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Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program in art history and archaeology allows students to delve into advanced research in the discipline, develop expertise in undergraduate teaching and build connections with a broad range of professionals in the field.

Students should consult the department's Ph.D. requirements, stipulated here, together with those of the Graduate School, outlined in the Graduate Handbook. For further information, contact Dana Persaud.


Program Requirements and Policies

Program Requirements

Requirements for the PhD degree include a minimum of 30 credit hours beyond the MA, divided between 18 hours of course work (6 courses, five of which are art history seminars; for students entering straight to the PhD program, one of these courses will be Methods) and 12 credit hours of dissertation research. Candidates form a committee, take a doctoral examination, draw up a project proposal, defend it, and produce a dissertation, which is defended in an oral examination.

Ph.D. Course Requirements

For students holding an M.A. degree (from the University of Maryland or elsewhere), the Ph.D. requires the successful completion of an additional 30 credit hours. This includes:

  • ARTH692: “Methods of Art History” (3 credits)
  • Five 600- and 700-level ARTH courses (15 credits)  
  • ARTH899: “Dissertation Research” (12 credits)

Students that enter the graduate program without an M.A. will complete the requirements for that degree before advancing to the doctoral level. They will be required to successfully complete a total of 51 credit hours. This includes:

  • ARTH692: “Methods of Art History” (3 credits)
  • Fourteen 600- and 700-level ARTH courses (36 credits) * 
  • ARTH899: “Dissertation Research” (12 credits)

For one of these courses at the PhD level (and one at the MA level, if applicable) students may substitute a class outside the department, an independent study (possibly done as an enhanced undergraduate course), an internship course, or a class at member institutions of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. (A similar arrangement may again be possible at Johns Hopkins University in the future.) Students meet with their advisors every semester to determine course selection.

ARTH696 may be taken for credit but cannot be counted as one of the required seminars at the PhD level.

*Art history is a global and transhistorical field, and graduate education at the University of Maryland is fittingly diverse. All students therefore must fulfill distribution requirements. If a student enters the Ph.D. program after earning an M.A. from another institution and has not already completed coursework reflective of these distributional requirements, he or she must satisfy these requirements at the Ph.D. level.

Effective spring 2024, students may receive course credit for professional paid or unpaid internships related to their degree, at the rate of one credit for each 45 hours worked during the semester (to a maximum of 3 credits). The internship course must be taken simultaneously with the internship, not before or after (no summer internships can be worked for credit). Credits are granted through ARHU786 or a similar ARTH course. Note that no credit will be given for internships worked at the University of Maryland, College Park or for the University of Maryland Museum Fellowship. Such courses are subject to approval by the student’s advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. Note that any such internship course will count as the one non-standard course allowed for each graduate degree.

A minimum grade of "B-" is required for all courses approved for graduate credit. Two grades below "B-" result in dismissal from the program.

Foreign Language Requirements

All doctoral students are required to take examinations in two languages other than English necessary for research in their art-historical field. The student’s languages should be chosen in consultation with their advisor. New students should enter the program with an appropriate level of preparation. Those with native fluency in the necessary languages may petition to waive the exam using this form.

Entering students must take their first foreign language examination in the first semester, customarily scheduled by the department for the second or third week of September. If a student fails the examination, another opportunity to take it will be given toward the end of the second semester, and, if necessary, again in future semesters.

PhD students must take an exam in their second language by the end of the third year in the program (MA/PhD students) or by the end of the second year (PhD-only students). If a student fails the examination, another opportunity to take it will be given in the following semester, and, if necessary, again in future semesters. Students cannot advance to candidacy until the language requirement is fulfilled.

The language exam will consist of a passage of approximately 500 words which the student must translate into good English. The exam period is two hours; the student may use a published translation dictionary but no online resources. The passage will typically come from an exhibition catalogue entry, and the translation will be graded pass/fail for its ability to convey the meanings of the passage in good, fluid English that reflects a good understanding, free of major errors or significant omissions. Students preparing may ask the Coordinator of Graduate Studies for an example of a past exam. In the case of an unsuccessful attempt, the student will receive a brief written rationale for the result and advice for future study and exam attempts.

