What schools are realistic for me?

Hello all! I am a rising senior looking at MA programs right now. I’m majoring in Education and English, and minoring History. I want to study History to eventually work in a museum, so being in a large city (Chicago, NYC, Boston, DC) is ideal.

I currently have a 3.75 GPA and anticipate graduating summa cum laude. I’ve held one internship position with the governor of Wisconsin and another with a university association in D.C., and I received a prestigious summer research grant this year to work on a documentary. I’m the executive producer for a student-run film company and the copy chief of our paper for two years, copy editor since my freshman year.

I honestly have just started my graduate school search, and I would love any advice y’all have. Currently I’m looking at BC, BU, NYU, Georgetown, and Loyola Chicago, but I have no idea if any of these are actually viable options!

You should talk to your college advisor, they would best know what is possible for you.

Getting good faculty recommendations will be critical also. Do any of your professors know other faculty in institutions in larger cities that you might be targeting? Are there particular faculty with whom you might want to study for a graduate degree, and does anyone among your current faculty know them/could write you a recommendation for entry into their graduate program?

You might look into Tufts also, and GW.

William and Mary?

Are you interested in American Studies, material culture etc? BU or Brown.

Hard to know what to suggest without knowing your particular interests.

Emerson for film? USC?

Maybe a Museum studies program? Hopkins? ASU? Tufts? RIT?

“Hoping to eventually work in a museum,” can be accomplished with levels of education ranging from dropped-out-high school to PhD depending on the type of museum and what you want to do at the museum.

Before pursuing a grad degree you really should get a better idea of what your objective is. Then talk to some of your professors and try to narrow down your interests.

Admissions to grad programs can range from extremely easy (unfunded, low ranked MA) to extremely competitive (fully funded, top ranked PhD).

Figure out what you are aiming for, then think about whether grad school is needed or advisable to achieve your goals.


Harvard Extension also has a museum studies program.

Maybe do a brief internship with an organization like Historic New England.

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Historians who work in museums are specialists- do you have an area in which you want to specialize?

What do you want to do in the museum? Is a history degree the best way to get that job? As @nw2this points out, a museum studies program might suit you better- esp if you are interested in (say) developing educational programs.

Before you plunk down $70K to get a $45K job, be a lot more sure what you want to do with that degree.

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You do not need a museum studies degree to work for organizations like Historic New England. In fact your education studies would lead to a job in their school programs. That organization also employs experts in restoration, fundraising, tour guides in old houses and so on. You can rise from entry level to managing a site, then managing all the sites and so on.

I worked for a woman who was entrepreneurial and created her own organization that focused on restoration of steeples. It was fascinating work.

There are lots of things to do with a history master’s. But yes we would need to know your area of interest and so would the school.

I will definitely be doing this! I would just also like to get some advice from others since my advisor has kind of steered me wrong a few times in my college career.

As far as I know none of the professors and faculty I’ve had have connections, but I anticipate getting one recommendation from my public history professor who I had for a history class my sophomore year and will my senior year, and he is also my faculty advisor for the summer research project I received a grant for this summer.

Thank you for the recommendations for schools, I am very interested in Tufts!

With a 3.75 GPA , a couple of internships and a research grant, you look competitive for most programs. Are you at U Wisconsin?

As for Museum studies, my cousin recently started a master’s program at NYU in Museum studies. There is funding (her masters is fully funded), but it’s competitive. Still, it’s definitely worth your while to look at it. There are actually a few programs at NYU.

There is also a program for arts administration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Northeastern University has a Master in Public History.

Here is a list: https://www.artcurators.org/page/StudentResrcsSchools

As others have said, though, only apply to programs that have funding, and only accept if funding is guaranteed. Except for professional programs which lead to high paid jobs, it is always a Very Bad Idea to go into debt for graduate school.


Question #1 - what kind of history? While the MA is more generalized than the PhD, if you want to focus on a specific geographical area or period that might narrow things down a bit. Second, if you are interested in museum work, while it’s not necessarily required to get trained in museum studies, some history programs offer certification in museum studies or curation as one of a number of possible MA tracks.

Wisconsin has one of the best graduate programs in History in the country. I would ask a trusted faculty member rather than a general academic advisor. Your public history professor might be a good place to start.

And yes, don’t go into debt for a graduate degree in history. As is the case with undergraduate admissions, apply to a range of programs and then see where you get funded. Best of luck to you!


