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Academic Programs

Museum Studies: Learning and Engagement in Museums and Cultural Organizations


  • Program Overview

    Our master’s degree program in Learning and Engagement in Museums and Cultural Organizations is a 36-credit, two-year program culminating in a Master’s of Science in Education.

    Situated in Bank Street’s leadership department, this program re-envisions Bank Street’s long-running and successful museum education and leadership programs to accommodate the needs of students in this growing field. Ideal candidates are professionals who want to think reflectively and strategically about how to help organizations strengthen civil society through innovative programming, educational resources, community engagement initiatives, and visitor programs for a diversity of people, including both children and adults.

    Along with online coursework, you’ll meet with your graduate student cohort every other month in person in New York City for a weekend to explore museums and institutions—for a total of five weekend meetings in each of the two years, plus one weeklong summer session. During the face-to-face meetings, your cohort will visit organizations, observe programs, attend small workshops, and meet with professionals at their worksites.

    Your online courses introduce you to the field and its many dimensions and build your capacity as a leader who makes change happen, both at an institution and within our communities. You’ll learn to think strategically about organizational change, learning, human development, community engagement, diversity, inclusion, and access. Class discussions, led by experienced practitioners from across the country and guest speakers, will be infused with today’s timely issues impacting cultural organizations, and will directly connect theory to practice.

    Through supervised fieldwork and close advisement, you’ll apply what you’re learning and polish your professional skills. You’ll also be given opportunities to connect with an alumni network from across the country.

    This program prepares you to work as an educator or public programmer who designs and implements a variety of learning and community engagement programs for cultural and non-profit organizations with educational missions. The range of organizations includes art, history, nature, science, and children’s museums, historic sites, gardens, parks, performing arts centers, zoos, aquariums, libraries, and community centers, among others.

    bank street graduate students on a class field trip to a museum

  • Admissions Requirements

    In addition to admissions requirements applicants to this program should note:

    Ideal applicants are actively seeking regular work in the sector or are several years into their career. They should demonstrate involvement or connections with a museum, library, community or cultural (non-profit) organization, either through full-time, part-time, or as-needed employment, or through volunteer work, undergraduate coursework related to education in the arts/museums, classroom teaching or internship experiences that includes a history of interactions with museums or cultural organizations, or a combination of the above. If you have questions about your eligibility, you are encouraged to contact the Program Director.

    bank street graduate students visit a museum

  • Coursework

    This is a blended, two-year program. Courses are held online to accommodate students who live at a distance. To complement your online studies, students will also come together for in-person learning in New York City during one summer weeklong session and up to five weekends per year. Your courses will be led by faculty with teaching and museum backgrounds and will include working museum professionals.

    In the first year, you’ll build your understanding of the range of education-related work at a variety of institutions and the theories and best practices that support these endeavors. These foundations include the nature of learning and human development, diversity and access, teaching with objects, designing educational spaces, and technology-enabled learning.

    In the second year, you’ll build practical skills for the profession, including developing curricula and programs, preparing grant proposals, and conducting visitor research. You’ll have many opportunities to intern and/or shadow more experienced educators and will be encouraged to focus on your individual goals and abilities while increasing your capacities for leading change, working collaboratively with others, and advocating for greater diversity and inclusion.

    View the coursework for this program


    museum studies graduate students on a field trip to a museum

  • Supervised Fieldwork/Advisement

    Central to a Bank Street education is the integration of coursework and field experiences, which are tailored to opportunities in your region. You will:

    • Participate in a weekly collaborative conference group with your advisor and other graduate students. You will have an opportunity to engage in ongoing in-depth conversations and reflection about your leadership, teaching, and learning experiences.
    • Benefit from individual meetings with your advisor twice each month.
    • Attend periodic three-way meetings with your Bank Street advisor and with an educational leader with extensive experience working in museums and cultural institutions.