In languages for which the department cannot offer an exam, or for students who entered the program when coursework was permitted in lieu of the exam (prior to 2024), two years of college-level study or a one-semester translation course (completed with a passing grade) will be accepted in lieu of an exam.

The Graduate Examination Committee

The Examination Committee will comprise three members of the Graduate Faculty, including the student's advisor, who will serve as chair. Generally the examiners will be drawn from Department of Art History and Archaeology, but, if appropriate, one member of the committee may be drawn from another UMD department or from another institution. Composition of the committee will be determined by the advisor and the
student and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Students will be examined on a general field plus one or two sub-fields or minors (these may be specialized topics within the major or other topics outside it). The definition and scope of these fields will be determined by the student in consultation with their advisor. In order to promote cohesion in the PhD program, students must submit, no later than three months before the scheduled exam, a one-page rationale explaining the choice of topics to the Coordinator of Graduate Studies, for approval by the Curriculum Committee. (The committee must reply to the petition within two weeks of submission.) The advisor will lead the process of setting a reading list for the major field; generally the other members of the Examination Committee will work with the student to produce further reading lists. Topics will likely include key controversies, major monuments, historiography, primary sources, etc. All committee members must see and approve one another’s topics and lists.

The Doctoral Examination

The Ph.D. examination includes two parts: the written examination, set by the whole committee, and the oral examination. Both parts of the exam are graded  pass/fail. The examination may be taken only during the fall or spring academic terms. Through spring 2024, students may consult their notes and books while answering the question (written exam only). Effective fall 2024, students are not permitted to consult any notes, books, or digital sources during either part of the exam. Students proceed to the oral exam only after passing the written portion. If either part of the examination is failed, the student may attempt it once more; a second failure of that part will require the student to withdraw from the Ph.D. program.

The written examination will consist of a four-hour time period in which the student responds to one or more questions agreed upon by the members of the committee. Committees may also decide to offer the student a choice of several questions. The responses will be sent to all members of the committee for their evaluation.

Upon successful completion of the written examination, the Examination Committee will administer a two-hour oral examination. Each member of the committee will be expected to ask questions for half an hour, followed by general discussion. The student can choose the order in which the examiners ask their questions. Each  examiner will concentrate on the reading list they worked on with the student, although examiners in the sub-fields can always refer to the general list. Questions may be broad or quite specific to particular works of art.

Advancement to Candidacy

Once a student passes the qualifying exams, they may submit the Application for Advancement to Candidacy Form to the Graduate Office. Teaching assistants receive a step promotion and a small raise in stipend once they have advanced to candidacy. Upon advancing to candidacy, the student has four years to complete the dissertation; the Graduate School grants extensions only in extreme circumstances.

The Dissertation Proposal Defense

Within six months of successfully completing doctoral exams, the student will meet with their Dissertation Committee to review and discuss the dissertation proposal, its scope and significance. The membership of this committee may be composed of the same members as the Examination Committee or the membership may be adjusted before this meeting. Nevertheless, the Dissertation Committee at this stage should comprise at least three members, two of whom must be full-time permanent departmental faculty.

Students should be aware that the decision to supervise a dissertation rests with the individual faculty member, and that it is necessary to secure this consent before work on the dissertation proceeds. The proposal will usually be 15-25 pages of text followed by illustrations and should include, at minimum, the following:

  1. A statement of the problem that will be investigated or the hypothesis that will be argued; an explanation of the value the dissertation would have for the field of art history.
  2. A chapter-by-chapter breakdown of how the dissertation will be arranged, and what materials and issues will be covered in each chapter.
  3. A statement of existing scholarship related to the thesis.
  4. The primary and secondary sources  to be consulted, as well as their location and availability.
  5. A work plan (an outline of the projected research, including travel) and the methodology to be used.

Before the defense is scheduled, the student’s advisor must read and formally agree to support the proposal as provisionally presented. The defense will consist of constructive criticism of the proposal’s goals and arguments, and advice on how research can best be undertaken.

Satisfactory Progress

A student must make satisfactory progress in meeting program requirements, demonstrate the ability to succeed in his or her course of studies or research and attain performance minima specified by the graduate program in all or in particular courses, otherwise his or her enrollment will be terminated. All graduate students are required to submit an annual report on their progress to degree to the director of graduate studies.

