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A Hands-On Approach to History

The Master of Arts in Public History opens the door to careers in museums, cultural tourism, community history, historic preservation, cultural resource management, libraries, archives, new media, and many other professional fields. In this program, you will explore how audiences understand the past while developing research and interpretive skills to enrich the public's understanding of history. You will learn the best practices in public history and develop expertise in your chosen historical field, learning how professional historians conduct scholarly analysis. You will graduate with a record of original research and a command of historiographical literature.

Design Your MA to Develop Your Expertise

The MA in Public History will prepare you for an exciting career with historical knowledge, research skills, and hands-on practical experience. You will have the freedom to develop your own unique set of skills and expertise, pursuing internships and classwork in the fields of your choice. Full-time students complete the 36-credit program in 18 months. See MA Admissions & Degree Requirements.

Our program prides itself on its commitment to mentorship, collegiality, and public service. As part of AU's public history community, you will explore the capital city and beyond, engaging in class trips to local cultural institutions. You will build teamwork and leadership skills by engaging in service projects. You will further your academic and professional career and gain networking experience by attending national public history conferences and working with high-profile historical institutions. With the close support and guidance of our academic community, you will acquire the tools to succeed in this dynamic field.

Our coursework will expand your historical knowledge and provide a solid foundation in historiography. Core courses include a seminar on public history, a practicum, and an internship. You will develop your skills with courses in oral history or history and new media, in addition to conducting original research combining academic and public history during your research seminars.

Study History Where It Happens

In Washington, DC, history is being made every day. The unparalleled professional and intellectual opportunities offered by the nation's capital make AU the ideal place to study public history. You will have access to renowned museums and archives — such as the Smithsonian, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress — where you can further your research, explore your career options, and make your unique impact on the field.

With our public history practicum, you will engage in hands-on learning and assist in the development of interpretive programming and exhibits for high-profile institutions such as the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, the Historical Society of Washington, National Public Radio, and the White House Historical Association. As part of the Washington, DC Consortium, American University's students are able to take courses at colleges and universities throughout the DC metropolitan area, providing the opportunity to work with a variety of faculty in diverse programs and fields of study.

You will get a head start on your career by interning at one of the city's many museums, archives, or historic sites. Our local partnerships will help you find an internship with the area's most important institutions and employers. Whether you are interested in working at a government institution or a small nonprofit, DC has something for you. We also offer yearly fellowship opportunities with with a variety of partner institutions.

Learn from Our History-Making Faculty

At AU, you will work closely with experienced scholars whose work blurs the lines between the academic and the public. You will learn from respected professors of AU's Public History program, faculty across the History department, Public Historians in Residence who are practitioners in the field. Our faculty’s variety of research interests and areas of expertise will offer you a wide field of research options.

Explore the Possibilities

Our graduates work for museums, archives, historical societies, and related institutions. With our strong curriculum, prime location, and connections with professional organizations across the United States, our students are well prepared to begin highly rewarding careers. In the DC area, our alumni work at the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and President Lincoln’s College. Our graduates find positions nationwide in reputable institutions such as the Southern Oral History Program, the Nantucket Preservation Trust, and the Rhode Island Historical Society.

Our Community

Public History students at Garden District in DC

Our Public History Community extends on and off campus, across the DC Metropolitan area, and beyond. Connect with us on Facebook and twitter to see what our students, faculty, and alumni are up to!

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Public History Alumni Spotlight

Every moment in the program helped me grow as a public historian.

During her time in AU's Public History Program, Melyssa had the opportunity to work with local communities and develop her collaboration and advocacy skills. Now as the DC Preservation Leagues' (DCPL) Programs Associate, Melyssa administers the bulk of the organization's educational programming. She serves as staff lead for DCPL’s Education Committee and collaborates with committee volunteers to organize educational activities about historic preservation in Washington, DC. Melyssa also manages DCPL’s social media presence across a variety of platforms.