Public History Student Handbook

Program Overview

Students may choose a concentration in public history in conjunction with the MA in history or as an outside field for the PhD. The public history concentration for the MA requires 9 hours of core course work, 9 hours of required course work, plus research seminars and elective courses.

A two-course seminar-practicum series is taken in the first year of study (6 hours). The graduate seminar gives students a historical and theoretical context for their work and covers some of the dominant paradigms in the field of public history. The graduate practicum meets in a seminar format and builds professional knowledge and skills in governance, development and grant writing, public outreach, and various interpretive tools. This course requires students to complete class projects at public institutions.

Other required courses expand skills students need to be a professional historian, teach the historiography of certain eras, provide experience with tools of research, and allow students to create their own schedule according to their interests and what they want to pursue.

Please see complete MA degree requirements.


The advisor for all students in the Public History program is the Director of Public History, Dr. M.J. Rymsza-Pawlowska.


American University's consortium system gives students the opportunity to pursue coursework at a number of other universities in the Washington, DC area. Learn about the consortium system and its requirements.

CORE Courses

HIST 729: Public History Seminar, required, offered every fall.

HIST 730: Public History Practicum, required, offered every spring.

HIST 691: Graduate Internship

Additional Required Courses

HIST 744: The Historian's Craft, required, offered every fall.

Two colloquia from these four offerings:

  • HIST 720: Colloquium in Modern European History, 1789-1900
  • HIST 721: Colloquium in Modern European History since 1900
  • HIST 727: Colloquium in United States History I: to 1865
  • HIST 728: Colloquium in United States History II: since 1865

HIST 751: Graduate Research Seminar, offered every semester.

Capstone: A second Graduate Research Seminar or MA Thesis.


While students can take any elective courses, the following courses fulfill the tool of research requirements.

HIST 467/667: Oral History, offered every fall.

HIST 477/677: History and New Media, offered every spring.

Rotating Courses

These courses are offered based on interest and need.

HIST 500: Memory and History.

HIST 670: Visual and Material Histories, offered alternating springs.

HIST 668: Historic Site Management, offered alternating springs.

HIST 688: Audience Evaluation for Public Historians, offered in the summer.

HIST 688: Collections Management, offered in the summer.


All public history students must complete at least one internship as part of their degree. Please see our Internships page for instructions and check myAU for necessary forms.


While the Washington, DC area has an enormous amount of job and internship opportunities, current and incoming public history students might consider seeking employment at AU. AU's Human Resources department has created a Student Jobs Portal.

The History Department's Careers in History page offers a number of useful links to other, long-term job opportunities.

The public history program's own Facebook page serves as a community forum where students, alumni, and faculty can post and share new job and internship opportunities.

Other resources that you should consult include:

The American Historical Association: Careers in Public History

The National Council on Public History: Recent Job Postings

American Alliance of Museums: Careers and JOBHQ

Idealist: Non-Profit Jobs, Internships, and Volunteer Opportunities

USAJOBS: The Federal Government's Official Jobs Site

LOT49 DH Jobs: Guide to Finding Digital History Jobs