Program Overview:

Museum Studies Online Certificate Program

The Museum Studies certificate program unites history, theory and practical learning in a curriculum that prepares participants for professional or volunteer careers in administration, collections and specialty disciplines within museums, zoos, aquariums, parks and botanical gardens.

We offer core courses online every quarter, so you can complete your Museum Studies certificate on your own terms.


Registration is open for Fall 2017 courses:

  • MUSEUM 371-DL Successful Museum Management — Registration is closed 

  • MUSEUM 370-DL Museum Origins and Issues — Registration is closed

  • MUSEUM 372-DL Learning and Museums — Class begins on September 27

Save your seat today!

Student Profile

Robert Caragher, Vice President of Finance and Operations, Autry Museum of the American West

Robert Caragher

After spending much of his career managing finances in higher education, Robert Caragher was ready to switch to a different sector within the not-for-profit world. Caragher knew he’d have to reposition himself to make the transition, so to gain a leg up, he enrolled in the Museum Studies Online Certificate Program at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies. 

“This was my first experience with a certificate program and with mostly online instruction. I would recommend both of those aspects to anyone, especially at Northwestern, because of the way this program is packed with content.”

Find out more about how the Museum Studies Certificate helped Caragher become the Vice President of Finance and Operations at the Autry Museum of the American West.

Program Goals

Through lectures, discussions, guest speakers and field trips to area museums, students learn about:


  • History of museums
  • How collections and community inform museum missions
  • Ethical challenges
  • Building audiences
  • Maximizing learning opportunities
  • Fundraising, finance and management
  • Organizational development

Program Audience

The Museum Studies certificate program is useful for a wide-range of careers inside museums as well as those preparing for a graduate program in museum studies.


  • Curator
  • Administrator
  • Collections Manager
  • Pre-Graduate School

Certificate Requirements

To earn a certificate of completion in Museum Studies, students must successfully complete three courses. Students typically graduate in one year. Classes can be taken in any order.


The required courses are:


  • Museum Origins & Issues
  • Successful Museum Management in Today’s Environment
  • Learning in Museums

Optional Two-day Exhibit Symposium

The Exhibit: from Concept to Opening and Beyond
As a supplement to the certificate program, or as a stand-alone experience for museum professionals and those who are interested in furthering their knowledge of the exhibit process, this course presents an in-depth study of the components that make a successful museum exhibition, whether permanent or temporary. Topics include: concept, research, conservation, publications, design, lighting, budget, loans, advertising, sponsorship, education and visitor satisfaction, with subject-specialist guest speakers. This course is only offered in-person at our Chicago campus during the summer term.

Core Courses:

  • MUSEUM 370-DL Museum Origins and Issues
  • MUSEUM 371-DL Successful Museum Management
  • MUSEUM 372-DL Learning and Museums

Elective Courses:

  • MUSEUM 373-0 The Exhibit: From Concept to Opening and Beyond