Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of students are you looking for?

We accept students from a variety of backgrounds: history, education, classical studies, archaeology, journalism, Canadian and American studies, geography, media, and so on, as long as they have a significant amount of upper-level coursework in history, including at least one course at the fourth year level. Our curriculum emphasizes group work, reflective practice, and, to a large extent, self-directed learning. The students who do best tend to be thoughtful, creative, and entrepreneurial. They work well in teams and can tolerate a relatively high degree of uncertainty.

I have never worked in teams before. What do I need to know?

Unfortunately, many undergraduate programs neglect teamwork, an essential skill in our networked world. The projects that the public history students take on are too large to be successfully completed by any one person, and require too diverse an array of skills. The teams that do best are the ones that harness the individual talents of team members, delegate decision-making and authority within the group, respond flexibly to new challenges, and stay in constant communication with one another. When teams bog down it is often because every person wants to be involved in making every decision, no matter how small, or wants to work on every aspect of the final project.

How many applications do you receive? How many are accepted?

In recent years we have been receiving about 40 applications per year. The field is capped at 12 students.

Do you accept international students?

We accept 1-2 international students on average each year.

Are you a Public Service Commission approved co-op?

Yes. The PSC Co-operative Education and Internship Program is the main way federal organizations recruit students for a four-month work term. Click here for more information (use search terms "Master" for Academic Level and "Western University" for Institution).

What's the difference between Public History and Museum Studies?

Public historians do work in museums, but because the field is much broader, they also can be found in archives, heritage management, tourism promotion, film and TV production, consulting companies, at national parks, online, and in government departments such as Indigenous and North Affairs, National Defence, Parks Canada, or Canadian Heritage. To read more about the differences in training, see Melissa Bingmann's article "Advising Undergraduates about Career Opportunities in Public History."

Yours is shorter than other Public History (and related) programs that are 2 years. How does this affect the education I will receive?

There is a trade-off, to be sure. A shorter curriculum means fewer courses. But we also know that the 1-year nature of our field can be very attractive. For example, some students may be on leave from jobs in the field, seeking professional development, and are simply unable to enroll in a 2-year program. Our strategy is to pack as much instruction into one year as we possibly can. For those interested in researching a specific public history topic, students may return in the fall semester after their summer internship to complete a research based cognate paper under a supervisor for a 16 month field.

Can I be a Public History Graduate Student Assistant rather than a Graduate Teaching Assistant?

Yes. A number of Public History students are placed with Public History faculty or at community institutions each year. The number of placements changes every year, and is based on various factors such as departmental need for TAs, community interest and student experience.

What do graduates go on to do? What kinds of jobs do graduates get? What is your placement rate?

Alumni have landed permanent positions in corporate and institutional archives, museums, heritage lobbying, historical consultancy, arts management, history-related societies and organizations, digital humanities, and various government agencies in Canada, the United States and abroad. Other students have decided to do PhDs in History, go to law school, teacher's college or library school. Since 2008, our placement rate in the public history field is approximately 90%, including both contract and permanent jobs.

To see where our alumni are now, click here.