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Museum Studies Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, Museum Studies degree field consists of 10 courses (40 credits), with a minimum of 2 courses (8 credits) on campus here at Harvard University. Weekend options are available, where you can easily meet the entire requirement in three weekends.

Getting Started

  1. Explore the required course curriculum.
  2. Determine your initial admissions eligibility.
  3. Learn about the 3 degree courses required for admission.
  4. Search and register for courses.

Required Courses

10 Graduate Courses

The museum studies program is customizable. Within the program curriculum, you choose the museum studies electives that support your learning goals.

  • MUSE 100 Introduction to Museum Studies
  • MUSE 102 Proseminar: Intro to Graduate Research in Museum Studies
  • Six museum studies electives from any of the following areas:
    • Business of museums
    • Collections care
    • Exhibition design
    • Museum education
    • Technology
  • Optional internship or additional museum studies elective
  • MUSE 598 Museum Studies Precapstone Tutorial (noncredit)
  • MUSE 599 Capstone Projects in Museum Studies

Capstone experience. Your capstone project will focus on one of the five concentrations: (1) business of museums, (2) collections care, (3) exhibition design, (4) museum education, or (5) technology. Whatever focus you choose, you complete at least 2 courses in that concentration before you propose your capstone idea.

First, in the precapstone, you design the independent research project with your assigned research advisor. Then, in the capstone, you execute the research while receiving guidance and support from your instructor and fellow degree candidates.

Capstone sequencing. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters and in your final academic year. The capstone must be taken alone as your sole remaining degree requirement.

Recent Capstone Topics

  • Art on Campus: How University Art Museums Can Fulfill Educational Missions and Make Broad Impacts Through Campus Lending
  • Digital Strategies for Smaller Museums During Post-Pandemic Era
  • Storytelling in War Exhibits: The Unique Characteristics of Veteran Narratives
  • The Traveling Museum: A Mobile STEM Proposal for Rural Appalachia
  • Improving Health Outcomes for Senior Populations by Engaging in Museum Experiences

The Harvard On-Campus Experience (2 Courses)

Most courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard University campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least 2 courses (8 credits), which offers you in-person access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

Weekend options are available, where you can easily meet the entire requirement in 3 weekends. For example you complete:

  • Two, 2-credit aactive learning weekends, such as, MUSE E-109 Exhibit Design through Narrative and MUSE E-141 Close Looking in the Museum: Pedagogies in Practice, plus the capstone, which is offered online with an intensive weekend on campus.

All our on-campus options are below:

  • Active-learning weekends (2-credits each; complete two to earn full course credit).
  • Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus. The capstone is taught in this format.
  • 3-week January courses that meet only on campus.
  • 3- or 7-week summer courses that meet only on campus.

International Students Who need a Student Visa

To meet the capstone requirement, you complete an independent study, and to meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School’s 3- or 7-week sessions. For more information, see International Student Study Options page.

Optional Certificates

You can choose to concentrate your degree studies in a specific area and earn a certificate along the way. There are 3 options:

  • Digital Storytelling
  • Learning Design and Technology
  • Nonprofit Management

Admissions

Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Be sure to visit Degree Program Admissions for full details.

Initial Eligibility

  • Prior to enrolling in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a 4-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated for equivalency.
  • You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in museum studies or a related field. Check your eligibility.

The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.

Earning Your Way In: Courses for Admission

To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following 2 graduate-level degree courses (available online):

  • MUSE 100 Introduction to Museum Studies
  • MUSE 102 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Research in Museum Studies
    • Before registering, you’ll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or earn a B or higher in the EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities (counts as an elective).
    • You have two attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.

The courses above, including EXPO 42a, count toward the degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses.

Course sequencing. While the 2 courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we highly recommend that you start with MUSE 100 Introduction to Museum Studies. Each course must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your second degree course, submit the official application to the program. 

Don’t delay! You must prioritize the 2 degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:

  • avoid the delayed application fee or the loss of credit for expired course work.
  • ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • gain access to exclusive benefits (see bottom of page).

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 8 more courses after admission to earn the degree. 

For details about eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Degree Program Admissions.

Search and Register for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round. You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).

To find degree courses in the DCE Course Search and Registration platform:

  • Under Search Classes, scroll to Harvard Extension Degree, Certificate, and Premedical Course Search.
  • Select Graduate Degrees
  • Choose Museum Studies to explore program courses.

To Complete Your Degree

Required 3.0 GPA, 2 Withdrawal Grade Limit, and Repeat Course Policy

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the 2 degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.

Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive 2 withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.

Optional Internship

You can complete an 4-credit internship in a museum here in Cambridge (e.g., in a Harvard University or Boston-area museum) or in a museum near your home in the United States. In lieu of the internship, you complete an additional 4-credit elective.

Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under 5 Years

Courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree. As noted above, the proseminar cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.

You have 5 years to complete your degree requirements. The 5-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any 2 degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to the degree program.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the 5-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work.

Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the 5-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Museum Studies. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits

When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges