The value of an MFA
It's not just about having amazing access to all the new technologies, studio spaces and facilities in the College of Fine Arts. Earning your master's in art involves adding discipline and form to the creativity you've always enjoyed -- preparing you for a life as a creative leader and professional artist. Whether you're interested in teaching or in creating art, an MFA is two years of intensive focus and growth that fully immerses you in the exploration of making art. Our faculty are distinguished and professionally active artists and art historians who will inspire and challenge you. Our small class sizes allow faculty to be invested in you and provide close, personal attention, it is one of the keys to our program's success. You'll have opportunities to exhibit and share your work and become part of a community of art-minded peers to grow a network of lifelong friendships.
Whether you are passionate about graphic design, painting, photography, printmaking or sculpture, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from USD provides a dynamic interdisciplinary environment you need to grow as an artist and go places with your career.
Degrees & Offerings
Art: Graphic Design (MFA)Master's with Specialization
You’ll learn a rich array of graphic design tools and work with faculty to broaden your understanding of the design field. Courses and field-based internships help students develop innovative and mature portfolios.
Art: Painting (MFA)Master's with Specialization
Bridging both the technical and conceptual approaches to painting, you will experience a rigorous and supportive environment that encourages creative thought and personal growth through research, experimentation and critical discussion.
Art: Photography (MFA)Master's with Specialization
You will develop skills in traditional film, digital and experimental forms of photography. Explore techniques in photography development, printing and creative process and participate in critiques, lectures and demonstrations on critical issues in photography.
Art: Printmaking (MFA)Master's with Specialization
We mentor students to gain the knowledge and skills in both traditional and alternative printmaking processes as the means to develop their personal voice. You have the opportunity to work in facilities that offer the full range of traditional and alternative printmaking processes to allow you to explore any aspect of the medium in your educational journey.
Art: Sculpture (MFA)Master's with Specialization
Your courses will explore cast metals, metal fabrication, woodworking, mixed media, carving, mold-making and installation projects with traditional and contemporary materials and processes. You’ll have the opportunity for growth and development of individual aesthetics, concepts, technical abilities and a critical understanding of the discipline of sculpture as applied to the production of contemporary art.
Start Your Application Today
- Completed application
- $35 application fee
- Official transcripts*
- Letters of recommendation*
- Admission test scores*
- Statement of purpose
*Requirements for admission vary by program and may require different documentation and have different deadlines. For more detailed admission requirements, please refer to the current graduate catalog at catalog.usd.edu. Additional requirements exist for international applicants. For more information, visit International Admission Requirements.
Known for Excellence
99% of our program graduates find jobs after graduation!
An all-expenses paid trip to New York City's studios is an experience no other program offers! You gain up close and personal invites inside famous NYC artist's studios to review current work and ask questions.
24/7 access to our always-open art studios so you can hone your craft to your heart's content.
The Department of Art at USD has been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design since 1979.
Gain real-world teaching experience while enjoying paid employment and discounted tuition rates as a graduate student at USD. The affordability you gain through graduate assistantships will equip you with professional-level skills that will set you apart after graduation.
Teaching and research assistantships are awarded by individual departments. If you do not receive an assistantship within your department, you are eligible for an assistantship outside of your academic program or within support offices (non-academic units) at USD. Further inquiries should be directed to the graduate chair of the department.
Your Adventure Awaits
Earn your art history credits over spring break! Our students have participated in exhibitions and faculty-led programs around the world, and our USD alumni help make those experiences affordable.
New York City
Consider a trip to New York City to experience art on display as it was meant to be experienced. Immerse yourself in the culture, broadway shows, cuisine and popular architectural masterpieces and museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of Art, The Morgan Library & Museum, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Christie's Auction House, Trinity Church, St. Paul's Chapel & Graveyard, Harlem Museum, The Frick Collection, Cathedral of St. John the Devine, VOLTA New York, Brooklyn Museum and more.
Discover the art and architecture of Italy over spring break while earning your art history credits. Study abroad tours are an experience of a lifetime, giving you a chance to enhance your coursework through cultural immersion. Explore sites in Rome such as the Colosseum, Vatican Museum, St. Pater's Basilica and Sistine Chapel. Additional stops historically have included Assisi, Florence, Ravenna and don't forget Venice for your gondola ride!
USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including several that are housed in the Department of Art. You may be interested in joining the Student Art Alliance (SAA), Midwest Press, American Institute of Graphic Art Student Chapter (AIGA), Sculpture Culture or the Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA) to develop new skills and explore your interests.
Student Art Alliance (SAA)
Open to students in any major, the SAA promotes the visual arts within the community. Weekly meetings bring members together to collaborate on art projects that improve the understanding of art and opportunities for local involvement.
Midwest Press members attend meetings, create exhibition opportunities and review national conferences with the goal of bringing printmaking to the USD community.
American Institute of Graphic Arts Student Chapter (AIGA)
Graphic design majors can get involved in the local design community, create a community of their own and build leadership skills that will be invaluable as they move into the professional world. Members attend weekly meetings and collaborate on design projects for local businesses.
Attend meetings, national conferences and exhibitions through Sculpture Club. Members work to fund projects and strive to bring sculpture to USD and Vermillion, while creating a community of their own.
Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA)
Join your fellow graduate and professional students at USD. We aim to build a sense of community between graduate and professional students. Build your resume, network with others and gain experience and the unique opportunity to represent the interests of graduate students to the greater campus and community.
As a fine art student at USD, you will have a variety of opportunities to share your work with others both on campus and within the community to build a robust professional portfolio of your work.
Annual student reviews are part of our ongoing process of evaluation and testing of the MFA program. This method of periodic assessment is strongly supported by the National Association of Schools of Arts and Design, the school’s accreditation agency to provide the entire faculty and students the opportunity to review, critique and assess student work during their years of study.
These reviews support the art department in its own self-evaluation by gauging strengths and weaknesses in its curricula, teaching methods and program objectives. Additionally, the reviews foster student self-evaluation through comparison with the work of fellow students, providing a basis for increasing critical insight and analysis among students and between students and faculty. Most importantly, these reviews serve as a checkpoint work test of each student’s ability and potential to successfully continue in a degree program.
The University Art Galleries consists of three galleries, located throughout the University of South Dakota's campus. The galleries educate the university and community through rotating contemporary and historical art exhibitions, artist lectures, research programs and campus events.
- John A. Day Gallery
- Oscar Howe Gallery
- Gallery 110
- Permanent Collection
- Northern Plains Indian Art Residency
- Oscar Howe Curatorial Fellowship
At USD, you can pursue unique research, creative scholarship opportunities and many exhibitions to share your work with others both on campus and within the community. You will work closely with a professor to supervise your thesis research project. Depending on your specialization, the MFA degree may require a written thesis in support of your final thesis exhibition. Providing a research document in support of your thesis exhibition and artwork, it frames your work within historical and modern contexts, cites relevant historical and recent influences on your work and explains how your artwork and final exhibition contributes to the expertise in your discipline.
Departments & Facilities
The Department of Art will provide you with unique and applicable real-world experience and connections that enable you to immerse yourself in an environment built for personal and creative discovery.
faculty and staff
Art Immersion in NYC
USD art majors have the opportunity to visit the New York City studios of today’s top visual artists on a once in a lifetime, all-expenses-paid trip. This incomparable educational experience is provided through the expertise and generosity of USD alumna art collector John Thomson and other generous donors, including Tom and Nancy Gallagher. During a long weekend, students visit up to 15 studios plus the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum, tour Thomson’s personal collection, and experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of New York City.
This world-class program affords students unparalleled access to and conversations with contemporary visual artists. They learn about the artists’ individual practices, see a variety of studio spaces, and view works in progress before they are seen by the outside world. The trip inspires students step out of their daily lives and into the world.
Network with Visiting Artists
As an art student, you'll have access to nationally and internationally recognized artists, designers and lecturers through USD's visiting artist program. Artists travel to campus to present their work, conduct workshops, critique student works and facilitate classes. The artists share expertise and provide professional connections for students to access as they begin their careers.
Previous guest speakers include Eric Conrad, Yoonmi Nam, Dennis McNett, Pat Boyd, Tracy Otten, Ellie Honl and more.
Our Artists in action
Resident & WRGP
Tuition (9 cr.)
Fees (9 cr.)
More About Tuition & Fees
This is an estimate tuition rate* per credit hour and other factors such as special fees associated with your program may change the cost of tuition. Tuition rates are subject to change.
If you are wondering about how to pay for graduate school, there are additional funding options to consider.