Master of Arts in Museum Studies

The Master of Arts Program in Museum Studies emphasizes universal skills and professional development competencies across key museum functions to maximize career pathways.

All graduate students must fulfill the same basic program requirements, and with advisor support, will individuate coursework and schedule of culminating experiences along one of six area focuses: collections management and registration; museum education and public programming; museum management and fundraising; curatorship; exhibition design; or cultural property law and protection.

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Identify the core features of museum professionalism (stewardship, service to community, collaboration, mission, ethical codes, professional organizations, career development resources). 
  2. Outline the broad history of museums, their core organizational features, the social and political contexts of museums, and the role museums play in an increasingly global and diverse world. 
  3. Summarize knowledge of key areas in museum practice and theory, specifically in collections care, museum fundraising, and exhibition design.
  4. Depending upon student emphasis, demonstrate significant knowledge of at least one of following key areas in museum research and practice: curatorship; cultural property; museum education and public programming; registration/collections management; museum management and fundraising; and exhibition design.
  5. Apply hands-on practical and professional skills in experiential, service-learning settings with campus and community museum partners to support critical thinking, problem-solving, community engagement, and leadership development. 
  6. Develop individual scholarship, creative activity, and museum professionalism through activities such as a written thesis, an exhibit component, an area of the written examination or professional activities.

M.A. in Museum Studies: 33-34 units

The Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies can be completed in two to three years, if attending full-time with the thesis or examination option. The curriculum is divided into these areas:

  • Core Requirements include the history and organization of museums, fundraising, and a museum internship (9 units).
  • Area Requirements are drawn from the following three groups: collections care and conservation, museum management and exhibition design (9 - 10 units).
  • Area Focus: curatorship; cultural property law and protection; exhibition design; museum education and public programming; museum management and fundraising; and registration/collections management (12 units).
  • Culminating Experience can be a traditional master’s thesis; written comprehensive examination; or creative work project, the latter of which could involve the curation of an exhibition in an off-campus museum (3 units). Minimum units required for the degree: 33 – 34.
Core Requirements (9 units)
  • M S 700 History and Organization of Museums (required first semester), 3 units
  • M S 860 Museum Fundraising, 3 units
  • M S 880 Museum Internship, 3 units
Area Requirements (9 – 12 units)

Three units of coursework selected from each of the following three groups:

Collections Care and Conservation
  • M S 740 Museum Conservation and Restoration, 1 unit
  • M S 791 Integrated Pest Management in Heritage Facilities, 1 unit
  • M S 792 Museum Security and Protection, 1 unit
  • M S 793 Museum Facilities Management, 1 unit
  • M S 794 Museum Collections Management and Registration, 3 units
Museum Management
  • M S 800 Museum Management, Law and Ethics, 3 units
  • M S 830 Museum Governance, 3 units
  • P A 745 Perspectives on Nonprofit Management, 3 units
Exhibition Design
  • ART 619 Exhibition Design, 3 units
  • M S 720 Museum Curatorship and Collecting, 3 units
  • M S 730 Museum Exhibition Design and Planning, 3 units

Area Focus (12 units)

Select electives relevant to the following areas. No more than six units of non-Museum Studies courses may count toward electives in the area emphasis. Courses must be chosen with consultation with a Museum Studies faculty advisor.

  • Collections management and registration
  • Museum education and public programming
  • Museum management and fundraising
  • Curatorship
  • Exhibition design
  • Cultural property law and protection.

Culminating Experience Requirement* (3 units)

Select one of the following:

  • M S 894 Creative Work Project
  • M S 898 Master’s Thesis
  • M S 896 Preparation for Written Comprehensive Examination (3 units) with M S 896 EXM Written Comprehensive Examination (0 units)

*If students do not complete their culminating experience in M S 894, M S 896/896 EXM, or M S 898, they must thereafter continue to be enrolled in one course during one semester each academic year until graduation. Students have up to five years from the first time enrolled in graduate classes at SF State to complete the degree.

Course Load and Listings

For graduate students, a full-time load is 9 – 12 units per semester (3-4, 3-unit classes). For international students, immigration regulations require a minimum academic load of 8 units for graduate students for spring and fall semesters.

View a complete listing of all courses in Museum Studies in the SF State Bulletin.

