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The standalone Master of Arts (MA) in Art History is comprised of 36 credit hours (12 courses), culminating in an MA thesis, and normally taking two years (4 semesters) to complete. Students admitted to the MA program who wish to continue to the PhD and have the support of a potential advisor must submit a full application for the PhD program via the Slate system in the semester before the conferral of their master’s degree.


3 required courses: Methods (ARTH 850) in the first semester; Writing Seminar (ARTH 991) in the third semester, and Masters Thesis (ARTH 993) in the fourth semester. The Writing Seminar will be devoted to structuring an argument, assessing primary and secondary sources, and conducting a sustained writing exercise. The goal of the Writing Seminar is to produce a prospectus of the thesis by the end of the third semester.

9 elective courses of which 5 should be graduate seminars (900 level). It is recommended that students take four seminars in the first year in order to prioritize Thesis work in the second year. Students may also choose to register for the Professional Development Course in lieu of a fifth seminar course, recommended in the fourth semester to allow students to focus on completing the MA thesis while equipping them with meaningful skills with which to enter the professional world. The Professional Development course will address, among other topics: grant writing; submitting articles for publication; copyright and permissions; conference presentations; writing a CV; etc.

Students are strongly encouraged to take courses in a range of art historical fields.

Following the approval of the MA thesis completion by the thesis committee, students will present their MA thesis at an oral defense prior to the formal submission deadline for MA theses. The examining committee will comprise members of the Graduate Committee and the instructor of the student’s writing seminar. If the student’s advisor is on the Graduate Committee, then the advisor will recuse him or herself from the defense.  The oral defense will include questions about larger issues raised in the Methods and Writing seminars and thus will constitute a comprehensive examination of the student’s work toward the MA degree as well as of the thesis itself.

Coursework for students in the MA track could include:

Semester 1
Methods Course (or Seminar if Methods is only offered in the Spring)

Semester 2
Seminar (or Methods Course if it wasn’t offered in the Fall semester)
Seminar or Content Course (refers to courses at 400-600 level)

Semester 3
Writing Seminar
Seminar or Content Course
Seminar or Content Course

Semester 4 
MA Thesis and Oral Defense of the Thesis
Content Course
Professional Development Course (recommended) or Content Course

Graduate Courses:


As the MA program emphasizes and facilitates breadth of art-historical knowledge, MA students should not register for a reading course in lieu of a regularly scheduled class to fulfill a program requirement.  Occasionally, however, an MA student may have a compelling academic reason to substitute a reading course for a program requirement.  In such a case, the student and his/her assigned faculty advisor may petition, in writing, the Director of Graduate Studies for permission to make the substitution.

Language Requirement

By the end of the third semester, all M.A. students are required to have met the language requirement of one language, other than English, appropriate to the area of study. The language will be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the graduate committee. The student can demonstrate competency by obtaining a passing grade on the UNC-CH Foreign Language Proficiency Assessment (FLPA), offered for German, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and French.

Foreign Language Proficiency Assessment: The Graduate School administers Foreign Language Proficiency Assessments for enrolled, degree-seeking graduate students who have a foreign language proficiency requirement as part of their degree program. The assessments are offered as an alternative to coursework (601/602 language courses) for those students who have proficiency in a language but may not have a documented means of showing it.The assessments are reading proficiency exams equivalent to a final exam in a 602 course. Principally, the exams include the translation of a prescribed general interest text and a section focused on reading comprehension skills.

The FLPA exam is given in the spring semester; watch for information on the Graduate School events page or visit Foreign Language Proficiency Assessment for more details.

Alternatively, the language requirement may be fulfilled by earning a “B” (or a graduate “P”) or better in a fourth semester or higher language course, or by earning a “B” (or graduate “P”) in a literature course in that language at UNC-CH. Graduate-level reading courses are also possibilities for fulfilling this requirement. These are offered at UNC with increasingly less frequency, so students are encouraged to consider the language proficiency exam as their primary means by which to meet this requirement. A German reading course is offered through Duke every fall (501); French 602x is offered at UNC but not on a yearly basis.

Students may petition to fulfill the language requirement through graduate-level reading courses taken at other institutions by submitting a request, final transcript, and supporting course materials to the DGS.

Note: No credit toward the MA coursework requirements is given for language courses