An MFA is a master of fine arts degree. It’s for students who want a concentrated, advanced education to help them develop the skills necessary to become a practicing artist or designer. While many historically black colleges and universities have professors on their staff who hold master of fine arts degrees, not very many historically black colleges have graduate degree programs which actually offer a master’s degree in fine arts.


As defined by Title III of the Higher Education Act passed in 1965 by Congress, a historically black college or university is a higher educational institution that was established or accredited prior to 1964, and whose primary purpose is to educate African-Americans. There are currently, as of 2011, 105 historically black colleges and universities in the United States. Of these 105 colleges and universities, only one, Norfolk State University, offers a master's degree in fine arts at this time.

Norfolk State University

Funded in 1935, Norfolk State University is a historically black university in Norfolk, Virginia. In partnership with Old Dominion University (which is also located in Norfolk, Virginia), Norfolk State University currently offers both a master of arts (MA) degree and a master of fine arts degree in Visual Studies with Norfolk State University being the institution of record. Visual studies is essentially the evaluation of how we, as a culture, see ourselves in the world. Students are trained in the skills required to critically examine and interpret the images we are bombarded with in our society.

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MFA Degree Requirements at Norfolk State University

Master of fine arts in visual study candidates at Norfolk State University must successfully complete a 60 credit hour program to earn their MFA degrees. Six credit hours are dedicated to thesis and exhibition; six credit hours are dedicated to direct field experience; nine credit hours are dedicated to graduate seminars; 12 credit hours are dedicated to art history and other related academics; and 27 credit hours are dedicated to graduate studio work.


Unfortunately students looking to earn a master of fine arts degree in a field of study such as photography, design, computer art, film, studio art and other disciplines will likely have to look beyond historically black colleges and universities for the time being. College directory websites and search engines such as, and can assist students in finding a master of fine arts degree program well suited to their needs and interests.

About the Author

Maya Austen began freelance writing in 2009. She has written for many online publications on a wide variety of topics ranging from physical fitness to amateur astronomy. She's also an author and e-book publisher. Austen has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the New England Institute of Art and currently lives in Boston, Mass.