Deadline to Apply: February 15

Applications to SF State Museum Studies are for Fall admission only. GRE Scores are not required, but can be submitted on an optional basis. (*)

Review of all on-time and complete applications, with required documents, commences after February 15. Admissions recommendations are sent via email from the Program by March 15. Offers of admission must be accepted by April 1 to finalize numbers and prepare for fall matriculation.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must first meet the California State University’s general eligibility requirements for graduate study, and the following criteria for the Museum Studies Program:

  1. GPA of 3.20 or better in the most recent two years of BA/postbaccalaureate study. Applicants who meet the CSU minimum GPA of 3.00 in the last two years of study will be still be considered.
  2. A minimum of three months of volunteer or paid experience in a museum or related setting, including internships that are completed prior to or concurrent with your formal application to the program.
  3. Academic background in anthropology, art history, classics or classical archaeology, design, education, history, science, or public/arts administration, or fields applicable to Museum Studies, such as communications, environmental studies, fine arts, humanities or other relevant academic areas.
  4. Two Letters of Reference, from previous professors, museum supervisors, or other work supervisors who know you well and can speak to your skills and aptitude for graduate study. Ideally, at least one of these letters should be from a supervisor in a museum or related setting.
  5. If an International Applicant, TOEFL scores are required, 550 or better on the paper-based test OR 80 or better on the Internet-based test. The TOEFL ETS code for SF State is: 4683. See additional admissions requirements for International Applicants, and application support provided by the Division of Graduate Studies.

*For domestic and international applicants: If you opt to submit GRE Scores and your test is scheduled for February, score reports can be sent directly to the program by March 1. Electronic score reports can be sent to The GRE ETS code for San Francisco State University is 4684.

*If you do not meet the criteria in one or more of the required elements listed above, we still encourage you to apply!

*If you have questions about the materials for the Program, contact

Application Procedures

Step 1: Apply online at CalState Apply

All materials are submitted through the CalStateApply system.

Apply to SF State Museum Studies completing an application online at Cal State Apply. The application fee is $70. Before submitting your application, please review tips and guidance provided on SF State Graduate Studies' site.

There are four sections in the online application, and you can opt out of the following:

  • In "Academic History" section, opt out of transcript entry and GPA entry
  • In "Supporting Materials" section, opt out of all supporting materials
  • For Statement of Purpose section, write “Uploaded to Program Materials Section”
  • In "Program Materials" section, click on "Documents" tab to upload unofficial transcripts, writing samples (statement of purpose and comparison essay), optional GRE test score report, and any other samples of work to support your application
  • Click on "Questions" tab to answer questions

If you are having technical difficulties with the CalStateApply application, contact

Step 2: Prepare Materials for the Program

Gather the following materials to upload to your application portal:

  1. Unofficial transcripts from all institutions attended; these are in addition to the Official Transcripts required by the University
  2. Current resume or CV
  3. Your 1000-word Statement of Purpose, addressing: your career objectives; the path that led you toward museum work and reasons for attending SF State Museum Studies; any research completed on the field to determine a focus area; your relevant educational background and/or coursework or workshops; your museum experience(s) or volunteer work, including internships
  4. Your 750-word comparison/contrast essay of current exhibitions at two museums or related institutions in your area, addressing what you liked and or what could be improved in terms of curatorial content, display technique or visitor education. Because COVID-related restrictions are in place, applicants may assess online exhibits.
  5. Two Letters of Recommendation from individuals who can assess your capabilities and readiness to enter graduate study in Museum Studies. Request letters from your recommenders by January 1 or sooner to meet the February 15 application deadline. You will be providing the name and email address of two recommenders. Once you submit the CalStateApply application, the system will send your recommender/s an email with a summary of what is happening and a link, which will bring them to a private portal to upload their letter. Once submitted, reference letters are merged with the applicant’s account, and are kept confidential from the applicant.

Step 3: Request Official Transcripts

In addition to uploading unofficial transcripts, request OFFICIAL transcripts from all institutions attended. Transcripts should be sent directly from your previous institution(s) to San Francisco State University’s Office of Graduate Admissions:

Graduate Admissions
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue, ADM 250
San Francisco, CA 94132

Electronic transcripts can be sent to:

Museum Studies at SF State is proud to belong to the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP). With this program, graduate students who are residents of 16 Western states and territories (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Guam, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming) can enroll in Museum Studies as non-California residents and pay the lower, California resident tuition for the duration for their full-time study.

