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Museum Studies PhD Programs

Museums are a central place for the preservation, education and bringing together communities. If you want to learn more about the museum field, you must weigh the museum studies options and decide which one is the best for you.

Comparing Museum Studies PhD Programs

PhD in Museum Studies

A PhD in museum studies focuses on the study of museums in society. Because museums are generally inter-disciplinary (with branches in science, anthropology, art, history and more) museum studies PhD students begin their studies with a master's-level degree in museology or a related field. Applicants need both a master's degree and a portfolio of accomplishments in the museum industry. A museum studies PhD is a hands-on degree. Candidates work in museums designing and implementing exhibitions or reorganizing educational programming. They may conduct research in museum design, museum engagement and participation, or heritage sites as cultural institutions. PhD recipients typically go on to become museum curators.

PhD in Historic Preservation

If you are more interested in artifacts than the humans who come to look at them, you may want to focus your research on conservation/preservation. In contrast to museum studies programs where students engage with the public regularly, conservation degrees focus on practical skills related to artifacts. Candidates work in laboratories preserving, restoring and researching historic artifacts. They may conduct research in best-practices, digitization of artifacts, or the philosophy, ethics and controversies surrounding preservation. Candidates are required to hold a master's in historic preservation before continuing on to a PhD program. After graduation, PhDs in historic preservation go on to work as consultants for museums and businesses or archivists at one particular institution.

PhD in Cultural Heritage and Applied Anthropology

If you are interested in the way societies use history for education, politics and profit, you may want to focus your research with a PhD in heritage studies. To apply you will need a master's degree in public history, heritage, anthropology or a related field. In some cases a bachelor's degree and relevant experience can replace the master's requirement. Heritage experts explore how history is consumed by the public. Within the PhD program you will work on research projects studying how history appears in museums, schools, public sites, community events, television, movies and fiction. Heritage experts are philosophers, policy makers and educators. They can work as professors at universities, in museums, and in for-profit heritage sites (like Colonial Williamsburg) interpreting history for public audiences.

PhD in Art History

If you desire to work in an art museum specifically, you may consider studying art at the PhD level. To apply for a PhD program you will need a master's degree in art history. While working on your PhD you will have the opportunity to conduct and publish original research about art. Depending on your research project, programs can take 5-8 years to finish. Once you have published your thesis, you can establish yourself as a worldwide expert. Also, university PhD programs offer their candidates opportunities to network in the art community and help land their first job as an art curator or museum manager.

PhD in a Specialized Field

Museums are run by experts in the field of knowledge they exhibit. If you already know the kind of museum where you want to work, you may want to continue your studies in that field specifically. For example, if you want to work in a natural history museum consider a PhD in natural history research. Program length and entrance requirements will depend on the specialized field you choose to pursue. Make sure your program offers electives or even a minor in preservation, museology, and archival work. If you have experience and passion for your field, you can find a funded PhD program and be paid to research and develop a specialty.

Degree Program Program Length Program Requirements Related Careers
PhD in Museum Studies 4-7 years *Master's degree *Curator
*Museum owner
PhD in Historic Preservation Varies *Master's degree *Archivist
*Art curator
*Preservation consultant
PhD in Cultural Heritage and Applied Anthropology 5-8 years *Master's degree in history (sometimes a bachelor's may be acceptable) *Museum exhibition designer
*T.V. show accuracy consultant
PhD in Art History 7-8 years *Master's degree *Art Curator
*Art Restoration Consultant
*Art museum curator
PhD in a Specialized Field Varies *Undergraduate degree *Museum curator

Museum work is a competitive field. A PhD program in museum studies can set you apart as an expert and prepare you for a variety of museum-related careers, from archival work to exhibition design.