASU, a student must achieve a GPA of “B” (3.0) or better in all course work taken at 500 level and above and in all work included in the program of study. Grades below “C” cannot be used to meet the requirements for the M.A. program. Grades of transferred work will not be included in computing the GPA. Graduate course work, other than research or thesis, reported “incomplete” must be completed within one year of the official ending of the course. Research or thesis is awarded a grade of “Y”.

Course load

Determined by the student in consultation with the advisor, but is not to exceed 15 hours of credit per term; nine hours is average. Students holding research or teaching assistantships must enroll in six credit hours.

Continuous enrollment

Continuous enrollment is required of all students once admitted to a graduate degree program. Students must be registered for a minimum of one credit hour during all phases of their graduate education, including the term in which they graduate.

Plan of study

Each student entering the MA program is required to submit a Plan of Study at the end of the first year (second semester). The Plan of Study (iPOS) functions as a contract between the student, the academic unit and the office for Graduate Education. The iPOS must be approved by a student’s graduate faculty advisor, the head of the academic unit, and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education. A link to the iPOS is found at the student’s My ASU.

Degree requirements

ASU’s current M.A. in Art History requires a minimum of 30 credit hours.  Of these 30 credit hours, a minimum of 21 hours must come from art history graduate courses at ASU. Students need to fulfill one research language besides English and complete 12 credit hours of seminars plus Research Methods (ARS 501), and take 12 credit hours in four of the core areas (this can overlap with the seminar requirements). The remaining credits can be fulfilled by courses in other areas or electives (internships, independent research, mentoring and professionalization courses, etc.).


The director will assign students a temporary faculty mentor when students enter the program. Students should select a faculty mentor/thesis advisor and an area of study by the end of the first year. In consultation with their thesis advisor, students should select a thesis committee by the beginning of the fall of the second year. This is especially important for students who wish to graduate in two years.

Course requirements

  1. ARS 501 Research Methodologies: All incoming students are required to complete satisfactorily ARS 501 Research Methodologies during the first fall enrolled in the M.A.. This course is specifically designed to equip students to engage in advanced research and to introduce them to pivotal art historical writings.
  2. Four seminars (ARS 591) or the equivalent of 12 credit hours are required for the degree program. This requirement can overlap with the core area requirement.
  3. Core area requirements: The M.A. program in art history at ASU recognizes twelve core areas: Ancient, Africa, Asia, Baroque, Contemporary (including Photography), Latin America, Medieval, Modern, Native American Indian, Oceania, Pre-Columbian, and Renaissance. M.A. candidates are required to take courses in four of the core areas. In order to improve their understanding of global art history, students must take two courses outside of their geographical area of specialization.

Foreign language requirement

To succeed in their graduate coursework, students must have a reading knowledge of one research language in addition to English. The selected language needs to be appropriate for the area of research concentration and must be approved by the chosen faculty mentor. This requirement can be met by taking a language for reading knowledge course in SILC (School of International Letters and Culture) with a grade of B or better, or by passing the Graduate Foreign Language Examination offered by SILC which requires a fee.


Only 9 hours of the following elective courses can be included in the Plan of Study: ARS 590 Reading and Conference, ARS 592 Research, and ARS 594 Internship.

Thesis proposal

In preparation for the M.A. thesis, students will write a proposal (about 10 pages in length) explaining the main question/thesis they will develop in their M.A. thesis. The proposal should discuss the theoretical and methodological approach, review comprehensive literature and clearly explain the contribution the student hopes to make to the field. Students will register for research credit hours (ARS 590/ARS 592) in order to complete the thesis proposal and will work closely with their thesis chair. Once the thesis chair approves the thesis proposal, the student will submit it to the thesis committee for their approval.

Thesis credits and thesis

Six and only six credits of ARS 599 Thesis are required to graduate. The faculty mentor/chair of the thesis committee and at least one other member of the thesis committee must be members of the art history faculty. Under the guidance of the Thesis Committee, students will write a Master’s thesis demonstrating significant research abilities and methodological approaches. The Master’s thesis can be made in the form of a research essay for publication. The recommended length of the thesis text is 40-60 pages, plus additional endnotes, images, and bibliography beyond the text.

Thesis defense

Students are required to hold a public defense of the thesis on an ASU campus as part of the degree requirements. The student and committee chair (or one co-chair) must be physically present at the defense. Students must follow the Graduate Education’s deadlines and rules of the defense when scheduling the thesis orals.