Form fitting

01.03.2017
What course structure will work best for you – part-time, full-time or modular?
Museum studies courses come in different shapes with varying durations, reflecting the move by higher education institutions to adapt to students’ need for flexibility in where and when they learn, as well as in content. Many take a modular approach with, for example, two or three core modules alongside additional options.

Courses also reflect the fact that a master’s degree is not just about entry into the sector. Many who do one already have a job in a museum and want to develop their professionalism, skills and critical thinking, access new research and be part of conversations about new thinking and practice.

Besides museum studies, places such as Nottingham Trent and Bath Spa University also offer heritage management programmes. And courses in curating are provided by institutions such as Kingston University London, Christie’s, the Courtauld Institute of Art and Central Saint Martins. There are many other options.

Qualifications

- BA, MA, MSc, MLitt.
- Postgraduate diploma (PgDip).
- Postgraduate certificate (PgCert).

Master’s degrees, diplomas and certificates cover technical skills and theoretical knowledge. Master’s courses also involve a dissertation of around 15,000 words or other research component. Most will include a placement, which is assessed.

- MPhil – this usually involves a thesis of up to 60,000 words, done over two years full-time. Additional elements can include oral exams and practical work.
- PhD – the opportunity to explore an area of museum work in greater depth, aiming to create new knowledge, produce original findings or revise existing views, and publish a thesis of up to 100,000 words. PhDs take a minimum of three years full-time to complete. Students work independently with supervisor support.

Study options

- Full-time, campus-based learning – usually one year for a master’s and nine months for a PgDip.
- Part-time over two years – enables students to combine work with study on campus.
- Part-time by distance learning – students do not have to attend sessions on campus.
- E-learning – Ulster University offers a part-time diploma in museum practice and management by e-learning, which has been especially attractive to overseas students.
- Overseas opportunities –partnerships between UK universities and institutions overseas are common. The University of Leicester, for example, collaborates with the Hong Kong University School of Professional and Continuing Education on a version of its master’s in museum studies for students in Asia.
Alice Turnbull
Alice Turnbull is studying for an MA in Museum and Heritage Development at Nottingham Trent University.

Which course are you on and what made you choose it?

I am studying full-time on the Museum and Heritage Development MA at Nottingham Trent University, a one-year course. I chose it because it offered the best opportunities for practical experience in parallel to the taught section of the course. We also work directly with museum professionals, which provides us with good networking opportunities.
 
What is the most interesting aspect of it?

The different type of projects we engage with. The course has given me the opportunity to gain skills not traditionally associated with this field of study. For example, I have created a publication in the form of a colouring book, postcards, and will soon be completing a film.
 
How do you hope it will help to further your career?

It is giving me a good understanding of the issues and approaches in the heritage sector, some crucial practical skills – the two things employers are looking for – as well as general life skills. I think that the skills and experiences I’ve acquired plus the opportunities I’ve had will help me stand out from the crowd.

What advice would you give someone choosing a course?

Do your research. Read the prospectus in detail to see what modules the course offers but also look at what previous students have achieved after graduation and what job roles they are in now to analyse whether the course truly works for furthering careers.
Christina Muir
Christina Muir studied on the MLitt Museum Studies at the University of Aberdeen in 2014-15 and is now a communications assistant with the university library, special collections and museums

Why did you choose this course?

I liked how broad it seemed. At the time, I had only recently decided I was interested in working in museums but had no idea of the different roles in the sector. In the second semester, the class had the chance to curate our own exhibition; it was incredibly useful and, in my opinion, it seems to be what draws most people to the master’s programme as the hands-on approach enables you to be responsible for your own learning.

How does it help you in your current role?

The exhibition programme gave me responsibility for the marketing of our student-curated exhibition, which allowed me to gain a great deal of events experience as well as discovering how museums can be involved in social media, a large part of my current role. I often help to plan events at the museum and I would not be so confident had I not been given the training and opportunities involved in the master’s programme.

What advice would you give someone choosing a course?

Think about what you want to get out of the course and what you are willing to put into it. Some are suited to people interested in working in collections while others can focus more on the public side of museums. You should research and get in touch with institutions you are considering to find out if it will be the right fit for you.

Links

Courses guide and listings (pdf)

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