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Students who complete a master’s degree in art and art history program are prepared to pursue careers as teachers, museum curators, authenticators, or conservators.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for archivists, curators, and museum workers is $57,120, while high school teachers make $65,220. The average cost of graduate school tuition is $20,513 per year, and it generally takes two years of full-time study to earn this degree.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Art and Art History Program

Choose your area of study

This degree is typically offered as a Master of Arts (MA). Consider your desired career path and why you want to earn this degree. Depending on whether you plan to become a teacher or professor, curator, art director, conservator, or fine artist, you’ll want to look for specializations that will best help you prepare for the specific field in which you’d like to work.

Some programs may offer concentrations in museum studies and curating, while others target education, conservation, or specific business courses to help you with gallery management. Also, you’ll want to look at the university’s internship options.

Research schools and programs

You should only apply to institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Ideally, your master’s in art and art history program will also be accredited by a respected industry group like the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). This programmatic accrediting organization has particularly high standards for art education.

Aside from academic considerations, there are also other important factors to consider:

  • What is the cost of the program? You should know how much you are willing to spend on your education, so before you get too far into your research, check the cost of each program. Some programs can be ruled out immediately, so you can focus on the ones that make sense financially.
  • Where is the school located? If you want to study online, it may seem that the school’s location isn’t important. However, some programs may be offered in a hybrid format that requires you to take some classes on campus. Not only that, but there may also be orientations, special events, career days, or meet-and-greets held at the university that you’d like to attend. Because of these kinds of offerings, your proximity to the school may be a factor in your decision.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Entrance exams aren’t generally needed for this degree, but admissions requirements vary depending on the institution and program. Some have rolling admissions, while others set a specific date when all materials need to be submitted. Some universities offer several start dates throughout the year, while others require that you begin at the same time as on-campus students. Check these deadlines and any GPA requirements, and remember to get a copy of your transcripts. You may also be required to submit letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

Select your program

Once you’ve gathered all your information, the next step is to select your program. Remember, no program is going to be perfect in every way. You can narrow your list down by deciding your priorities and establishing where you’re willing to compromise and where you’re not. Carefully weigh all the pros and cons and determine which programs suit you best. Don’t limit yourself to just one; apply to several and make a list in order of preference.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Do you want your program to be as online as possible, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a fair amount of in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each academic year to determine your eligibility for federal grants and loans. Check to see if the school or other institutions offer scholarships. If your schedule allows time for it, working a part-time job could also help cover the costs of your degree. Those who already work in the field should see if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits as well.

Be sure to speak to financial aid counselors at the schools you’re interested in for the most accurate and specific information about program cost.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Art and Art History Programs

Best Online Master's in Art and Art History Programs Badge

Azusa Pacific University

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Lindenwood University

Fort Hays State University

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Eastern Illinois University

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How We Rank Schools

This list features graduate programs for aspiring art teachers, curators, and fine artists — including Master of Arts in art history and Master of Arts in art education programs. Most of these programs are 100% online, but some hybrid programs are also listed.

All of the schools featured in this guide are regionally accredited institutions. Many of these options have programmatic accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) as well.

Once we compiled our list, our team evaluated each program based on its cost, flexibility, course offerings, outcomes, reputation, and faculty. We then gave each program an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Art and Art History Program?

When taking a degree program online, course material is delivered via an online learning platform such as Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle. Each student has a portal to get and submit assignments, access university resources, view course materials, and communicate with other students and instructors via chats and message boards.

A master’s program in art and art history provides students with a broad historical and theoretical understanding of the visual arts. It helps them develop critical thinking, research, and writing skills. The degree generally takes two years, but some schools offer accelerated options. Many programs can be completed entirely online, with no requirement to attend on-campus classes or lectures.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online program to earn your master’s degree in art and art history

  • Visual art and technology. Students learn about how technology has played a role in developing the visual arts. Starting from the Industrial Revolution and through the Gilded Age, two world wars, the Cold War, and the Digital Age, art and technology have been inextricably tied to one another and have evolved side by side.
  • Approaches to art history. Art historians differ in how art history should be analyzed, and this course presents different methods, models, and perspectives. Students learn how to understand and analyze art throughout history, from movements, institutions, and audiences to artists and art objects.
  • Religious art. Much of the art produced throughout history has been directly or indirectly influenced by religion, and students learn what a powerful force this has been in shaping both artistic styles and subjects over the centuries.
  • Focus on various places and time periods. A master’s degree in art and art history has courses dedicated to studying art from multiple locations, such as Italy, Africa, the Americas, Japan, China, India, and other countries. Other courses focus on different periods, from ancient Egypt to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Art and Art History?

Career outlook

Professionals with a master’s in art and art history can find employment in various industries that value creativity, cultural understanding, and visual communication. Potential work settings include museums and galleries, academia, publishing and media, cultural heritage preservation, art appraisal, art therapy, arts administration, advertising and marketing, and even entrepreneurship. The versatility of this degree allows individuals to explore careers as curators, art historians, educators, writers, conservators, consultants, therapists, administrators, and more.

Here are some common options for those with this academic credential:

  • Archivist, curator, or museum worker — Archivists authenticate and preserve historical documents and objects, while curators and museum workers acquire, maintain, and prepare items for collections and exhibits.
    • Median annual salary: $57,120
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 10%
    • New job openings projected: 5,000 annually
  • High school teacher — Teach students the knowledge and skills they will need to go to college or enter the job market.
    • Median annual salary: $65,220
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 1%
    • New job openings projected: 67,100 annually
  • Historian — Research, analyze, and write about historical figures, events, and movements.
    • Median annual salary: $72,890
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New job openings projected: 300 annually

Online Master’s Degree in Art and Art History Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online program for a master’s degree in art and art history?

Most programs require a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as art, art history, visual arts, or design. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a non-related area may be accepted if they have prior work experience in a related field. For some master’s programs, such professional experience may even be a requirement.

There is usually a minimum GPA for applicants, generally around 3.0. Transcripts will likely be required. However, there are often provisions for admitting applicants whose GPA is below the stated requirement. Of course, applicants should always speak with an admissions counselor before applying.

How much does an online master’s degree in art and art history cost?

On average, graduate school tuition costs $20,513 per year. Private schools tend to be more expensive than public schools, and public schools usually charge a higher tuition rate to out-of-state students than in-state students.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s degree in art and art history?

Most full-time students are able to earn this degree within two years. Some universities even offer accelerated programs that can be completed in just one year.

Many universities offer both full- and part-time study options, which will also affect the time it takes to earn the degree. The number of credit hours required varies from 30 to 38.

Is an online master’s in art and art history worth it?

While there are numerous benefits to earning this degree, it’s important to consider your specific career goals and whether an online master’s in art and art history aligns with them. Additionally, research various programs to find one that suits your needs and interests, as program offerings vary widely.

This degree will deepen your understanding of art, art history, and related disciplines. You will gain in-depth knowledge of various art movements, artists, and their cultural contexts, making you an expert in your chosen field. A master’s degree can open doors to higher-paying and more prestigious positions in museums, galleries, academia, and cultural institutions.

Online programs connect you with a diverse group of peers and faculty members, allowing you to build a valuable professional network in the art world. These programs offer flexibility for working professionals or those with other commitments. You can earn your degree while maintaining your current job or addressing personal responsibilities.

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