Degree Requirements: M.A. Degree

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Graduate students in the art history program at The University of Iowa are expected to be full-time students and fulfill program requirements in a timely manner. In consultation with the Graduate Program Adviser, students should begin fulfilling requirements immediately upon entering the program. M.A. students are expected to complete their course work and qualifying paper in two years. Ph.D. students are expected to fulfill their course requirements in two years. The comprehensive examination, dissertation proposal, and preliminary research should be accomplished the following year.

Any student who arrives at what he/she thinks is the final semester of the degree program and, because of inadequate planning, has not completed the course requirements for the degree, must continue in the program until the requirements are met.

M.A. in Art History Degree

To earn an M.A. in art history, students must complete a minimum of 30 semester hours of graduate-level course work with a grade point average of 3.50 or higher. Only one semester of academic probation is allowed. All M.A. candidates, including transfer students, should note that the minimum academic residency requirement for the M.A. degree is 24 semester hours taken at The University of Iowa. M.A. candidates must earn a grade of “B” or higher in semester-long, 3000- level or above courses, in five of the following distribution fields: African, Asian, Ancient Mediterranean, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque, Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century European, American, and Modern/Contemporary. These courses must be taken after receipt of the B.A. Degree.

All M.A. art history graduate students:

  • must register for and satisfactorily complete ARTH:4999 “History and Methods” during the first fall semester in which they enroll;
  • must register for and satisfactorily complete ARTH:6020 “Art History Colloquium” every semester that they are enrolled for 9 or more semester hours or have a RA/TA appointment. Students who register for fewer than 9 s.h. are strongly encouraged to attend. Art History Colloquium is a monthly series of lectures, panel discussions, or field experience focusing on professional development. Planned in conjunction with the graduate Art History Society, this requirement is integral to the degree program and is an important avenue towards professionalism in the field. Attendance is required (any absence needs to be approved by the Head of Art History before the missed meeting);
  • must attend at least six public lectures by visiting scholars in art history over the course of their enrollment as M.A. graduate students. Proof of attendance is provided by short (150 - 250-word) written responses turned in to the DGS within two weeks of the lecture;
  • must register for an art history seminar in semesters 1, 2, 3, and 4 during their graduate course of study;
  • must adhere to the following course schedule:
Course Schedule: Semester 1 and 2
Semester 1 Semester 2
History and Methods (ARTH:4999) Graduate Seminar
Graduate Seminar Elective
Elective Elective
Art History Colloquium Art History Colloquium
Course Schedule: Semester 3 and 4
Semester 3 Semester 4
Graduate Seminar Graduate Seminar
Elective Elective
Elective Elective
Art History Colloquium Art History Colloquium
French or German language proficiency examination  

Credit for graduate seminars may be applied toward the five distribution fields requirement.

Courses outside the curriculum of the Division of Art History of the School of Art & Art History do not carry art history credit. Cross-listed courses not taught by an art history faculty member do not carry art history credit.

Language Requirements:
M.A. students must demonstrate proficiency in French or German by the end of their third semester.  Students may demonstrate proficiency by a) two years of university-level coursework, b) earning a grade of B or better in a 3000-level advanced language course, c) achieving at least an 80% proficiency score on the level 5 milestone of the relevant Rosetta Stone language program, or d) scoring 500 or above on the University of Iowa World Languages Placement Test.  In exceptional circumstances, making a direct petition to the faculty after receiving the recommendation of their advisor. Language courses do not carry degree credit.

Directed Studies:
Directed Studies (ARTH:6040) courses provide students with an opportunity to work on a one-to-one basis with a professor in order to continue specific research interests developed in lecture courses or seminars, or to assist in the preparation of specific topics that may eventually be the subject of a thesis or dissertation. Directed Studies courses are designed for graduate students who have already taken one or more advanced courses in a specific art historical field. Directed Studies courses are NOT a substitute for a lecture course already offered in the program. The topic of the Directed Studies course must be within the range of the professor’s expertise. The decision to take any Directed Studies course must first be discussed with and approved by the professor involved. Graduate students will meet with the professors in charge of the Directed Studies course once a week. Directed Studies cannot be taken by correspondence. In every case, the hours of work and written assignments for a Directed Studies course will be equal to the number of s.h. for a comparable regularly scheduled course.

M.A. qualifying paper, M.A. Adviser, and Degree Committee:
The M.A. qualifying paper does not require registration for a course and does not have credit hours associated with it. Prior to graduation, each M.A. candidate must complete a qualifying paper on a topic that stems from a term paper written for an art history graduate seminar or 3000-level course. The paper is to be between 5,000 and 7,500 words in length (20 to 30 pages exclusive of bibliography and illustrations). Citation form in the paper should follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Documentation I: Notes and Bibliography). Students should also consult the style sheet of the Art Bulletin published by the College Art Association ( The student chooses an M.A. Adviser (see Division of Art History Administration) who specializes in the student’s field of concentration. In cases where the student wants to focus on a topic that involves more than one field, the art history faculty strongly recommends that the student work closely with faculty members in both fields. The M.A. Degree Committee consists of the student's M.A. Adviser and two additional tenured or tenure-track members of the Art History Faculty. To establish his or her committee, the degree candidate completes the M.A. Degree Committee Approval Form, This form must be reviewed and approved by the Head of Art History to ensure compliance with Divisional, School, and College regulations, and it should be filed by November 1 in the third semester of the MA program.

Forms necessary for graduation are obtained from the Graduate Program Coordinator (E302 Visual Arts Building). 

Preliminary Qualifying Paper Copy:
A preliminary copy of the qualifying paper is due to the M.A. Adviser by October 1st or March 1st of the graduation semester. This copy must be as complete as possible and include photocopies of approved illustrations that will appear in the final paper. The M.A. student should consult with his or her M.A. Adviser to determine when other M.A. Degree Committee members should review and comment on the preliminary copy and return it to the candidate for final revisions and editing.

Plan of Study:
The applicant for a master's degree must file a Plan of Study (see GPC for form and deadlines) approved by the M.A. Adviser and the departmental executive with the Graduate College within the session in which the degree is to be granted and by the deadline date printed in the Graduate College academic calendar. If the session in which a student takes his/her final exam is earlier than the session in which the degree is to be granted, the Plan of Study must be filed prior to the administration of the student's final examination. The plan shall meet the requirements for the degree approved by the graduate faculty. (See also Section IV. D. Departmental Regulations and Dissemination of Information.)

Final Examination:
The final examination constitutes an oral defense of the qualifying paper. The final examination meeting with the M.A. Degree Committee is normally scheduled toward the end of the student's last semester of course work. The M.A. Adviser must attend this meeting in person. At this time, the Degree Committee signs the Final Examination Report and the Certificate of Approval. The Graduate Program Coordinator will schedule the final examination meeting and notify the student.

Funding Restrictions:
M.A. students who have not completed their course work and who have not defended their M.A. qualifying paper by the end of the summer after their fourth semester of M.A. course work will not be eligible to receive continued graduate school funding from the Art History Division of The University of Iowa.