Earn a Online Doctorate in Art

An online doctorate in art could help develop your knowledge of art history. The online PhD programs examines the context in which art is created. As part of this, you could study what caused overarching artistic movements. This could include researching specific painters, historical events, or cultural shifts. While some of these topics may have been covered in undergraduate courses, the online doctor of fine arts takes a more in-depth look into them. In addition, students may be able to concentrate their studies and focus on the unique historical influences of a particular regions or time periods.

What Are Online Doctorate of Fine Arts Classes?

When you see the words, “fine arts” you may think of creating new works of art. The online PhD in fine arts differs from other art degrees because it focuses more on art history. Classes in this program devote their time to studying the anthropological, historical, literary, and cultural influences artists have used to design their works.

As part of this art history initiative, you could have the chance to take some of the following courses.

  • Art Theory and Methods
  • Art History, Renaissance to 1960
  • Art History, 1960 to Today
  • Western and Eastern Art History

It’s important to note that students might study general topics in these fields. By doing this, students could develop a working knowledge of art history through the ages. But, you could further dive into these specific topics by choosing a PhD concentration.

Faculty members and guest professors may also offer unique art history seminars. These often take an up-close look at a niche or art history. Art history seminars may not be listed in the course guide because they’re often scheduled after courses are approved. Speak with department faculty for more info about upcoming seminars.

Courses may vary by school. In addition, there might also be a difference in courses required by different concentration. Speak with a department advisor for more class details.

Fine Arts Doctoral Program Concentrations


  • African Studies
  • Asian Studies
  • Latin Studies
  • Ancient
  • Medieval
  • Renaissance
  • Baroques
  • American (Pre-Columbian, Native American, etc.)
  • Modern or Contemporary

If a concentration consists of texts primarily in another language, students may be required to study it. Language proficiency may be tested on a yearly basis. This could help students better understand primary or foreign materials surrounding their area of study.

Available concentrations differ by school and may depend on available department faculty. Speak with department members prior to applying for more info.

Fun Fact!

Art historians that are familiar with specific painters have also been known to find hidden paintings underneath famous works. Pablo Picasso is known for painting over previous works.

Comprehensive Concentration Exams

While classes may be offered in each concentration, much of the online doctorate degree in art curriculum is based on general studies. Students might be expected to spend outside time doing additional research in their concentration’s field.

To test students’ knowledge in their chosen field, PhD programs may hold comprehensive exams. These written tests consist of 3 essays, each consisting of around 6 questions. The exams are usually designed by a faculty member that teaches in your field.

Exam times differ for each student. This is because they are offered after a student completes 5 courses in their concentration. By doing this, students are able to pursue the material at their own desired pace.

Exam material may differ by school. Speak with a faculty advisor or department head for more information.

Oral Exams

As part of the comprehensive exams, students may be required to take part in an oral exam. This test typically last 60 to 90 minutes. The oral exam may be offered after your comprehensive written exams have been graded.

Orals are offered after the original exam because your grading could affect your questions. As part of this examination, students meet with PhD degree committee. The committee then asks questions that the written exam might have missed or insufficiently answered. In this way, the oral exam is different for each individual student.

Online students may be able to complete their oral exams via video conference. For more information about oral art history exams, speak with your degree committee.

Internship Requirements

Many schools may require online doctorate of fine arts program students to complete an internship as part of their curriculum. Interns are typically paired with museums or similar facilities. These areas offer a perfect chance for students to test their art history knowledge.

Working with museum professionals, you could shadow them as they go about their daily routine. This might include receiving new art pieces, designing exhibits, or restoring works. Internship programs might illustrate the practical applications of your degree outside of the classroom. It might also help you network with other professionals in your specific art history concentration.

Distance learners should be aware that an internship may require travel. Usually, schools aim to pair students with museums close to their home. In some cases, they are unable to do this. This may require students to relocate for the duration of their internship.

Internships may vary by school. An admissions officer may be able to answer any additional internship questions.

Did You Know?

Art historians work closely with archaeologists. Together, they work towards unearthing new art discoveries.

Online PhD in Art Dissertation

As part of online doctor of fine arts programs, you may be asked to complete a dissertation project. This acts as a capstone project to display the knowledge you might have gained during your PhD studies.

Students may be required to write a 15 to 18 page research essay investigating a facet of art history. Students typically analyze topics associated with their program concentration. For example, students studying 18th century art might highlight the contributions of a little-known artist from the era.

Dissertation requirements vary by school. Be sure to speak with your department for more information.

