Graduate museum studies curricula: meeting the needs of the field
The goal of this study was to assess how graduate museum studies programs are meeting the current and anticipated future needs of the museum profession. A comprehensive assessment was conducted to determine the knowledge and skills most emphasized in graduate museum studies curricula and those most valued by leading museum practitioners. A total of 38 leading practitioners were surveyed, from lists of board members of the American Association of Museums and the American Association for State and Local History from 1991-2010. Responses were compared to those provided by a total of 32 program chairs from the 54 graduate museum studies programs across the United States. The survey took the International Council of Museums' International Committee for the Training of Personnel competencies comparing the responses of the two groups on 65 items in addition to collecting open-ended responses. This study identified the professional personnel needs of the museum profession and found that graduate museum studies programs are meeting the needs well. For every one of the 65 competencies evaluated, museum studies program chairs indicated that their students reach a level of mastery at least as high as the level expected by museum leaders. Furthermore, two-thirds (67%) of museum leaders represented in this study believe that graduate museum studies programs are appropriate preparation for entering the museum field. This study also found that for entry-level museum professionals, museum leaders value skills and knowledge related to museum administration and the public dimension of museums over skills and knowledge related to collections management and care. The 20 competencies most valued by museum leaders included none of the 18 information and collections management and care competencies. The two highest rated competencies by museum leaders were interpersonal relationships and professionalism with median scores of 4.0 indicating a high level of knowledge or ability is expected. This study found some differences between what is most valued by museum leaders and what is most emphasized in graduate museum studies curricula. In particular, financial management, information technology, and public program communications are most valued by museum leaders but are not among the competencies most emphasized in museum studies curricula.