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Museum Studies Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, Museum Studies degree program is offered online with 1 course required on campus at Harvard University. Weekend options are available for the on-campus requirement.

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Registration for January and Spring 2024 is open.

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Explore Degree Requirements

Required Course Curriculum

  • Two people on a zoom call.

    Online core and elective courses

  • School building.

    On-campus applied active learning elective

  • Lightbulb in a hand.

    Capstone project

10 Graduate Courses (40 credits)

The museum studies program is highly customizable. As part of the program curriculum, you choose the museum studies electives that support your professional career plans, whether it is running a small museum, designing exhibitions, caring for objects, or educating visitors.

The synchronous online format and small class size ensure you’ll receive personal attention from your instructors and experience full engagement with your peers.

Required Core & Elective Courses

  • MUSE 100 Introduction to Museum Studies
  • MUSE 102 Proseminar: Intro to Graduate Research in Museum Studies
  • Five museum studies electives from any of the following areas:
    • Business of museums
    • Collections care
    • Exhibition design
    • Museum education
    • Technology
  • Applied active learning elective (see on-campus experience)
  • Optional internship or additional museum studies elective

Browse Courses →

Precapstone Tutorial & Capstone Project

You enroll in the following precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters and in your final academic year:

  • 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:

  • Business of museums
  • Collections care
    Exhibition design
  • Museum education
  • Technology

Whatever focus you choose, you complete at least 2 courses in that concentration before you propose your capstone idea.

First, in the precapstone course, you design the independent research project with your assigned research advisor. Then, in the capstone course, 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:

  • The Traveling Museum: A Mobile STEM Proposal for Rural Appalachia
  • Improving Health Outcomes for Senior Populations by Engaging in Museum Experiences
  • Hidden Talents: How small museums should establish collections care volunteer programs to better preserve their collections and to build mutually beneficial partnerships with their volunteers
  • Derogatory Language in Natural History Collection Databases
  • Considering the Role of Storytelling and Technology in the Future of Aquariums
  • Exhibition Design for All: How Experiencing Art Beyond Sight Can Benefit Sighted and Non-Sighted Art Museum Visitors
  • “Think Inside the Box”: Virtual Exhibit Proposal for Harvard Museums Using a Semiotic Approach

Optional Graduate Certificates

You can choose to concentrate your degree studies in a specific area to earn a graduate certificate along the way.

On-Campus Experience

  • Calendar.

    Choose between the accelerated or standard on-campus experience.

  • Two people talking at a table.

    Learn and network in-person with your classmates.

Nearly all courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard University on-campus experience. You have two choices for your on-campus applied active learning elective.

Choose between two on-campus experience options:

  • Accelerated on-campus option: Choose two 2-credit active learning weekends (ALW). ALWs are graded SAT/UNSAT to encourage creativity and risk taking.
  • Standard on-campus option: Choose one 3-week Harvard Summer School (HSS) course. This option is ideal for those who want a more traditional on-campus experience. HSS offers, for an additional fee, housing, meal plans, and a prolonged on-campus experience here at Harvard University. Learn more about campus life at Harvard.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you choose the Standard on-campus option and study with us in the summer. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa for a Harvard Summer School 3-week session. For more information, see International Student Study Options page.

In-Person Co-Curricular Events

Come to Cambridge for Convocation (fall) to celebrate your hard-earned admission, Harvard career fairs offered throughout the year, HES alumni networking events (here at Harvard and around the world), and, of course, Harvard University Commencement (May).

Admissions

  • Diploma.

    Confirm your initial eligibility with a 4-year bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent.

  • Person climbing toward a flag.

    Take two courses in our unique “earn your way in” admissions process that count toward your degree.

  • Checking off a box.

    In the semester of your second course, submit the official application for admission to the program.

Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Visit the Degree Program Admissions page for more details.

Initial Eligibility

Earning Your Way In — Courses Required for Admission

To begin the admission process, you simply register — no application required — for the following two, four-credit, graduate-level degree courses (available online).

These courses count toward your degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses. They are investments in your studies and help ensure success in the program.

  • 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.

While the two courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we 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 two degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:

  • Avoid the loss of credit due to expired course work or changes to admission and degree requirements.
  • Ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • Avoid the delayed application fee.
  • Gain access to exclusive benefits.

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have eight more courses after admission to earn the degree. Applicants can register for courses in the upcoming semester before they receive their grades and while they await their admission decision.

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

Search and Register for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round to accelerate degree completion.

  • You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).
  • You can enroll full or part time. After qualifying for admission, many of our degree candidates study part time, taking 2 courses per semester (fall/spring) and 1 in the January and summer sessions.
  • Most fall and spring courses meet once a week for two hours, while January and summer courses meet more frequently in a condensed format.

To Complete Your Degree

  • Trophy on a computer monitor.

    Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Clipboard with a pen.

    Complete your courses in five years.

  • Graduation cap and diploma.

    Earn your Harvard degree and enjoy Harvard Alumni Association benefits upon graduation.

Required GPA, Withdrawal Grades, and Repeat Courses

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the two 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 two 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 Five Years

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

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

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the five-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 five-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.