George Washington University, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Updated on November 29, 2016

This is the review for the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University (GWU) based on 16 responses. GWU offers two entirely separate museum related master’s degrees, Museum Studies and Museum Education. If you would like to learn more about their Museum Education Program go here. If you are looking for information on the Museum Studies Program, continue reading.

To begin, here are some facts about GWU and its Museum Studies Program:

  • was established in 1976
  • fellowships are offered specific to the Museum Studies Program. There are partial scholarships, awarded for incoming students in the fall semester only, and must submit the application by January 5th
  • offers a program called “Grad2Grad” with the highlighted benefit of 10% tuition discount for GWU undergraduates from 2015 and 2016. You can read more about it here.
  • Besides the MA in Museum Studies, a Campus-Based Museum Studies Certificate, and Distance Education Certificate* is also available.

*The Distance Education Certificate is designed with current museum volunteers or museum professionals in mind. For more information, go to the link here.

These facts were found on the Museum Studies Program website.

George Washington University map.jpg
George Washington University is private university located in Washington, D.C.

These participants graduated between less than 1 year and over 16 years ago. The breakdown is 57% graduated less than a year to 5 years ago, 18% 6 to 10 years ago, 18% 11 to 15 years ago, and 7% graduated 16 or more years ago. The respondents listed the following as advantages of the program:

  • Location-close to many museums and being in Washington, D.C. proper
  • Based on practical aspects of collections work, not theory
  • Program includes both museum and academic courses. Mixes standard, must-know courses and specialized or case-study courses. Students are required to complete two internships
  • Students can attend full or part time and many classes are offered in the evening which makes it easier for working students
  • Adjunct professors who work at the Smithsonian and other local institutions – you really learn from the people who do the work they’re teaching about
  • Easy access to great internships through those professors
  • Very supportive staff
  • Flexibility for both museum and academic cores of program
  • Large alumni base and the networking opportunities with DC museum professionals
  • The school is well recognized and its great reputation helps with future job placement

However, here are disadvantages that are also listed:

  • Cost! Nine out of the sixteen responses listed cost as a disadvantage. One respondent pointed out a lack of financial aid on top of the expensive tuition rate.
  • Requires students to choose a concentration when having broad knowledge may be more useful after graduation (two respondents noted this as a disadvantage)
  • Elective courses can be a bit limited depending on your concentration and have not been found to be useful on the job  (four respondents noted this disadvantage)
  • Though the internship opportunities are great, many museums in DC will not be able to provide a job after graduation and many of the internships are unpaid
  • Little cultural or racial diversity in the program

This program’s rating as it was when respondents attended: 8.56/10.00

This program’s rating as it is now (based on 10 ratings): 8.92/10.00

This change is based on the cost and lack of financial aid as well as letting in too many students.

63% of participants do not work near GWU while 37% do work close to their graduate school.

18% are currently employed at history museums, 37% at art museums, 12% at natural history museums, 6% at Cultural Centers, 6% at Historic Houses, 6% at Academic Galleries or Museums, and 6% at Botanical Gardens.

62% of these graduates work in collections management, 56% in registration, 25% in archival/library work, 12% in exhibitions, 6% in curatorial, education, administration and visitor services.

Some examples of current job titles are Collections Manager, Associate Registrar, Curatorial Coordinator, and Director of Retail and Events. When asked what their dream jobs were, responses included titles like Director of Collections, Collections Manager, and Vice President for Visitor Experience.


My Summary:

Based on these responses and my brief research on the George Washington University Museum Studies Program, I’d say the program would be a good fit for someone who knows what they want. If you feel confident in picking your concentration (Collection Management, Museum Management, or Exhibitions and Public Engagement) and have an idea of what kind of museum you would like to work in (thereby picking the best concentration outside of museum studies) then this might be the school for you! After a quick look at the Museum Studies’ full list of courses and the list of courses organized by concentration, the Exhibitions and Public Engagement concentration looks like it has the most options. Though there are some really interesting looking theory courses (that Material Culture course, anyone?) this program is definitely application based. This program seems great- if you can afford it! If you would like to add your input, take the survey or contact me.

If you would like more information on this program, head over to their website.

I will be updating this post as I receive more responses about the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University and do some more research on the school, so be sure to check back! As always, feel free to comment or send feedback.

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