People who want to pursue a career as an art teacher, historian or museum curator may benefit from earning a master's degree in art history. Graduate programs in art history can be very competitive, though. Before you decide to pursue a master's degree in art history, make sure you meet certain prerequisites and are prepared to study hard. In general, those wanting to earn a master's degree in art history will first need to complete high school or its equivalent and earn a bachelor's degree in a related subject.
Before you can enter a master's program, you typically must earn a bachelor's degree. Your bachelor's degree does not have to be in art history, but schools generally look for students who have some experience and knowledge of art. Programs generally require that you earned at least a 3.0 GPA in your undergraduate career and require that you send your official transcript with your application. Before applying to a program, you also typically will need to pass an entrance exam, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) required by most schools in the United States. When you take the entrance exam, ask that your scores be sent to the programs to which you plan on applying.
You also should look for master's programs that fit your interests and abilities. You do not necessarily need to enroll at a university or college to get a master's degree in art history. Sotheby's and Christie's, two respected auction houses in the United States, also offer master's programs for students dedicated to art history. Other art institutions around the world may have similar programs. Before applying, contact professors in the programs you are interested in. Introduce yourself and explain your interests as well as why you think the master's program would be a good fit for you. If the school has open houses, attend at least one to get to know the faculty and program better. You may also want to speak to students currently in the degree program to see get a first hand, honest perspective.
Earning a master's degree in art history usually takes two years. In most programs, you will have to take about 30 credits. In addition to the required courses, you may need to learn to read at least one foreign language, such as German or French. Some degree programs want you to have the language before enrolling while others will let you learn it once in the program. Most art history programs encourage or require that students intern at local museums or art organizations during their course of study as well. Students usually complete a master's thesis at the end of their course of study, focusing on an area or problem in art history that excites them.
Earning a master's degree in art history is not cheap. A few programs do offer scholarships or fellowships to students. If you receive a fellowship, you may need to teach or help a professor with research. You may also apply for student loans or work study to help pay for your degree.