In the interest of full disclosure, I earned my Masterís degree in History Museum Studies at the Cooperstown Graduate Program. The following article outlines how a Masterís degree has helped my career. You must make the right decision for yourself that best helps you meet your career goals.
Today there are many options to consider when preparing for a museum career. You can choose a Masterís degree in museum studies, history, art history, museum education and many other programs. There are a variety of certificates you can earn, both in traditional educational settings and online.
I chose a two-year Masterís degree program in History Museum Studies that combined practical museum training and academic scholarship. And hereís why.
A museum studies program trains students in all areas of museum work. I took classes on collections management, education and exhibitions. While I always knew I wanted to become a curator, some classmates did change their minds about their career goals after trying something new. A typical museum studies curriculum is like a ďliberal artsĒ education. One of the most valuable exercises we participated in was a role-playing project in a fictional museum. I was given the role of Chief Financial Officer, which is not exactly my forte (to say the least!). But it was invaluable for me to understand how that part of a museum works.
I also took classes that provided context for my career, including social history, architecture and material culture. I was required to write a thesis too, which is not required of many museum studies programs. Completing a thesis project shows a potential employer you can complete a large research project, so it actually is relevant to your museum career goals.
My graduate program was a two-year program, and we were required to do a full time internship during the summer in between. Internships and volunteering provide invaluable experience! I simply cannot stress that enough. Practical experience will help distinguish your resume from the others in the stack.
One of the most valuable benefits of earning a Masterís degree is the network of alumni across the country after graduation. You will have access to more job listings, and networking and professional opportunities.
Even if a position announcement does not require a Masterís degree, you will always be a more attractive candidate if you have one. And you will not be excluded from positions that do require a Masterís degree.
I know I was job hunting in a pre-9/11 world, but I was offered a position as curator of a small historical society one month before graduation. I know my Masterís degree played a role in landing that job, and it just might work for you too!