John F. Kennedy University

This is the review for the Museum Studies Program at John F. Kennedy University (JFKU) based on 31 responses. This school offers a M.A. in Museum Studies with concentrations in Collections Management or Education and Interpretation. JFKU also offers a Museum Studies M.A. and M.B.A. dual degree. This option takes three years to complete and students leave with two degrees. Both degrees will be covered in this post.

JFKU Map.jpg
John F. Kennedy University is a nonprofit, private university in California. The Museum Studies program is taught at the Berkeley campus which is pointed out above.


Here are some additional facts about JFKU and its Museum Studies program:

  • Classes for the Museum Studies Program meet mainly in the evenings.
  • The Museum Studies Program is on the Berkeley Campus. However, the Business program is taught at the main campus in Pleasant Hill, CA (see maps)
  • Apparently, at one point you got a free coffee cup for attending (see end of “Advantage” list)

All of the above information was found here and here.

This map illustrates the distance between the JFKU Main Campus (right) and Berkeley Campus (left).

These respondents attended JFKU less than a year ago to over 16 years ago. The breakdown is 48% attended 0-5 years ago, 25.8% attended 6-10 years ago, 9.7% attended 11-15 years ago, and 16% attended 16+ years ago.

Advantages of the program were:

  • Balance of theory, application, and social relevance
  • Courses and professors encouraged students to explore current issues and topics that are relevant to museum work today
  • Focus on community engagement and social justice
  • Professors were from the field with real-world experience but also encouraged academic exploration into the museum field
  • Good faculty connections for internships and professional development
  • Located in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Good for working professionals; night classes were available
  • Classes work directly with museums for projects
  • The alumni network and networking opportunities in general
  • Close affiliation with the Western Museums Association which allowed for more opportunities for presenting, moderating and being in a more professional environment
  • Small class size
  • No GRE required
  • Dual degree of Museum Studies/Business, the only one in the United States
  • More affordable than other Museum Studies programs in the States
  • The coffee cup at the end

The disadvantages previous students listed are below, but a quick note: many of these disadvantages were listed only by a few respondents. Some shortcomings seemed individualized and the impression is supported by the fact that the same critiques were not repeated. Cost and the MA/MBA disadvantages were reported by multiple individuals.

  • Classes were only offered in the early evenings/night
  • Part of a university with a narrow offerings in other academic areas
  • Teachers are not necessarily educators themselves
  • Cost to attend  JFKU and live in the Bay Area
  • Collections track is not as hands-on as it should be/could be
  • For MA/MBA: more integration between degree programs: Although not entirely necessary, it may be helpful to have a few courses that deliberately try to bridge the gap between museums and business (especially since that disconnect was the reason why the dual program was formed in the first place)
  • Not much emphasis on how to work between departments, they teach a little about all departments but never focus on the connections between them

The overall score of this program as it was when students attended: 9.1/10.0

The overall score of this program as it is now: 8.9/10.0

This score change was due in part to the departure of a previous department chair.

64.5% of graduates of JFKU do work near the school.

These graduates are all over the map, from working for a Native tribe to a Private Library/Archive and beyond. Here’s the breakdown:

History Museum: 19.4%, Art Museum: 16.1%, Science Museum: 6.4%, Historical Society 6.4%, Academic Gallery/Museum/Library: 6.4%, Other non-profit: 6.4%, Specialty Museum: 6.4%,  Freelance museum work: 6.4%, Non-museum work: 6.4%, Unemployed: 6.4%, Faculty: 3.2%, Aquarium: 3.1%, Private Library 3.1%, Native tribe: 3.1%

As for type of work graduates of the JFKU program do the percentages* are as follows:

Administration: 29%, Exhibitions: 29%, Collections Management: 25.8%, Education: 25.8% Registration: 19.4%, Curatorial: 12.9%, Archival/Library: 12.9%, Development: 9.6%, Visitor Services/Membership: 6.5%.

* These percentages will not add up to 100% because each participant could select more than one option.

Some examples of current job titles are: Supervising Naturalist, Collections Manager, Preparator, Executive Director, Annual Giving Manager, Curator, Registrar Assistant, Exhibits Developer.

These graduates are dreaming about being the Director of Development, Director of Education, Chief Administrative Officer, and Museum Theater Coordinator.


My Summary:

From these responses and my brief research on this school and program, I would argue that this program is a good fit for those who are working or would like to work while going to school full-time. By the sound of it, JFKU gives you a well-rounded understanding of museums, but what really makes the program is its faculty. The majority of respondents mention how dedicated the professors are to the students and the program.  Professors are willing to go out of their way to help in finding  internships, networking and acting as mentors. JFKU has a great alumni network. And with the MA/MBA dual major, the Museum Studies Program is even responding to the needs of the field!

One part of the responses I want to draw attention to is the locality of the graduates. Most of the respondents stay “near” JFKU. I define “near” in the survey as within in the same metro area or respondents meet many alumni at regional conferences. So the 64.5% of graduates who define themselves as working “near” JFKU could work in the Bay Area or could work elsewhere in California, or in Oregon or Washington. This statistic then could be read that this program may be best for someone who would like to spend the next few years after graduate school working on the West Coast. Overall, this Museum Studies program sounds great for a working professional on the West Coast. If you would like to add your input go take the survey, contact me, or comment below.

If you would like more information on the Museum Studies program, go here. If you would like more information on the MA/MBA combination, head here.

I will be updating this post as I receive more responses about John F. Kennedy University and do some more research on the school so be sure to check back! As always, feel free to comment or send feedback.


4 thoughts on “John F. Kennedy University”

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