The Doctoral Dissertation

A successful defense of a dissertation is the final requirement for the doctoral degree. The dissertation is prepared under the direction of the student’s advisor, but it is expected that the student will meet at least annually with each member of the Dissertation Committee. Students are also strongly encouraged to ask the Committee to meet with them at least once for a mid-dissertation consultation, after the first chapter or two have met the advisor’s provisional approval.

Dissertation Committee

The Dissertation Committee consists of four faculty members who advise the student on the writing of their dissertation. The membership of this committee may be composed of the same members as the Examination Committee or the membership may be adjusted before the final defense. 

The Ph.D. student should consult with the director of graduate studies and their advising team concerning the selection of the final Dissertation Committee, which must  be approved by the dean of the Graduate School. The advisor must submit to the director of graduate studies a list of all committee members at least four weeks before the final copy of the dissertation is distributed. Should a student wish to include a special member (a scholar with no official affiliation with the university) on the Dissertation Committee, the student must request a nomination from the director of graduate studies no later than four months before the proposed oral defense date.

Dissertation Defense 

When the dissertation is nearing completion and the major advisor has approved moving on to this penultimate step, the Ph.D. candidate 1) submits to the Graduate School, at least six weeks before the defense date, a nomination of Thesis or Dissertation Committee form and 2) schedules the dissertation defense. Consisting of a minimum of five faculty members, this committee normally includes four faculty members in the department as well as a member of the university’s graduate faculty from outside the department who serves as the graduate dean's representative. All members of the Defense Committee appointed by the Graduate School must attend the defense. Should a student wish to include a special member (a scholar with no official affiliation with the university) on the Dissertation Committee, the student must request a nomination from the director of graduate studies no later than four months before the proposed oral defense date.

Students must submit the final draft of their dissertation to their committee at least four weeks before the defense date. 

Students should discuss with their directors the format of the defense. Typically, the defense is a two-hour discussion of the dissertation. The defense usually begins with a statement from the student on the experience of writing the dissertation (key discoveries, important changes in critical perspectives, main contributions, etc.). Four of the five members of the Dissertation Defense Committee must approve the dissertation in order for the student to pass. Students are frequently asked to make revisions to the dissertation before submitting it to the Graduate School. Upon satisfactory completion of the oral defense and the electronic submission of the dissertation to, and its approval by, the Graduate School, the candidate is awarded the Ph.D.

Submission of the dissertation

The approved dissertation must be submitted electronically to the Graduate School by the deadlines posted in order for a student to graduate in a given semester.  Information about all aspects of electronic submission of the dissertation is available on the Graduate School's Information for Current Students under Thesis and Dissertation Resources



Completing the Ph.D. involves careful attention to deadlines imposed and paperwork required by the Graduate School

Students are expected to complete their coursework and meet all foreign language requirements by no later than their fifth semester in the program. Please contact Dana Persaud, to schedule your language exam and confirm the acceptability of equivalences if you wish to forego an exam to meet your language requirement. 

Students are expected to advance to candidacy by successfully passing their qualifying examination by their seventh semester in the program. Please contact Dana Persaud, to schedule your qualifying exam. Submit your form for candidacy advancement to the Graduate Office upon successful completion of your qualifying exam. Upon advancing to candidacy, students are expected to file a dissertation progress form with the Graduate Office each semester.

Students must file an approved dissertation prospectus with the Graduate Office no later than four months following the qualifying examination. 

Specific deadlines for students intending to graduate will be announced on the ARTH graduate-student reflector and are also available from the Graduate School's Deadlines for Graduates. Most of the necessary paperwork for these deadlines can be found on the Graduate School's General Forms for Graduate Students.

Graduate Placement

Recent alumni are currently employed at both public and private research universities, as well as smaller liberal arts colleges. Students from the graduate program have also gone on to work at museums and galleries.

Graduate Placement

Contact Us

Dana Persaud

Coordinator, Art History and Archaeology

4219 Parren J. Mitchell Art - Sociology Building
College Park MD, 20742


Joshua Shannon

Professor, Contemporary Art History & Theory, and Director of Graduate Studies, Art History and Archaeology

4204 Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-1485