Jun 19, 2024  
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog 

Master of Fine Arts in Art and Design

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The M.F.A. degree in the School of Art and Design is primarily designed for and directed toward students who desire to achieve a current, high-level professional mastery in an art or design discipline. The M.F.A. is is a terminal degree in the fields of studio art and design.

Check departmental information for any additional requirements.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at http://www.niu.edu/assessment/clearinghouse/outcomes/index.shtml.


The basic requirements for admission after the completion of the baccalaureate degree are those indicated in the section “General Requirements for Admission to the Graduate School.” A baccalaureate degree in a field of art related to the student’s intended area of study is usually required. Students with an M.A. degree who wish to continue in an M.F.A. program must have a minimum 3.20 GPA in graduate work to be admitted.

Students seeking admission to the M.F.A. program in the School of Art and Design should send slides or appropriate media to the graduate coordinator in the School of Art and Design. Other application materials are to be submitted to the Graduate School.

Limitation of Time

All requirements for the degree Master of Fine Arts must be completed within the seven consecutive years immediately preceding the date of the student’s graduation from that degree program. This time limit applies to enrollment in all graduate course work in the student’s program including work for which transfer credit is allowed.

At the discretion of the student’s major division, the seven-year limit need not apply to some or all for the earliest 30 semester hours of credit included in the student’s M.F.A. program of courses.

The time limit applies to enrollment in all graduate course work in the student’s program including work for which transfer credit is allowed. If any such NIU course does not fall within the time limit defined above, the student’s major division may require the student to retake the course for credit or may allow the student to demonstrate current knowledge of the subject matter. In the latter case, currency must be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the department offering the course through successful completion of an appropriate examination or other assessment if available from the department. Otherwise, the outdated course work must be deleted from, and other course work must be substituted in, the program of courses. Hours from a complete M.A. degree in art from another institution do not fall into the seven-year time limitation.

Courses for Which Graduate Credit is Allowed

At NIU only courses which are numbered 500-798 carry credit toward the master’s degree. At least 50 percent of the minimum number of semester hours required for the M.F.A. degree must be earned in courses numbered 600 and above.

Student-at-Large and Transfer Credit

For a student pursuing the M.F.A. degree in art, up to 30 semester hours of course work from the M.A. program in art at NIU may be counted toward meeting the requirements of the M.F.A. degree, with the consent of the student’s M.F.A. advisory committee. With the consent of the School of Art and Design and the office of the dean of the Graduate School, a maximum of 15 semester hours of graduate credit from an M.A. in art program completed at another institution may be accepted toward the M.F.A. degree in art. A maximum of 15 semester hours of graduate credit earned at NIU as a student-at-large may be accepted toward an M.F.A. degree in art. However, in meeting the requirements for a graduate degree in art, the combined total of graduate credit accepted in transfer from other accredited institutions, plus that earned at NIU as a student-at-large may not exceed 15 semester hours.


Students in the M.F.A. program must complete a minimum of 60 semester hours of graduate work beyond a baccalaureate degree, exclusive of work taken to remove deficiencies, with a GPA of at least 3.00 in all graduate courses (excluding deficiency courses taken for graduate credit) as well as in all graduate course work taken at NIU. Students must choose an area of study in design (ARTD) and/or studio art (ARTS) courses early in their work toward the degree. Students must pass a portfolio examination during their first academic year or prior to the completion of 24 graduate semester hours and a second one during their second year or prior to the completion of 48 graduate semester hours for continuance in their M.F.A. degree program.

Students who choose to change the area of study to which they have been admitted must do so prior to the portfolio examination and with the approval of the faculty in the new area.

Art history electives (9)

Art and Design electives (ART, ARTD, ARTS) (36)

Other university electives (6)


Documentation of the one-person exhibition or presentation (the format of the show and one copy of the documentation as approved by the student’s graduate advisory committee) and the approval of documentation form must be returned to the graduate coordinator’s office by the end of the term.

One-Person Exhibition or Presentation

In the M.F.A. program in the School of Art and Design, the student’s work must culminate in a one-person exhibition or presentation. Instructions for documentation of the exhibition or presentation are available from the School of Art and Design, graduate office.

In special situations, and only with the approval of the graduate advisory committee(s), students may collaborate on some aspects of the work contributing to their one-person exhibition or presentation. However, each exhibition or presentation documentation submitted to the Graduate School for approval must be a unique product with the degree candidate as the sole author and with due acknowledgment of the contributions of collaborators; and the author must demonstrate to his or her committee satisfactory command of all aspects of the work presented.

The student’s graduate advisory committee will judge the acceptability of the work in meeting degree requirements. Approval of the M.F.A. one-person exhibition or presentation is by a majority of the student’s graduate advisory committee consisting of at least three members. The majority of the committee members must be regular faculty members at Northern Illinois University, a majority must be members of the graduate faculty in the School of Art and Design, and the chair must be a senior graduate faculty member in the School of Art and Design and an appropriate specialist in the specific discipline.

Application for Graduation

During the term prior to the one in which a student plans to graduate, the student must submit an application for graduation to the Graduate School. See “Graduation.”

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