Online PhD in Arts

Online PhD programs in art come in a variety of specializations. Students can choose to concentrate on visual art, graphic art, art history, and even art practice. Regardless of the specialization chosen, art doctoral programs typically include classes on art theory and art critique. Students often have the choice of taking classes in a specific movement of art, such as impressionism or modernism, and may also learn about how art is influenced by social and political factors. For students who wish to gain hands-on experience, doctoral classes are also available in painting, sculpting, and graphic arts. Typical career choices for doctorate graduates include post secondary instructors and art historians.

Doctoral degrees in art involve a lot of research and writing, in addition to hands-on practice. Students are expected to enter the programs with a foundation in art theory, upon which the doctoral curriculum will build. Though online doctoral degrees have students complete all course work without attending class on a physical campus, students will still need to submit their work to their professors. For visual media, students will be expected to submit videos or photographs of their progress. In addition, students will likely have to develop portfolios of their work, to which they will add projects throughout the course of their graduate education.

About Online PhD Programs in Art

The exact classes required by online PhD programs in art depends upon the concentration chosen by the student. However, it is typical for art curricula to include classes on art theory, methods, and history. Students will most likely learn about critique art, and will also conduct research and write papers. The best online Ph.D. programs will also include classes over different styles and movements within art history. Listed below are some example classes for Ph.D. art students, which come from Rice University‘s art history Ph.D. program.

Year One:

  • Art and Religion in China. This class examines the affect that religion has had on the history of art in China.
  • From Expressionism to Fascism. A survey class, this course explores movements in art through a political lens.
  • Age of Rembrandt. This course provides a thorough look at the work of Rembrandt and the evolution of European art during his time.

Year Two:

  • Methods. A critical examination of various approaches and styles of art, this class explores the artistic methods that have been used throughout time.
  • Early Medieval Art. This class provides an intensive study of art during the early medieval years.
  • Independent Study. An opportunity for students to focus on their individual interests, this course is for students who wish to broaden their studies outside of the usual art history curriculum.

Most Ph.D. programs in art require students to complete a dissertation, which is a research project over a topic in art, art history, or a related art field. Students usually take classes specifically for dissertation development and work under the guidance of a professor. At the culmination of their projects, students must defend their dissertations in front of field experts, like deans and professors. Some examples of topics that can be explored in art doctoral research include antiquity in art, the effect of war on art movements, and the influence of nationalism on art within cultures.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Art

Doctoral degrees in art are a good choice for students who have an interest in pursuing academic careers. They are also beneficial for students who hope to become art historians. However, students who are interested in becoming professional artists may find that their needs are best served by a master's degree in a fine arts field. It is not necessary for practicing artists to earn a doctoral degree, unless they are interested in learning about context and conducting high-level research.

Students should only pursue an online doctorate if they are comfortable with managing their time without having the structure of a class schedule to help them. Online students should also have access to the equipment necessary for showcasing their work, especially if they are specializing in a visual art field. Students who have trouble staying motivated may want to consider a traditional or hybrid degree in lieu of an online degree.

Application & Admission Requirements

All online art doctoral degrees require students to have at least a bachelor's degree in an art or related field. Students must submit transcripts and, for many universities, have a minimum GPA of at least 3.0, although the exact GPA requirements will vary by program. In addition, students can expect to submit work and academic achievements. Many universities also require candidates to mail in a portfolio of their art. Depending upon the university, interviews may be required as well. Finally, some programs also require students to take the Graduate Record Exam and submit their scores along with the application packet.

Career Options & Job Market

Most graduates of doctoral programs go on to become post secondary instructors and researchers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), post secondary instructors earn an average of $62,050 annually, and the field is growing as fast as the national average. Another possible career path for graduates is that of an art historian. Historians earn an average yearly salary of $52,520, according to the BLS, and are experts at analyzing historical art. Keep in mind, however, that wages will vary depending upon a variety of factors, like location and experience.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

The easiest way to learn about funding is to contact your school's financial aid office. They will have information on both school and federal aid programs. However, that is not the only option that Ph.D. students have for aid. They can also look into professional associations like those listed above, as associations typically have fellowship and grant programs available to graduate students. In addition, students can also look at privately funded scholarships for some additional help with education costs.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This is a federally issued loan that offers a fixed interest rate and that can be earned by doctoral degree students. The maximum amount available is $20,500 each academic year.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. Awarded based on need, this loan has a low fixed interest rate and can be awarded on a per-year basis.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Most campuses offer some form of financial aid. In addition, accredited schools participate in federal aid programs. Contact your university for more information.

Essential Advice

  • Choose an art specialization that you enjoy. You'll be spending as many as eight years on earning your Ph.D. The process will be a lot more enjoyable if you are interested in your concentration.
  • Don't be afraid to contact admissions officials to get help with your application process. That's why admissions offices exist — to help.
  • If you are interested in a visual art or related field, keep a portfolio of you work. That way, when it comes time to apply to a program, you won't have to develop a portfolio from scratch.
  • Contacting professors is a good way to find out if your research interests match with a professor's research interests. You'll be spending a lot of time working under your Ph.D. instructors, so don't be afraid to network early on.