Dissertation Timelines

The time is takes to write a dissertation varies from student to student. Typically, schools schedule one semester to research dissertation material and one to write it. But, students may find that they need more time to conduct additional research. In these cases, schools might allow flexible scheduling. You could add on additional dissertation semesters as needed.

Dissertation Committee

Your dissertation committee is usually made up of professors in your art history concentration. Students choose their committee prior to starting research. This way, they could ask professors for additional guidance if they encounter any challenges.

Once your dissertation is completed, you may have to present it to this committee. During your defense, your committee could ask additional questions about your work or request more information be added.

How Long Could It Take to Earn a PhD in Fine Arts?

An online doctorate in fine arts usually requires students to complete 63 to 72 credit hours’ worth of classes. This amount does not include the dissertation requirement, which may add on more time to your program.

Knowing this, students could potentially in a PhD in Fine Art in 3 to 5 years depending on their enrollment. Program length varies by school. Speak with department faculty to find out your school’s expected graduation time.

Did You Know?

261 doctorate in art degrees were awarded in 2015.

Online Doctorate in Art Program Admissions

Applying for online doctor of fine arts programs differs from other art related ones. Typically, you would be required to submit completed works. But, the fine art doctorate program wants to see more of your academic side.

First, you may be asked to submit a 3.5 or higher graduate GPA along with GRE scores. Please note that many schools require online doctorate in art applicants to have previously earned an online masters in art history or a related degree.

Students who do not have an undergraduate art history degree or one in an unrelated field may still be able to apply. In these cases, students might have to take a prerequisite exam in order to apply for an online doctorate in art. This test checks students’ knowledge of appropriate art history material. If you don’t have the appropriate degree, you may be able to study in your own time in order to ace this exam.

Since the online doctorate in art is heavily research based, the admissions team also aims to gauge your scholastic ability. Schools may ask you to provide either your graduate thesis or two research papers in order to apply for an online doctorate in art program.

This accomplishes two things. First, department and admissions faculty are able to evaluate your current writing and research abilities. Second, based on your research, they might be able to pair you with an appropriate advisor in your desired art history concentration.

Finally, much of art history’s primary documents might not be in English. Therefore, schools may require that students be fluent in at least two foreign languages. While many generally request German or French, other languages may be considered. Your chosen concentration may also influence your language requirement. For instance, Latin art history majors may be asked to be familiar with Spanish instead.

Online doctorate in art program admissions may differ from school to school. For more information about deadlines, requirements, and more, speak with an admissions counselor.


When looking for online fine arts doctoral program, keep your eye out for programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD). This agency created national standards to evaluate schools with art related disciplines.

By becoming accredited by NASAD, schools commit to constantly enhancing their art history programs. This could include adapting to new research, offering new internship opportunities, and more. Programs are audited on a yearly basis to show they are maintaining program standards. As part of this process, the campus is visited by an agency representative to sit in on classes speak with current faculty members.

What Could I Do with an Online Doctor of Fine Arts Degree?

Many students who earn an online doctorate of fine arts go on to pursue careers as archivists, curators, and museum workers. These professionals work to appraise, catalog, preserve, and display various artifacts. For art history students, this could be mean restoring and exhibiting works of art.i

Positions may work with some of the following industries.

  • Museums
  • Historical Sites
  • Government
  • Colleges & Universities
  • Corporationsii

Curator and conservator positions especially draw from the art history curriculum. These roles may require extensive knowledge of artistic methods used at the time, famous artists of an era, or more in-depth knowledge.

Archivists, curators, and museum workers typically require applicants to have earned a masters degree in a related field. But, some may ask students to only have earned a bachelors in art history. In these cases, applicants may be required to take place in work-place based training. Some positions may also require you to earn additional workplace-based certificates. Be sure to speak with potential employers about possible ongoing education.

By earning an online PhD in fine art, you could demonstrate a greater understanding of your art history concepts. In addition, many positions also recommend students complete an internship working in their desired department.iii

In 2016, these positions earned a median salary of $47,230. And, the amount of available positions is projected to potentially grow by 7% from 2014 to 2024. This is about as fast as the national average.iv

Finding a Perfect Online Doctorate in Art Program

With the curriculum, dissertation, and admissions criteria laid out, there’s no reason not to start your search for a perfect PhD in fine art online program. You could begin by browsing the online doctorate in art programs on this page. To find out more about an online doctorate in art program, click its link. This provides you with a brief description about the program.

While you’re there, you could also request more information. This could provide with details like potential concentrations, admissions deadlines, courses offerings, and more. Or, it could help you get in touch with department faculty. That way, you could send your questions directly to them. Good luck finding a perfect online doctorate in art degree program!

[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm#tab-2 [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm#tab-3 [iii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm#tab-4 [iv] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm