Updated on April 22, 2017, to include information from the director of the program, Jaelyn Eberle.
This is the review for the Museum and Field Studies program offered at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Here are some facts about the program and university:
- The degree earned is a Master of Science
- The program gets 50-75 applications a year and accepts 8-12 students
- To earn said degree, students must complete the two-year program with a thesis or capstone project and a final exam
- Three different tracks are available, collections/field, public/administration, and art history
- The Director of the program considers the program to be a “museum immersion program” where students work at the Natural History Museum for two years, and complete an additional 150-hour internship. Then add in some classes and that thesis or project.
- The majority of graduates find employment within six months after graduation
So far, there have been six responses from students who graduated less than a year ago to over sixteen years ago. The breakdown is four of the six respondents graduated 0-5 years ago, one respondent graduated 11-15 years ago and one graduated 16+ years ago.
The advantages of the program are:
- Small program made it very easy to find one-on-one support
- Supportive faculty and staff; one respondent noted that faculty and staff made sure the student had funding
- Paid opportunity to work in campus museum so students gain hands-on experience
- Interdisciplinary (natural sciences, anthropology, art) and offers different tracks (education, exhibits, collections, admin)
- If you’re self-directed there are endless opportunities (ie. A student asked to make my own exhibit and was given the opportunity and support)
- Graduate certificate option
- Boulder, Colorado is gorgeous
The disadvantages of the program are:
- The time it takes to graduate is highly dependent on advisor
- Financial aid
- Needs increased academic rigor and more resources for students interested in the public side of the museum – i.e. education, exhibits, evaluation
- Not a ton of support securing internships
- Very self-directed
The overall rating of the program as it was when the respondents attended is 8.5/10.0
Five of the six respondents do not live near the University of Colorado Boulder.
Two respondents work in natural history museums, two are still in school, one works in a specialty museum, and one works in an academic museum or gallery.
Five respondents’ work includes collections management, two includes curatorial duties, one includes registration and one respondent’s work includes education.
Some current job titles are:
- Collections Assistant
- Graduate Assistant
- Education Coordinator
Some dream job titles are:
- Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology
- Director of Collections
- Curator of Public Engagement
After browsing around the website and reading these responses, the program seems great for a self-motivated student who is interested in natural history museums. I like that the program requires electives outside of the museum realm. And I love that many of the respondents mentioned how supportive the faculty and staff are. I checked out the Professional Certificate quickly, and it sounds like it’s geared toward people already in the field or for those completing a master’s in a different program.
Though it sounds like students receive graduate assistantships through the Museum of Natural History, I’m not sure how helpful it is on the financial side of the experience. For just the practical experience, the assistantship sounds fantastic.
Update: The graduate assistantships offered in the Museum of Natural History are either 10 hours a week and covers 5 credits plus a stipend or are 20 hours a week and covers 8-9 credits plus a larger stipend. Most of the students are able to be placed at the Natural History Museum in graduate assistantships. Those that are not able to still receive scholarships for financial aid.
As for guest lecturers and field trips, many classes may have guest professors or professionals come in or video-conference with the class. The introductory museum studies course in the program is primarily made up of field trips to museums in the area.
Overall, after speaking with the Director, this program seems like a great program. They strike a balance between academic and practical courses and experiences. This program is perfect for those looking to work in natural history museums but, between the required electives outside of the museum field, different tracks offered and the required additional internship off-campus, students should be able to create an experience catered to their own interests. For fun, here are some promo pictures from the program!