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Master of Arts in Museum Studies

Program Mission

The University of San Francisco's Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Museum Studies is designed for entry-level and emerging museum professionals as well as professionals from other fields wishing to pursue a career in the museum field. The program prepares its graduates for positions of leadership in artistic, cultural, educational and heritage organizations and for long-term professional growth. The curriculum consists of core seminars, hands-on practica, one-on-one advising and mentoring, electives tailored to students' interests and a full-time summer internship in an institution of the student's choice. Partnering with San Francisco's dynamic museum community and grounded in University of San Francisco's longstanding commitment to social justice, the program emphasizes the long-term community-engagement and dynamism of museums through a focus on local, national and international collaboration, ethical practice, fiscal and managerial responsibility, public access and socially relevant collections and exhibitions.

Program Description

This 16-month, full-time program (two academic semesters, one summer and one fall semester; 32 units total) combines site visits to the San Francisco Bay Area's premier cultural institutions with core courses in museum history and theory, cultural and financial management, collections management and preservation, museums and social justice, and a series of rotating practica and workshops designed to explore current trends in the field. Topics include museums and the law, museums and technology, curatorial practice, the visitor experience, exhibition design and more. The program culminates with a project management capstone course in which students acquire the tools and techniques of project management as they apply to museum activities such as collections digitization and inventory, exhibition development and participatory exhibition design, special events, capital campaigns and so on. This is a hybrid program. Three semesters take place on-site at USF. One semester takes place off-site at internship locations with an online component.

Students interested in all types of museums (including art, history, design, science/technology, natural history, children's, themed museums and historic sites), as well as those interested in creating exhibitions for private enterprise, public parks and libraries and other kinds of private and public sites, are encouraged to apply. Summer internships may be pursued remotely with on-line coursework, allowing students to explore internship opportunities worldwide. Students earn an M.A. in Museum Studies with a focus on professional practice, taking 32 units in four consecutive semesters.

Students will attend classes two full days per week during the first and second semesters. The first semester of study begins in the fall semester and includes a mandatory introductory workshop and orientation session. During the fall and spring semesters, students take 24 units of core courses, practica and electives taught on-site by both USF faculty and prominent practitioners in their fields. These courses are designed to introduce and deepen knowledge of the museum field with a focus on museum history and theory, financial and administrative functions, and core museum professional practices including collections care and preservation and project management and exhibition development. In addition, students take a cornerstone first year course in Museums and Social Justice, designed to expose them to how museums are addressing the shifting politics of identity and equality at global, national and local levels. By working with local institutions on the representation of diversity and human rights issues, students will design programs that explore the potential of museums to contribute to more equitable, fair and just societies. 

Internship Program

The Internship Program is a vital aspect of the Master's Program curriculum. Supervised internships in a wide variety of museum settings help students build professional competencies and together, students will build a robust network of contacts. The Master's Program maintains ongoing relationships with museums throughout the nation. During the summer semester, students complete a 4-unit internship in the location of their choice, supervised by an internship coordinator who leads the accompanying mentoring and online discussion and assignments. Students will spend 35 hours per week at their internship over a 12-week period.

Capstone Project

In their final semester (the second fall), students study the principles and techniques of project management and complete a museum project management capstone course, supervised by faculty and culminating in a final paper and public presentation that synthesize their learning experience in the program. This final course will be offered once a week in the evenings, enabling students to work full-time. 

Program Learning Outcomes



 Students who complete the M.A. in Museum Studies will be able to:


  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the histories, theories and methodologies related to museums as complex public service organizations.
  • Exhibit an understanding of the values of social justice within the discipline of museology and an ability to apply ethical concerns to specific institutional contexts.
  • Evidence broad content knowledge of a variety of best practices and standards in the museum professions and apply theory to professional practice.
  •  Acquire and utilize skills essential for professional patterns of behavior and practice in the fields of artistic, cultural, and heritage management, including:


       a) Professional writing skills

       b) Oral, visual and multimedia design presentation skills

       c) Collaborative working practices

       d) Fiscal, project management and administrative skills

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of museum practice through full-time professional engagement with the museum as a workplace.