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MA Art History

Course Description

The joint MA degree in art history builds upon the combined resources of Alabama’s two premier institutions of higher learning: The University of Alabama and The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

One Program, Two Campuses

Students enroll on one of the two campuses and take the majority of their courses on that campus, but they also take 6 hours of art history on the other campus and have access to the library holdings (including in the visual arts) of both campuses.

An art history symposium offered each year on alternating campuses provides the students in the program with an opportunity to present a formal paper in an informal setting. A highlight of our annual symposium is the visit by a renowned art historian who participates by meeting the students and discussing the papers.

After Graduation

The MA degree in art history is an appropriate terminal degree for positions that are open in museums, galleries, libraries, and archives, and in the fields of teaching at the junior college level. Graduates of the program have secured positions in area museums, including the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Montgomery Museum of Arts and the Mobile Arts Museum, and as visual arts curators and teachers of art history in area colleges and universities, including Livingston College, Shelton State College, and Jefferson State College. Students interested in pursuing a teaching career at the University level are encouraged to continue their study of art history in a doctoral program; graduates of the joint MA program in art history have been accepted into the PhD programs of Rochester University, Emory University, Kansas University, and Florida State University.

Degree Requirements

The MA in art history requires completion of 24 semester hours in art history, a comprehensive exam, and a written thesis.


The MA requires 24 semester hours of art history coursework, of which 6 hours may be taken in a related field, such as history, religion, or anthropology. Courses are grouped into seven general areas: Early Modern (Renaissance and Baroque), 19th-century, Modern, Contemporary, American (including African American) and South Asian.* Students must identify a major area and a minor area.

A required course, ARH 550, Literature of Art, is offered once a year on alternating campuses. A maximum of 6 hours of 400-level courses may be taken for graduate credit. Students enrolled on The University of Alabama campus must take 6 hours of coursework at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

*Students may take classes in South Asian art, but it cannot be their major field.

Comprehensive Exam

A reading knowledge of French or German must be demonstrated before the student is eligible to take the comprehensive written exam. The language requirement may be satisfied either by completing both semesters of the graduate reading proficiency sequence offered by the Department of Modern Languages and Classics or by scheduling a written exam with the appropriate language area in the Department of Modern Languages and Classics.

The student who has completed 24 semester hours of graduate coursework and satisfied the language requirement is ready to be examined in a written comprehensive exam administered in the fall and spring semesters. The written comprehensive exam is divided into two parts: (1) a slide exam that tests the student’s broad knowledge of the history of Western art, and (2) an essay portion that tests for expertise in two fields of concentration.

The student must declare intent to take the exam in writing to the director of graduate studies in art history at least one month prior to the exam date. At that time an exam committee is formed that includes at least two art history professors from the Tuscaloosa campus and one art history professor from the Birmingham campus. The committee members represent the two areas of concentration declared by the student. The committee evaluates the written exam and notifies the candidate of the results. An exam must be judged to be of at least “B” quality in order to be considered a pass. A student who does not pass the exam may take it once more at the normally scheduled exam time.


The MA degree also requires a written thesis submitted to the Graduate School. In consultation with a professor, the student identifies a thesis topic. (Often, a thesis topic originates with a written seminar paper.) The thesis proposal is a brief statement of the topic for research, a summary description of the individual thesis chapters, and a working bibliography. The thesis advisor circulates the thesis proposal among the committee members for their approval. The thesis committee is usually but not always identical to the student’s exam committee. The student writes the thesis while enrolled in thesis hours (ARH 599) for up to 6 hours. When the thesis is completed to the satisfaction of the thesis advisor it is distributed to the thesis committee for comments. The final step in the completion of the thesis is the oral defense. In the oral defense the student justifies the methodology and the conclusions of the thesis to the committee.

The student must complete all of the required revisions and corrections to the thesis to the satisfaction of the committee before submitting the finished thesis to the Graduate School. The final written thesis must conform to the requirements of the Graduate School for it to be accepted. The student must provide an electronic copy of the thesis for The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Visit the MA Art History page on the University of Alabama website for more details!

Entry Requirements

See site for details

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