Art History, B.A.

Program Code: ARTH_BA

Program Description

The art history major is designed to provide students with a dynamic and comprehensive education in the history of art. The histories of diverse forms of visual culture - including painting, sculpture, architecture, design, the graphic arts, and the decorative arts - are examined in relation to their social and cultural contexts. Students who pursue the Bachelor of Arts in art history will acquire a thorough humanistic education that involves writing, speaking, and participating in group discussions, as well as developing a facility in at least one foreign language. Majors are also encouraged to pursue a study abroad experience.

The major provides students with an excellent liberal arts background and prepares then for a range of career paths as well as for graduate study in art history. With a B.A. in art history, graduates have found employment in museums, galleries, publishing, arts agencies, visual resources, archives/libraries, archaeology, historic preservation, and historic sites. Teaching at the college level or working in a museum (as a curator, educator, director, etc.) typically require graduate degrees.

What is Art History?

Art history is the exploration of art and architecture from ancient to contemporary times, in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. It’s museum studies, historiography, iconology, art criticism, connoisseurship, and research. It’s studying aesthetics, and the context, form, and social significance of art throughout time and place. Art history relates visual images back to questions of religion, politics, society, gender, economics, philosophy, and culture.

You Might Like this Program If...

  • You are fascinated by art, architecture, and visual materials
  • Visual images make your mind light up with questions like “Who? Where? When? How? If you are excited by the possibility of making a career out of answering these questions, then art history might be the major for you!

Entrance to Major

In order to be eligible for entrance to this major, a student must:

  1. attain at least a C (2.00) cumulative grade-point average for all courses taken at the University; and
  2. have third-semester classification.


Degree Requirements

For the Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History, a minimum of 120 credits is required:

Requirement Credits
General Education 45
Electives 18
Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements 24
Requirements for the Major 36

3 of the 45 credits for General Education are included in the Requirements for the Major. This includes 3 credits of GA courses.

3 of the 24 credits for Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements are included in the Requirements for the Major, General Education, or Electives and 0-12 credits are included in Electives if foreign language proficiency is demonstrated by examination. 

General Education

Connecting career and curiosity, the General Education curriculum provides the opportunity for students to acquire transferable skills necessary to be successful in the future and to thrive while living in interconnected contexts. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. These are requirements for all baccalaureate students and are often partially incorporated into the requirements of a program. For additional information, see the General Education Requirements section of the Bulletin and consult your academic adviser.

The keystone symbol Keystone/General Education Course appears next to the title of any course that is designated as a General Education course. Program requirements may also satisfy General Education requirements and vary for each program.

Foundations (grade of C or better is required.)

  • Quantification (GQ): 6 credits
  • Writing and Speaking (GWS): 9 credits

Knowledge Domains

  • Arts (GA): 6 credits
  • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits
  • Humanities (GH): 6 credits
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 6 credits
  • Natural Sciences (GN): 9 credits

Integrative Studies (may also complete a Knowledge Domain requirement)

  • Inter-Domain or Approved Linked Courses: 6 credits

University Degree Requirements

First Year Engagement

All students enrolled in a college or the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park, and the World Campus are required to take 1 to 3 credits of the First-Year Seminar, as specified by their college First-Year Engagement Plan.

Other Penn State colleges and campuses may require the First-Year Seminar; colleges and campuses that do not require a First-Year Seminar provide students with a first-year engagement experience.

First-year baccalaureate students entering Penn State should consult their academic adviser for these requirements.

Cultures Requirement    

6 credits are required and may satisfy other requirements

  • United States Cultures: 3 credits
  • International Cultures: 3 credits

Writing Across the Curriculum

3 credits required from the college of graduation and likely prescribed as part of major requirements.

Total Minimum Credits

A minimum of 120 degree credits must be earned for a baccalaureate degree. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 credits. Students should consult with their college or department adviser for information on specific credit requirements.

Quality of Work

Candidates must complete the degree requirements for their major and earn at least a 2.00 grade-point average for all courses completed within their degree program.

Limitations on Source and Time for Credit Acquisition

The college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of course work in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned. Credit used toward degree programs may need to be earned from a particular source or within time constraints (see Senate Policy 83-80). For more information, check the Suggested Academic Plan for your intended program.

B.A. Degree Requirements

Foreign Language (0-12 credits): Student must attain 12th credit level of proficiency in one foreign language. See the Placement Policy for Penn State Foreign Language Courses.

B.A. Fields (9 credits): Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arts, Foreign Languages, Natural Sciences, Quantification (may not be taken in the area of the student's primary major; foreign language credits in this category must be in a second foreign language or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the first language)

Other Cultures (0-3 credits): Select 3 credits from approved list. Students may count courses in this category in order to meet other major, minor, elective, or General Education requirements, except for the General Education US/IL requirement.​

Requirements for the Major

A grade of C or better is required for all courses in the major. To graduate, a student enrolled in the major must earn at least a C grade in each course designated by the major as a C-required course, as specified by Senate Policy 82-44.

