Public History

Graduate Program


Students who wish to follow their own historical interests while learning up-to-date research methodologies should consider a degree in public history. Public history applies historical research and knowledge to a wide variety of needs, issues, and audiences. Students in this track can focus their education on the things that interest them the most, taking advantage of faculty mentoring and internship opportunities that will help them hone their knowledge and develop useful workplace skills.

Career Application

The program prepares students for a variety of careers in museums, archives, libraries, historic sites, and many other private, public, and non-profit institutions.

What is public history?  

Public history applies historical research and knowledge to a wide variety of needs, issues, and audiences. It bridges popular memory and academic scholarship in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible. Public history is rooted in an ethic of civil discourse, dialogue, and collaboration. For more information on about the field, see the National Council on Public History.

What type of students might opt for the public history track?

Students who…           

  • Are passionate about history and interested in many historical fields.
  • Want to communicate their historical interests to as wide an audience as possible.
  • Want to share historical knowledge as a way to empower people and communities in ways that lead to impactful change.
  • Want to collaborate with other historians, community members, and researchers.
  • Want to work in a profession that takes them outside of a classroom.

What kinds of classes do students in public history take?

The public history curriculum provides students with the flexibility to follow their own historical interests while also training them in the most up-to-date methodologies and practices. All students begin the program with Public History Methods and Research, History and Theory, and Public History Methods and Theory. Students then have the opportunity to take shorter 7-week classes that target specific skills important to the public history field. Recent classes include Oral History, Historic Preservation, and Writing Scholarly Reviews. 

What internship opportunities do students have?

The internship is an essential part of the public history program as it provides students with an opportunity to put their knowledge into practice. Students in the public history emphasis must complete at least one 180-hour internship. The department has particularly strong partnerships with the USU Library Special Collection and small local museums.

Please see the internship page for more information on how to find an internship.

What type of jobs do public historians get?

The program prepares students for a variety of careers in museums, archives, libraries, historic sites, and many other private, public, and non-profit institutions.

Fall Spring Fall Spring
HIST 6000 (3 cr.) HIST 6020 (3 cr.) HIST 6030 (3 cr.) HIST 6970 (3 cr.)
HIST Seminar (3 cr.) HIST 6010 (3 cr.) Public History Skill (2 cr.) Public History Skill (2 cr.)
HIST Seminar (3 cr.) HIST Internship (3 cr.) Public History Skill (2 cr.)   

Courses in archives, oral history, museum studies, historic preservation may all count towards the public history skills credit requirements. In consultation with a student's graduate committee, classes taken outside the department may be used to fill these credits.
The public history program is designed to provide students with the flexibility they need to pursue their historical interests. To that end, students are encouraged to seek guidance from the program coordinator to assist in designing a course of study that matches their specific interests. Below are a few areas students might choose to pursue. The emphases listed below are meant to offer guidance, but they shouldn't be seen as the only areas of study students might focus on.

Environmental/Urban Planning
Students who focus their studies in this area would ideally seek internship opportunities with state and local urban planning agencies, water use associations, Forest Service, and National Parks. Students might also consider resources offered by other departments at the University, including Geographic Information Science (GSI) and Natural Resources and Environmental Education (NREE). 

Archiving and Public Programming 
Public history students interested in archival work have multiple campus and local resources available to them. In addition to Merrill-Cazier's Special Collections and local and state archives, students might also consider pursuing courses offered through the Certificate in Archiving and Public Programming

Museum Studies
Students interested in pursuing jobs in museums, zoos, and acquaria might want to consider resources provided through the Certificate in Museum Studies offered in the Department of Anthropology. While the certificate is currently offered only for undergraduates, graduate students might be able to take some of the classes for graduate credit.  

Alumni Advice

Justin Hall

"Start looking at volunteer and internship opportunities as early as you can. Don’t be married to one path, even within the museum field. There’s a lot of tracks between exhibit development, education, and curation. "

Justin Hall, BA ’06 / MA ’09, Curator at Hill Aerospace Museum

Brad Hansen

"My work helps preserve and protect Montana's historic places and cultural resources, and that feels good at the end of the day."

Brad Hansen, MS '13, Montana Historical Society

Program Advisor

Rebecca Andersen

Rebecca Andersen

Lecturer, Internship Coordinator



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Scholarships & Financial Aid

  • Utah State University offers many options for financial aid, including university level scholarships and aid available to specific colleges and majors.