California Art History Graduate Degree Programs

In this article, prospective graduate students will find information on art history masters and doctorate options in California. Students will also find information on schools' tuition, fees, and available concentrations.

University of California - Berkeley

The University of California at Berkeley's graduate degree in art history is a two-phase program that integrates master's and doctoral work through seminars, independent research, and interdisciplinary study. Students are admitted only for the Ph.D. program but can apply for a Master of Arts once the first stage of the program is complete.

University of California - Davis

At the University of California's Davis campus, students can apply for a master of arts program in art history to prepare for a career or further graduate study. Students will take interdisciplinary courses in the interpretation and history of art, methods of art history research and writing, and choose from a wide range of specializations.

University of California - Los Angeles

The University of California at Los Angeles' art history program offers a master's and Ph.D. in the same 7-year track, awarding a master's degree only after stage 1 of the program is complete. When applying for this competitive program, students should demonstrate both academic and professional accomplishments, along with research-related writing skills.

University of California - Riverside

The art history program at the University of California Riverside allows students to apply for either a master of arts program or a Ph.D., and students can specialize in pre-modern, early-modern or contemporary art. In this interdisciplinary program, students can take courses that cover a wide range of historical periods as well as courses from other departments, including literature, dance, anthropology, and more.

University of California - Santa Barbara

Both a master of arts and a Ph.D. program are offered by the University of California's art history department in Santa Barbara. This is a combined program in the history of art and architecture, and students can enjoy the thriving cultural environment in Santa Barbara to enhance their studies like the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the resources only a short distance away in Los Angeles, including the J. Paul Getty Museum and Research Institute, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California offers a Ph.D. in Art History that provides graduate seminars on the history of art and visual culture in exciting locations such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Getty Center to take full advantage of the resources in the Los Angeles area. Students in this program also have the opportunity to enroll in the Visual Studies Graduate Certificate program to enhance their studies and qualifications for pursuing further academic work.

California College of the Arts

The California College of the Arts offers a two-year master of arts program in visual and critical studies that prepares students to think and write critically about art from an interdisciplinary and historically grounded perspective. This program uses the thriving and diverse environment of San Francisco to train students in visual analysis, critical thinking, public speaking, and more.

San Francisco Art Institute

The San Francisco Art Institute gives students a modern perspective on art history in their Master of Arts program, which emphasizes international perspectives, academic writing, and collaboration. In this program, students have the opportunity to pursue either independent study or curatorial projects and can complete an MFA while working on their MA degree.

Stanford University

The Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University offers a Ph.D. program in art history that gives students the chance to choose a specialization in a historical era, including pre-modern art, early modern art, 18th and 19th-century art, and modern/contemporary art. This program also offers unique concentrations such as film and media studies, non-western art (African, Asian, and Oceanic art), and architectural history, though students must take courses outside of their chosen concentration.

School Name Programs Offered Tuition and Fees Per Year (2018-2019)*
University of California - BerkeleyPh.D. in Art History In-State: $14,131
Out-of-State: $29,233
University of California - DavisMaster of Arts in Art History In-State: $12,550
Out-of-State: $28,672
University of California - Los Angeles Ph.D. in Art History In-State: $12,946
Out-of-State: $28,048
University of California - Riverside Master of Arts in Art History
Ph.D. in Art History
In-State: $13,584
Out-of-State: $28,686
University of California - Santa Barbara Master of Arts in History of Art and Architecture
Ph.D. in History of Art and Architecture
In-State: $13,554
Out-of-State: $28,656
University of Southern California Ph.D. in Art History $45,561
California College of the Arts Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies $51,700
San Francisco Art Institute Master of Arts in Art History $48,720
Stanford University Ph.D. in Art History $51,354

Source: *NCES College Navigator

Admissions Requirements

Each of these schools offers different graduate programs related to art history. Since they are a mix of public and private schools with both master's and Ph.D. programs, their admissions requirements will vary. Here are some common items you can expect to provide when applying:

  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended
  • Proof of completion for your bachelor's degree (if applying for a master's or combined master's and Ph.D. program) or a master's degree (if applying for a Ph.D.-only program)
  • Writing samples
  • A statement of purpose
  • Letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources
  • A current resume or CV

Students applying for all of these programs should expect rigorous, interdisciplinary coursework designed to prepare them for a variety of careers in a variety of settings, including museums, non-profit organizations, and academia. Each of the programs listed here has a different curriculum, faculty members, and resources available, so prospective graduate students should consider each one carefully in relation to their career goals.