Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies

Core Requirements  |  Elective Courses  |  Course Petitions  |  Graduating with the Certificate

The Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies (GCMS) is a transdisciplinary program open to UO graduate students interested in pursuing a career in a museum or in any profession that involves exhibition or curation. It addresses the demand for a deeper understanding of the guiding principles behind a museum’s mission and its practical day-to-day operations.

Today, the practice of exhibiting is not just the purview of art and cultural museums. Exhibition history and practice is integral to museums of science, medicine, natural history, ethnography, theater, and music as well as institutions such as zoos, aquariums, art galleries, botanical gardens, and libraries.

Housed in the College of Design, the GCMS collaborates with departments, programs, and museum professionals across campus to provide foundational theoretical and practical training in the museum field, while allowing students the freedom to explore museum operations from a variety of perspectives.

Prospective students should consult with the certificate director:

Mariachiara Gasparini
Associate Professor

The application deadline is January 15.

What Can GCMS Students Expect?

  • To understand the guiding principles of museum operations
  • To engage in theoretical and practical training relevant to museum careers
  • To gain first-hand experience in museum operations through an internship


  • Learn to “curate” your research. At its core, museum practice is about effective communication. Understanding how a museum conveys the importance of its collection and activities in an intelligent but accessible manner to specialists, the general public, and donors will help you better communicate about your own research in a competitive job market.
  • Explore your career paths. There are many museum professions one could pursue, each requiring its own specialized knowledge and skill set. GCMS has a flexible curriculum that allows you to explore diverse careers in museums or museum-like institutions in your field.
  • Meet professionals who can guide you. A 120-hour internship is an important core requirement for this certificate. It provides you with an opportunity to think seriously and realistically about your career options in a museum and to meet professionals who can show you the ropes and discuss the pros and cons of the path you intend to pursue.
  • Be a part of a collaborative community of peers. Today, there are museums or museum-like institutions in almost every field. However, not everyone in your field of study might be interested in museum work. Our two core requirements (ARH540 and DSGN604) not only help you build a solid foundation in museum theory and practice, but also provide a platform for you to connect with like-minded students and faculty.

Degree Requirements (minimum 24 credits)

The Museum Studies Certificate Program is a transdisciplinary program open to graduate students enrolled in any graduate program at UO. The curriculum is designed to provide both scholarly engagement with issues related to museums and an introduction to the specialized skills pertinent to museum professionals.

The new requirements (below) take effect in Fall 2019. During the transitional period, students who began the program under the old requirements will have the option to complete the certificate with the old requirements or switch to the new requirements.

For more information regarding the old requirements, please see the GCMS Requirements page on the current students blog.

If you have further questions, please contact the certificate director.

Students must complete a minimum of 24 credits in approved courses.

Core Requirements

Among the minimum 24 credits, 4 credits must come from the core course, ARH540 (Museology), and 3 credits from DSGN604 (Internship). The remaining 17 credits are devoted to Electives. You may count up to 12 credits of relevant courses offered through your home department/program toward both the certificate and your major requirements.

See applicable courses offered in the current academic year

ARH 540 Museology

4 Credits

Museology is a common seminar that familiarizes students with the history and theory of museums. You do not need to be formerly enrolled in the certificate to take the course. NOTE: The required museology seminar is offered on a biennial basis, so you should be sure to register immediately in the term in which it is offered.

DSGN 604 Internship

3 Credits (120 hours)

The internship is offered through the College of Design Student Services office. It is designed to help you focus your internship and maintain good communication with your onsite supervisor to ensure a fruitful experience. Preapproval is required to register for this course.

In consultation with the certificate director and College of Design Student Services, students should secure their internship positions prior to enrolling in DSGN 604. Make sure to meet with the certificate director at least one term prior to the term you plan to enroll in DSGN 604. The earlier you make contact, the more likely it will be for you to secure the type of internship you seek.

DSGN 604 is repeatable. You may choose to complete the 120-hour internship within one term or spread it across multiple terms. One graduate-level credit hour is equivalent to 40 hours of work per term. You will register for one, two, or three credits in DSGN 604 depending on the number of hours you intend to work as an intern in any given term.

Elective Courses

GCMS requires a minimum of 17 Elective credits. Elective courses provide students the opportunity to explore issues surrounding museums today and to familiarize themselves with skill sets expected of the specific museum careers they are interested in. Students may choose courses from any of the preapproved elective courses, or may petition to the certificate director to substitute other courses when they are germane to their specific interests. See below for the petition process.

Interdisciplinary Requirement: You must take at least 5 credits of elective courses offered through a department or program outside of your home department/program.

Distribution requirements: The electives courses must fulfill the following two distribution requirements:

  1. Topics in Museum Studies (at least one course): A topics-based course involves historical, theoretical, or philosophical exploration of issues surrounding museums, for instance a course on museum ethics (PPPM 571 Cultural Policy, for instance).
  2. Practice/Methods in Museum Studies (at least one course): A practice/methods-based course deals with practical knowledge of and skills in museum operations, for instance a course on connoisseurship, exhibition planning or educational programming (ARH 510 Inside Museum Exhibition, for instance).

For more examples, see a list of preapproved elective courses offered in the past.

At the end of every Spring term, a list of GCMS preapproved elective courses for the following academic year will be posted. Due to the transdisciplinary nature of this certificate, there may be last-minute changes or additions to our course offerings. The list will be updated as necessary, but please do not hesitate to contact the certificate director if you have any questions.

See applicable elective courses offered in the current academic year

Course Petitions

This certificate is designed to allow students to take elective courses from departments and programs across campus. If a course you are interested in taking is not on the GCMS course offerings for the current academic year, you may petition to the certificate director to receive approval to have the course counted toward the certificate’s Electives requirement. In order to be applicable toward the certificate, a course must have at least 50% content on museum-related issues or skills applicable to the operation of the three central units commonly involved in planning the intellectual content of a museum: Curatorial, Education, and Registrar/Collections Care.

You may submit your petition at any time prior to the beginning of the term you are planning to file your application to graduate. However, it is strongly advised that you submit your petition by the end of the first week of the term in which you plan to take the course to make sure that it can count toward the certificate.

You will be asked to provide the following:

  • A brief explanation on how the course relates to your specific interest in museum studies;
  • A copy of the course syllabus;
  • A Confirmation of Museum-Related Content form signed by the instructor of the course.

Submit Course Petition Now

Please download the Confirmation of Museum-Related Content form and attach the signed form to your online petition.

Further Information

For academic inquiries and information on making an application, please contact the certificate director.

For general information about pursuing a graduate certificate at the University of Oregon, including important policies, procedures, and deadlines, please visit the Graduate School's Pursuing a Graduate Certificate webpage.