    Graduate students in a museum

  • Career Opportunities

    Graduates of our programs have gone on to work in the following types of positions:

    • Coordinators, managers, and directors of education and public programs at non-profit cultural organizations
    • Museum (and related organization) educators working with students and K-12 teachers in schools, as well as with educators working in university museums
    • Educators working with volunteers/docents and public tour guides in a range of organizations
    • Teachers (K-12 and college-level) who enrich their courses with field trips to museums and other cultural organizations
    • Public programmers creating events in a variety of formats for visitors, tourists, children and families, adult learners, and community groups
    • Educators in health, health access, wellness, and empathy programs
    • Professional roles with skills in visitor research, program evaluation, marketing, visitor services; education-related fundraising and development, or education-focused philanthropy
    • Professional roles in exhibition interpretation, interactive spaces, experiential activities, maker spaces, and resource centers
    • Educators designing online content, resources, and print materials
    • Professional roles in visitor services or in work related to learning and non-profit organizational development (i.e., staff training programs)

    museum studies graduate students visit a museum

  • Faculty

  • Guest Instructors

    Past instructors and advisers in the program have included/include:

    • Marianna Adams, Audience Focus, Dallas, TX
    • Melanie Adams, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN
    • Swarupa Anila, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
    • Leslie Bedford, author, The Art of Museum Exhibitions: How Story and Imagination Create Aesthetic Experiences
    • Lucy Bernholz, Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, Stanford, CA
    • Jessica Blum-DeStefano, Bank Street College of Education, New York NY
    • Rika Burnham, Director of Education, Frick Collection, New York, NY
    • Ken Chabotar, Guilford College, Greensboro, NC
    • Julie I. Johnson, co-principal of J2R2 Leadership and Change Associates, Alexandria, VA
    • Donna Walker Kuhne, author, Invitation to the Party: Building Bridges to the Arts, Culture and Community
    • Kathy McLean, Independent Exhibitions (Ind-X), Berkeley, CA
    • Elisabeth Nevins, Consultant, Boston, MA
    • Candace Barriteau Phaire, Early Childhood Studies Dept., Connecticut State University, CT
    • Janet Rassweiler, Independent Consultant, New York, NY
    • Laura Roberts, Consultant, Strategic Planning, Cambridge, MA
    • Gary Schneider, Director, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ
    • Deborah Schwartz, Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn, NY
    • Marsha Semmel, National Endowment for the Humanities, Bank Street College of Education, New York, NY
    • Lois Silverman, author, The Social Work of Museums
    • Shari Werb, Director of the Center for Learning, Literacy and Engagement,  Library of Congress, Washington DC
    • Emily White, Bank Street College of Education, New York, NY
Nicole Kummer
Meet our alumni
The program reinvigorated my love for museums, art, and history. Courses are filled with rich discussion about cultural institutions’ place in contemporary society and empowers students to innovate the field.
Nicole Kummer - Museum Education '18
Meet Nicole Meet Our Alumni
Andrew Coletti Leadership in Museum Education '14
Meet our alumni
Even though I’m not working in a classroom anymore, I do feel like there’s a lot of connection between what I do now and the educational background that I got from Bank Street.
Andrew Coletti - Leadership in Museum Education '14
Meet Andrew Meet Our Alumni
Jon West-Bey, Bank Street Graduate School of Education '04
Meet our alumni
I learned skills that I use constantly in my work, like how to center progressive education in arts programming and to place an emphasis on social justice.
Jon West-Bey - Leadership in Museum Education '04
Meet Jon Meet Our Alumni
Bank Street 2008 alum, Ben Garcia, who earned a Leadership in Museum Education master's degree
Meet our alumni
Since attending Bank Street, I say this all the time: ‘Do what you love, but find a way to make your job your calling in the world.’ That’s what Bank Street’s leadership program helped me figure out—and it’s what makes it an unusual program in the field.
Ben Garcia - Leadership in Museum Education '08
Meet Ben Meet Our Alumni
Luned Palmer, GSE '14, leadership in museum education alum at Bank Street Graduate School of Education
Meet our alumni
My work in creating the best possible experience in museums, classrooms, and beyond was largely shaped by the teachers, atmosphere, and community at Bank Street. I have adopted Bank Street’s pedagogies of close listening, conversational teaching, teaching for multiple modalities, and respect for the whole learner. Every day, I feel comfortable and confident in my work thanks in no small part to my experiences in the Museum Education program at Bank Street.
Luned Palmer - Museum Education '14
Meet Luned Meet Our Alumni
Grad students in class at a museum

Why Bank Street?

Professional training in this field is a niche educational experience, and Bank Street has a 30-year history of actively training museum educators and leaders who work in a variety of capacities across our nation. Education is our specialty and this program builds on Bank Street’s strengths—active learning through practice, finding your voice, reflecting on learning and experience, and advocating for diversity, change, and equity at the organizations for which we work. In this NYS-approved program, you’ll become part of the Bank Street community and connect with an extensive network of hundreds of alumni across the country.