How do I Earn a Fine Arts PhD?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

A Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) is typically the highest level degree that can be earned in a particular field, and a fine arts PhD is no exception. In order to receive such a degree, you will likely need to complete a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, art history, or a similar program and then be accepted into a postgraduate program. You may also need to receive a master’s degree in a field of art, though some schools will accept a student with a bachelor’s degree and award a master’s degree en route to the fine arts PhD. Once accepted into a program, you will need to complete any relevant coursework and likely prepare and defend a dissertation before receiving your degree.

The first step toward receiving your fine arts PhD is typically to receive a degree, such as a bachelor’s degree, in a related artistic field. You might focus at first on art history, fine arts, graphic arts, interior design, theater, music, or a related artistic field. As you complete your work on this degree, which usually takes about four years, you should apply to postgraduate programs you are interested in pursuing to receive your fine arts PhD.

You may need several letters of recommendation from professors, advisers, or other people who know your scholastic work. Many graduate programs also require that you take tests such as the Graduate Record Examination® (GRE®) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language® (TOEFL®) if you are an international student. Different schools can also have different requirements regarding your education before being accepted into a fine arts PhD program.

Depending on the school you are applying to, you may need to have a master’s degree in a related artistic field before pursuing your fine arts PhD. Other schools will accept you when you have a bachelor’s degree but may require that you complete work on a master’s degree before moving forward toward your PhD. Some graduate schools will also allow you to receive your master’s degree as you work on your courses for your PhD.

Once you are accepted by a postgraduate program, you will then need to complete whatever coursework is required by that school to earn your fine arts PhD. This will typically involve a somewhat interdisciplinary program, with a strong focus on fine arts, and a secondary focus on research methodologies to help you prepare for your dissertation work. You will usually need to complete a dissertation and present it to a review committee. It is likely that you will also have to orally defend your dissertation work before the committee before receiving your fine arts PhD.

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    • Woman standing behind a stack of books
      Woman standing behind a stack of books