Prescribed Courses
Prescribed Courses: Require a grade of C or better
ARTH 350WUndergraduate Seminar in the History of Art3
Additional Courses 1
Additional Courses: Require a grade of C or better
Select 9 credits from the following (These nine credits must include one course in Western art and one course in non-Western art. ARTH 100 and ARTH 107 do not count for either the Western or non-Western requirement):9
Introduction to Art Keystone/General Education Course
Pictures and Power Keystone/General Education Course
Rocks, Minerals, and the History of Art Keystone/General Education Course
Ancient to Medieval Art Keystone/General Education Course
Ancient to Medieval Art Keystone/General Education Course
Renaissance to Modern Art Keystone/General Education Course
Renaissance to Modern Art Keystone/General Education Course
Asian Art and Architecture Keystone/General Education Course
Asian Art and Architecture -LINKED Keystone/General Education Course
Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Keystone/General Education Course
Introduction to the Art and Architecture of the Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas Keystone/General Education Course
Ancient to Medieval Architecture Keystone/General Education Course
Renaissance to Modern Architecture Keystone/General Education Course
Supporting Courses and Related Areas 1,2
Supporting Courses and Related Areas: Require a grade of C or better
Select 3 credits in studio art (0-499 level) 33
Select 9 credits of ARTH geographical distribution with one course from three of the following four geographic categories: chosen in consultation with the department or faculty adviser: 49
1) Africa and the Middle East
2) The Americas
3) Asia and the Pacific
4) Europe and the Mediterranean
Select 12 credits of electives in ARTH12

Learning Outcomes

Art History teaches deep looking and analysis. It therefore develops the sort of visual literacy essential in today's world. The major also sharpens writing and verbal communication skills, and improves critical thinking.

Academic Advising

The objectives of the university’s academic advising program are to help advisees identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote their intellectual discovery, and to encourage students to take advantage of both in-and out-of class educational opportunities in order that they become self-directed learners and decision makers.

Both advisers and advisees share responsibility for making the advising relationship succeed. By encouraging their advisees to become engaged in their education, to meet their educational goals, and to develop the habit of learning, advisers assume a significant educational role. The advisee's unit of enrollment will provide each advisee with a primary academic adviser, the information needed to plan the chosen program of study, and referrals to other specialized resources.


University Park

Kyrie Harding
Academic Advising Manager
104 Borland Building
University Park, PA 16802

Suggested Academic Plan

The suggested academic plan(s) listed on this page are the plan(s) that are in effect during the 2021-22 academic year. To access previous years' suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition (Note: the archive only contain suggested academic plans beginning with the 2018-19 edition of the Undergraduate Bulletin).

Art History, B.A. at University Park Campus

The course series listed below provides only one of the many possible ways to move through this curriculum. The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. This plan should be used in conjunction with your degree audit (accessible in LionPATH as either an Academic Requirements or What If report). Please consult with a Penn State academic adviser on a regular basis to develop and refine an academic plan that is appropriate for you.

First Year
ARTH 1S (Art History Support Elective/FYS)*33Additional Course*13
Additional Course*13Foreign Language4
ENGL 15, 15A, or 30H3General Education Course3
Foreign Language4General Education Course3
GQǂ3General Education Course3
 16 16
Second Year
Additional Course*13Support Course Geographic Area*23
Studio Art (GA)*†43Support Course Art History Elective*33
Foreign Language4General Education Course3
General Education Course3General Education Course3
General Education Course3CAS 100ǂ3
 16 15
Third Year
Support Course Geographic Area*23ARTH 350W*3
Support Course Art History Elective*33B.A. Knowledge Domain (US)3
General Education Course3B.A. Knowledge Domain3
GQǂ3Other Cultures3
B.A. Knowledge Domain (IL)3Elective3
 15 15
Fourth Year
Support Course Art History Elective*33Support Course Geographic Area*23
ENGL 202ǂ3Elective3
General Education Course3Elective3
 15 12
Total Credits 120

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy University Requirements (United States and International Cultures).

W, M, X, and Y are the suffixes at the end of a course number used to designate courses that satisfy University Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.

GWS, GQ, GHW, GN, GA, GH, and GS are abbreviations used to identify General Education program courses. General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ) and Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS, and Integrative Studies). Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of ‘C’ or better.

Integrative Studies courses are required for the General Education program. N is the suffix at the end of a course number used to designate an Inter-Domain course and Z is the suffix at the end of a course number used to designate a Linked course.

All incoming Schreyer Honors College first-year students at University Park will take ENGL 137H/CAS 137H in the fall semester and ENGL 138T/CAS 138T in the spring semester. These courses carry the GWS designation and replace both ENGL 30H and CAS 100. Each course is 3 credits.

Bachelor of Arts Requirements:

Bachelor of Arts students must take 9 credits in Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Fields (Humanities; Social and Behavioral Sciences; Arts; World Languages [2nd language or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the 1st]; Natural Sciences; Quantification). The B.A. Fields courses may not be taken in the area of the student’s primary major. See your adviser and the Degree Requirements section of this Bulletin.

Bachelor of Arts students must take 3 credits in Other Cultures.
See your adviser and the full list of courses approved as Other Cultures courses.

Advising Notes:

3 credits of major Additional or Supporting Courses must include Architectural History. Architectural history courses may be taken in satisfaction of any of the Additional, Supporting, or Elective requirements.

At least 12 credits of Supporting Courses must be take at the 400 level or higher.

At least 3 credits of Supporting Courses must be in Prehistoric-1600.

Career Paths

Art history provides students with a solid background in the liberal arts, as well as a strong foundation in the history of painting, sculpture, architecture, design, and the graphic arts. It opens the door for numerous careers, and is an excellent first step toward pursuing advanced degrees in art history.


Graduates of the art history program have found employment in museums, galleries, publishing, arts agencies, visual resources, archives and libraries, archaeology, historic preservation, and historic sites.

Opportunities for Graduate Studies

The two most common careers for art historians are teaching at the college level, or working in a museum as a curator, registrar, or director (among other possibilities). These careers typically require a graduate degree, and the B.A. in art history is the perfect foundation for graduate study in the field.



University Park

240 Borland Building
University Park, PA 16802