Eh, the OP is minoring in the subject in which s/he wants to do a Masters, and the internships do not suggest a link to historical research. S/he will have to create a narrative around how her dual Majors in Education and English, and possibly the one/both of the internships, link to her Minor in History, such that she now wants to study History full time. That is absolutely do-able, but it’s not a slam-dunk.

I agree completely that spending a lot of money on an MA in history w/o a plan for how it will pay for itself is essential- but funded MAs in history are thin on the ground, and it will take a very strong applicant (incl SOP) to get one of them.

TBH, I suspect that the OP has been working on the ‘what to do after college’ question, has hit on working in museums, and is thinking that a MA in history is a good way to do that. If that guess is close to accurate, then I suspect the OP has a lot more digging into 1) what sort of museum work s/he would like to do (and the pathways for getting there) and 2) what the emphasis is at different MAs/post-grad programs.


OP- you might want to look at some of the job boards which have postings for museum professionals to get a feel for career paths. There are the big sites like Chronicle of Philanthropy- those roles tend to be very senior, and specialized sites like AAM (American Association of Museums) and then more narrow sites which focus on archival, interpretation, restoration, cultural/educational etc. And it’s worth checking out some of the government sites (state and local) since many of the national and state parks employ experts in various fields both for restoration and for visitor education.

I agree with many of the comments above that history might not be your fastest route to the career you want. There are specialized Master’s programs in museum studies; there are certificate programs in development/fundraising (always in demand within the museum world); there are technically focused programs which have a lot of coursework in restoration and material culture- the list goes on and on.

With an academic Master’s in History you are still going to need to pivot to get into museums… why not get pre-professional training (and maybe just a certificate type program) which positions you for the job you want?

Curator type roles are very different from working at a museum in their education or community engagement departments.

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Hi all! Thank you for the responses, in the last two weeks I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve been looking at more Public Humanties-style Masters programs. Right now I’m heavily considering Georgetown, I currently have an internship in D.C. so I was able to visit and learn more about the program.

Georgetown has everything I’m looking for in a program, including the city it’s in. I’m a bit worried about my GPA, though, because I know Georgetown is incredibly competitive! unfortuntealy a lot of the other schools that I’m intersted in are also hard to get into (Yale, Brown, etc). So I’m still wondering if it would be worth it to drop all this money on applications, or if I should wait a year and then see if I can get a job or internship that might help me get in.

Being in DC now may offer advantages for finding a job after graduation. Many institutions opening up. Inquire and network to find out fall hiring events. See Georgetown’s public humanities links and follow, search for folks with the MA. See LinkedIn, Handshake, Instagram, find local employed alum, & ask for informational interviews, tips.

Check out NEH grant process while you’re in DC Public Humanities Projects | The National Endowment for the Humanities

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This has been the party line on CC for a long time, that funded MAs (and higher) in non-science majors don’t exist. I agreed and I discouraged my daughter from applying to programs because the money wouldn’t be there and I didn’t want her going into more debt. She showed me. Applied at U of Wyoming (her undergrad school) and got in, fully funded. This was sort of a perfect storm year for her to apply since she knows the professors in the department, she didn’t have to take the GRE (she’s terrible at math), and she’s had a few years in the cold, cruel world and wants to go back to school. She doesn’t really know what she wants to do with an MA in history, but since it’s funded, I don’t care. She has a BA in history and a certificate in Museum studies. She is taking my suggestion and trying to frame her studies around art confiscation in WWII and who owns the works now (think Monuments Men, Woman in Gold, lots of stuff still in crates and hidden in tunnels). She might have an easier time if she wanted to concentrate on American history of the west, Native American subjects including art, but one of her advisers is a WWII expert and another is into art and museum studies, so…

The OP may have to choose between a funded program at a school not in a city, not at a top program and an expensive program at Hopkins or UChicago or Tufts.

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Check usajobs, some employers develop pool of applicants many months before graduation. See opportunities for students and recent grads.
Such as Exhibits Specialist at Wright Patt AFB

Check state humanities councils. New funding announced this month. NEH Announces American Rescue Plan Funding for State and Jurisdictional Humanities Councils | The National Endowment for the Humanities

Your daughter was a very strong candidate, including being well known to the department. There are a couple of posters on CC whose kid have successfully gotten funded MAs- but they are the exception.