You are here: American University College of Arts & Sciences History Public History MA FAQ for Prospective Students

Prospective Students FAQ

Program Information

The public history program is geared toward providing students with the historical expertise, theoretical basis, and practical skills necessary for careers in museums, cultural tourism, community history, historic preservation, cultural resource management, libraries, archives, new media, and many other professional fields. The general history MA is oriented towards students interested in pursuing a doctorate or careers in education and public service. Because these programs are tailored differently to serve students’ specific needs, you should identify and apply to the program that most suits your interests and career trajectory.

While some coursework in history and practical experience in public history is helpful, students come to public history from a variety of academic backgrounds, and students from various disciplines are encouraged to apply.

We do not require prior experience, but because we look for students who can make connections between their professional goals and the resources the program offers, we have found that having some experience in the field does make for a stronger application. We encourage potential students to seek out opportunities, whether it’s employment, an internship, a volunteer position, or a class project in public history. If that is not possible, take some time to learn about different facets of the field from resources like the National Council on Public History.

Absolutely. We welcome students from all stages of professional life! The majority of courses take place in the evenings to accommodate work schedules, and we also accept part-time students. If you would like to ‘test the waters’ before committing to a return to school, consider taking a graduate-level course as a non-degree student before applying.

Yes. Many public history students have gone on to pursue doctorates in various fields following the completion of their MA in Public History. Because the program offers coursework in historiography and research, graduates are well-positioned for advanced doctoral work.

While students are responsible for securing their own internships, we regularly circulate opportunities as they become available. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of our large local alumni network and other resources when searching for internships.




All applications received by the priority deadline are automatically considered for merit-based funding. This is typically partial tuition remission that is offered alongside admission. Enrolled students are invited to apply for Fellowship opportunities.

Public History students sometimes become involved in teaching or faculty research through work study positions, but Teaching and Research Assistantships are not available to MA students. Instead, enrolled students are eligible to apply for Fellowship positions

The fellowships offered by our department change annually. Check out our Fellowship page for more.

For information about financial aid, please see the AU Office of Financial Aid website or contact them directly at or 202-885-6500.

Assembling Your Application


Your Statement of Purpose should highlight your scholarly and professional interests, connecting them to the experience that you have already have and the skills and expertise that you wish to develop , as well as what you will gain from getting a MA in Public History. Usually this is where you can showcase your research and professional interests and goals and how they align with faculty and programmatic strengths.

We recommend having at minimum one professor, or advisor, who can speak to your academic and/or research background. While two academic references are preferred, some applicants choose an individual who supervised them during relevant work experience or an internship and who can speak significantly to their applied skills and professional goals.

To upload supporting documents and send out recommendation request forms, please submit your online application and pay the fee. Then you can access your uploader. If you are still unable to upload your documents, contact the CAS Office of Graduate Admissions (via chat, phone, or

Writing samples should be 15-25 pages double spaced and should be an academic research project of significant length and somewhat relevant to public history or the humanities. Applicants typically submit an excerpt from a senior thesis or seminar paper. The Admissions Committee evaluates research and analytical abilities alongside writing skill. They ideally like to see samples that show applicants working with both primary and secondary sources.


Student Life


The History Department’s graduate community — see Current Students and recent Alums — is vibrant and growing. It prides itself on being an inclusive and welcoming space to support new and existing students. Graduate Representatives, selected each year, help to organize events to build and sustain this community that often turns classmates into colleagues and friends. This ranges from weekly coffee hours, to bi-weekly happy hours, to
monthly productivity days, and more. It is our goal that students feel
like they have a support system they can rely to help ease the stress
graduate school inevitably brings.

Most students find housing in and around the DC metro area. Many
students live in shared group homes and typically find housing on
Craigslist and Facebook housing groups. Students also share housing
opportunities among themselves. Some favourite neighbourhoods
include: Glover Park, Tenley Town, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights,
U St., Cleveland Park and others! You can also check out AU’s Off
Campus Housing Resources.

Yes, the majority of students work around twenty hours a week.
While some work on campus in work study positions, others find
employment with local history organizations. Graduate seminars are
most often scheduled in the evening to accommodate these work

Applicants should contact CAS Graduate Admissions who can put you in touch with an AU Grad Ambassador.