Museum Studies Master's Degree Program Information

Oct 12, 2019

A master's degree program in museum studies explores the history of museums, exhibits, curatorial research, management and operations, community education and outreach. These graduate programs prepare students for careers such as museum curator or museum archivist.

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Essential Information

Students in a museum studies master's program learn via coursework as well as internships, research projects and a final thesis. They may choose a specialty on which to focus their studies. Graduates are prepared for positions managing museums and collections, as well as educating the public about the cultural role of museums. Employers include art museums, zoos, federal agencies and other non-profit institutions.

Museum Studies Master's Degree

A bachelor's degree, preferably in a related field of study such as history, anthropology or even biology, is usually required of applicants for most museum master's programs. Some schools will allow applicants to take prerequisite museum courses if the bachelor's degree is in an unrelated area.

Students will get an extensive look into the finer points of museums through coursework, internship experience and a thesis, or a similar research writing project. Some sample class titles might be:

  • Museum management and administration
  • Public education through museums
  • Museums in the digital age
  • Roles of marketing and communications in museums
  • Building and architecture of museums
  • Managing museum collections

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

A museum curator is one possible job title for a person holding a master's degree in museum studies. A curator oversees and analyzes collections, and also handles public outreach campaigns, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A curator typically oversees objects of cultural, biological or historical value.

The BLS predicted job growth of 10% for museum curators from 2018-2028, while noting the competition is tight since there are usually more qualified applicants than openings. The average annual salary for curators in museums, historical sites or similar institutions - which is the largest employer group for curators - was $56,890 in 2018, according to the BLS.

In addition, a person who holds a master's degree in museum studies will be prepared to take on many types of professional jobs within a museum, such as marketing specialist, development director, educators, archivist, exhibit planners or designers.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

A museum archivist, who handles important records and documents, can become certified through the Academy of Certified Archivists. It is a voluntary program that typically includes meeting educational and experience qualifications, and passing a national exam. For those who want to advance in the field into research and/or teaching, a doctorate in history, library science or a related field is a good route.

Students interested in pursuing careers as curators, historians, archivists or historical educators should look into master's degree programs in museum studies. Through education, research projects and internships, these degree programs provide students with the skills and training needed for museum careers.

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