Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Arts

Our graduate MFA program focuses on the development of professional visual artists and ranks among the top programs in the country.

For the MFA in Art, students focus in two of eight disciplinary areas: painting and drawing, printmaking, ceramics, jewelry and metal arts, sculpture and intermedia, 3D design, graphic design, or photography. Among public universities, the printmaking area ranks #3, painting and drawing area ranks #6, and the overall MFA program ranks #9.

Our graduates enjoy success as practicing professional artists, professors of art, teachers, museum directors and curators, theater designers, and commercial designers. In recent years, graduates of the MFA program have received Guggenheim Fellowships and The Rome Prize, shown in national and international exhibitions, and secured faculty positions at institutions of higher learning.


Studio arts areas of focus

Within the studio art division, there are eight studio areas, each with an area head. More information about each area and its faculty can be found on the corresponding page. 

MFA degree requirements

The Master of Fine Arts program in art requires a minimum of 60 semester hours of graduate credit, including approved credit earned for the MA in art. The degree is offered with thesis and with emphases in two of the following ten disciplines:

  • Ceramics
  • Graphic design
  • 3D design
  • Drawing
  • Intermedia
  • Jewelry and metal arts
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture

MFA students must hold an MA in art equivalent to that offered by the University of Iowa. Transfer credit is decided by faculty review. Following completion of the MA, students may be invited into the MFA program. 

The 60 semester hours of credit required for the MFA includes at least 24 semester hours in a primary studio art emphasis; at least 12 semester hours in a secondary studio art emphasis selected from those listed above; and 6 semester hours in art history and theory of art (if not already taken). Students must earn 8 semester hours in their primary studio art emphasis and 4 semester hours in their secondary studio art emphasis after being granted an MA in art.

All students must undergo an MFA committee review. They also must complete a written thesis and possibly a studio thesis. Students are reviewed by their committees at the end of the semester prior to the semester they intend to graduate.

Students are responsible for identifying a degree chair by the semester prior to the semester they intend to graduate. Committee members are selected in consultation with the degree chair by Oct. 1 for spring or summer graduation and March 1 for fall graduation. The committee is comprised of the degree committee chair and three members of the graduate faculty at the assistant professor rank or above (two graduate faculty members from a student's major discipline, one graduate faculty member from a student's second studio discipline, and an additional member.) Adjunct faculty, lecturers, and visiting professors may serve on degree committees with approval of the degree committee chair and a Graduate College petition request (renewable every three years).

MFA students sign up for review through the graduate program coordinator. They obtain a form to be signed by both the degree committee members and a faculty member in the second emphasis studio discipline. These forms must be returned to the office no later than the University's official midterm day by 4:30 p.m.

Students leave five images of MFA work for the Graduate Archive.

A thesis abstract is given to all degree committee members and is due by Sept. 15 for May or August graduation and by Feb. 15 for December graduation. The thesis chair is responsible for meeting with the student immediately thereafter to direct thesis content and to coordinate meeting with the full committee.

A copy of the thesis is due to all committee members at least one month before the MFA exhibition to be read in its final form prior to thesis defense. The thesis must be as complete as possible including photocopies (may be black and white) of approved figures that will be included in the final thesis. The graduate program coordinator will provide a student with complete thesis/artist statement procedures, including the Graduate College calendar.

A thesis defense of the MFA work must be scheduled with the candidate's committee during the final semester in residence. The MFA exhibition is the final examination and where the degree committee signs the final examination report.

The complete thesis in final form must be given to all committee members at least four weeks prior to the exhibition week. Graduate College regulations covering the specific requirements of the written thesis are found on the Graduate College Thesis and Dissertation website.

The thesis must be submitted by the Graduate College deadline. Committee members receive an email that provides a link to the finalized (post-format review) thesis and prompts them to verify the manuscript electronically; committee verification happens after the Graduate College format review. Any corrections to the thesis required by the graduate examiner or the degree committee should be completed immediately.

MFA students may earn 1 semester hour for writing a technical or substantial thesis by registering for ARTS:7000 MFA Written Thesis, with approval of the thesis supervisor. Thesis credit earned in an MA program is not applicable toward MFA requirements. 

MA/MFA Degree Requirement Worksheet


Exterior of Art Building West

Art Building West

The award-winning Art Building West was designed by New York architect Steven Holl. The building opened in 2006 and houses Studio and Art History classrooms, the Art Library, and administrative offices.

Exterior of north side of Visual Arts Building

Visual Arts Building

The Visual Arts Building, also designed by Steven Holl Architects, opened in 2016. Designed to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, it is the most up-to-date visual arts facility in the U.S. The site is directly adjacent to Art Building West.

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Current course list

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