Online PhD in Fine Arts

An online PhD in fine arts is a path to the mastery of art expertise and comprehension of the most advanced forms of art scholarship. Programs often combine courses in visual art, music, and theatre to create a comprehensive exploration into all elements of art. Others focus mainly on fine art and visual art. Students may specialize in particular areas, or they may choose to create an interdisciplinary degree program.

Students in online fine arts Ph.D. programs will learn about the history of art. They will become savvy critics and experts on the arts' current impact on modern culture. Students will also gain an astute understanding of the business behind the art industry. Graduates will finish an online fine arts Ph.D. program with the ability to interpret all forms of art, serve as consultants in the art industry, and teach art in an academic institution.

About Online PhD Programs in the Fine Arts

Online Ph.D. programs in fine arts are structured similarly to traditional doctoral arts programs. Students will mainly focus on research, intense reading assignments, and extensive lectures. All of this will take place completely online. Students will download course materials or buy their own books. They will read or listen to lectures online and complete research on their own time. They will also be required to participate in highly active and competitive discussion boards which serve as course participation and attendance. A good example of an online fine arts Ph.D. program is the one offered by Warnborough College; some of the courses are listed below:

Year One:

  • Cultural History of Art. Students will examine the social, religious, political, and economic influences on art throughout history.
  • Critical Terminology for Art History and Cultural Art History.This course will explore the terminology used to discuss and critique art and how it has developed through time and also shaped the art industry.
  • The Art of the Ancient Near East and Prehistoric Europe . This course focuses on art from the sixth to the second millennium B.C.E. in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Aegean, and prehistoric Europe.

Year Two:

  • Modern Art. This course covers the change in art culture from 1890-1945 and examines movements like Neo-Impressionism, Symbolism, Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, Constructivism, Metaphysical painting, De Stijl, Dada, Surrealism, Social Realism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop art.
  • The History of Graphic Arts. Students will study graphic art techniques, such as printmaking, photography, original print, and 20th century mixed media.
  • Women in American Art. This course will cover the role of women in American art from the colonial period to present day.

An online Ph.D. degree in fine art will usually include a dissertation. The dissertation period will take up roughly one semester, but students will most likely need to use quite a bit of free time to research and will need to start preparing their dissertations well before the designated work period. Programs that do not require dissertations typically require some form of final project.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Fine Arts

The value of a Ph.D. in fine arts depends largely on how the degree is intended to be used. If students prefer to create art and become working artists, such a high-level degree is not necessary or a predictor of industry success. Most students in online Ph.D. programs in fine art aim to become researchers and teachers of art at the university level. Other students plan to become curators, to open galleries, or to serve as executive art consultants to businesses and arts organizations.

The downside of a Ph.D. program in fine art is the time it takes to complete. The level of employment gained may not compensate for the time such a degree will take out of one's career. There is also high tuition that will need to be paid off with no guarantee of a lucrative position waiting upon graduation. However, graduates with Ph.D.s in the arts are much more qualified to take on leadership roles in any area in the art industry, so in that sense the degree could be very worthwhile.

Application & Admission Requirements

All Ph.D. programs receive many applications every term and only select a small number of students, so the competition can be fierce. Students should work to go above and beyond admission requirements to get noticed. Application requirements will include a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field, transcripts with a strong GPA, several recommendations, GRE scores, and a personal essay. Students may also be required to include samples of previous work, such as art projects or academic papers.

Career Options & Job Market

There are many career options for those with Ph.D.s in fine arts. Students often become professors at colleges or universities, curators, gallery owners, archivists, or critics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 2010 median salary of $62,050 for professors, one of the most common professions for art Ph.D.s. The job outlook was reported to increase by 17%, about the same as average job growth.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Most students will be eligible for federal Stafford or Perkins loans, private loans, or federal grants. They can apply for this funding by filling out a FAFSA. Students can also apply for outside scholarships. Students should contact the financial aid offices of their universities and inquire about institutional scholarships or lists of outside organizational scholarships for art students.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. The Stafford Loan program offers an interest rate fixed at 6.80% and a maximum loan amount of $12,500 per academic year. These funding amounts are offered to students studying above the bachelor's level.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. The Federal Perkins Loan is based on need. Students are awarded low-interest loans, typically at around 5.0%, and are offered an average of $3,500 per year.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Look into campus-based programs by inquiring with the financial aid office. Many universities offer scholarships and grants to deserving students.

Essential Advice

  • Is an online Ph.D. in fine art right for you? This is a very important decision due to the time and money involved in completing a program. It's vital to make sure that this is the right move in the long run and be sure that your career will benefit from this degree.
  • Get your application in as soon as possible. There will be many steps involved in the application process, so it's important to start early, especially when it comes to contacting references and taking the GRE.
  • Consider an art internship. Students who take a year or two off and work in the art world for a while before committing to Ph.D. programs often have higher success rates and less potential for burnout. Chances of being accepted into prestigious schools also increase with more experience.
  • Be aware of costs. Know exactly how much this degree will cost you and do everything you can do to get the most out of your financial aid. Applying to outside scholarships is time consuming but well worth the effort.