Eligible students can request to be considered for the WRGP waiver in the "Questions" section of the CalStateApply application. The WRGP waiver is competitive and a separate application will be required during the Cal State Apply application process. Contact the Division of Graduate Studies for more information about applying for the WRGP waiver.


Current Graduate Student tuition rates and fees are available on the Office of Financial Aid's website.

Financial Aid

Domestic students can apply for several types of financial aid by submitting a Free Federal Student Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA), including the State University Grant (SUG), a University Administered Scholarship (separate applications may be required), the Graduate Equity Fellowship, student assistant positions, federal work-study positions and student loans. Note any eligibility criteria, which can be vary for different scholarships.

We strongly suggest you submit the FAFSA early within the Priority Filing Period of January-March to qualify for the maximum amount of aid, even if you end up not attending SF State. Financial aid works independently of graduate admissions, so your early filing will allow you to know the results of your financial aid package before or close to receiving your admissions recommendation to the Museum Studies Program.


International Students and Financial Aid

The University does not have federal or state financial aid for international students. Therefore, the student must present satisfactory evidence of adequate funds to meet financial needs at the time of enrollment at the university. International students are required by the U.S. immigration service to enroll at SF State in full time status; for undergraduate students, this means at least 12 units per semester. For current tuition and costs, see the link to the Schedule of Tuition and Fees/Registration Process on the SF State Bursar’s website.

Student Assistantships

International students with F-1 and J-1 Visas are eligible to work on-campus as student assistants only. They are limited to working 20 hours per week and must be enrolled full-time (undergraduate 12 units, graduate 8 units).

Additional Resources

Internship and Employment Placements

Museums and related institutions around the country have hosted our interns or employed our graduates. We work closely with our students and our museum network to ensure that needs of the student and the institution align for the best placements. Graduate internships comprise a 144-hour practicum with an off-campus partner, which is roughly 9 hours per week over a 15-week semester, or concentrated full-time in the summer or winter breaks. Graduate students usually complete two internships — or more — during their individuated programs to refine or expand skill sets in one area, or over multiple areas of museum work.

Recent Internship Placements

Recent internship placements include Alcatraz Island-National Park Service; Asian Art Museum; Autry National Center; Bellevue Arts Museum, Washington; California Academy of Sciences; Campbell Museums; Exploratorium; GGNRA; Hayward Area Historical Society; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Magnes Museum; MOADSF; Museum of Craft and Design; Natural History Museum of Los Angeles; National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution; National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution; National Portrait Gallery; Palo Alto Art Center; Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley; Richmond Museum of History; San Francisco Airport Museums; SFMOMA; San Jose Museum of Art; USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum; Walt Disney Family Museum; Western Neighborhoods Project; and many others. In units on the SF State campus, placements include art, archives, library and anthropology collections.

Recent Places of Employment for Graduates

Recent graduate workplaces include foundations, nonprofits, consulting firms, corporations, and all areas of museum operations. Graduates have also gone on to PhD and JD programs.

  • Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
  • Autry National Center
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum
  • Biodesign Challenge
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • California African American Museum
  • Cantor Arts Center
  • Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento CA
  • CuriOdyssey, San Mateo CA
  • di Rosa Preserve, Napa CA
  • East Bay Regional Parks District
  • Golden Gate Conservancy
  • facebook
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
  • Google
  • Heising-Simons Foundation
  • LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • Magnes Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Craft, in Portland, Oregon
  • Museum of Craft and Design, San Francisco
  • Museum of History and Industry, in Seattle, Washington
  • Museum of Us, San Diego
  • Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley
  • Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
  • Oakland Museum of California
  • Obama Foundation
  • Palo Alto Art Center
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • Ruth Asawa Estate
  • Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma
  • Sacramento History Museum
  • Peabody Museum at Yale University
  • Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Rosie the Riveter/Home Front National Historical Park
  • San Francisco AIDS Foundation
  • San Francisco Airport Museums
  • San Francisco Historical Society and Museum
  • San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
  • San Francisco State University
  • Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
  • Stanford University
  • Wells Fargo Museum, San Francisco
  • University of Southern California Fisher Museum of Art
  • and many others!


For questions about PROGRAM materials, please contact If your recommenders cannot find the submit link to upload their letters to Cal State Apply, or need to make changes to already submitted files, they can send the letters directly to

For technical questions about the CAL STATE APPLY application or process, please contact

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