History | Public History Track

This supplement is to be used in conjunction with the Department of History’s Graduate Guidelines and the Graduate School Policies and Procedures. Only additions to and exceptions from the traditional graduate program in history are included below.

In the fall of 1979 the department first offered M.A. and Ph.D. tracks in public history. The public history track augments traditional graduate curricula by introducing students to areas outside the academic setting where they can apply their training. The track prepares students to adapt and apply skills in history to private and public audiences on the local, state, and national levels. Three (3) specific graduate courses offer introductory background and general training in public history. Internships, additional course work (including workshops, seminars, short courses, and courses outside the department), and the thesis/dissertation offer further specialization. Specific areas of public history activity include archives, business and corporate history, cultural resource management, historic preservation, litigation support, museums, and public policy.

Public history has numerous defining qualities that distinguish it from traditional academic history endeavors. It is frequently multidisciplinary in that public historians must often incorporate aspects of other disciplines into a work product. Completing a historic/architectural survey, for example, requires a basic knowledge of architectural style. Public history often employs a team approach for a project that is too large or unwieldy for one historian and complicated by specific, non-negotiable completion dates. Public historians often collaborate not only with other historians but with archaeologists, anthropologists, sociologists, economists, architects, public officials, scientists, and attorneys.

Career opportunities for public historians include traditional academic positions, but more often employment can be found in local and state historical societies, state historical agencies, public and private libraries and archives, and numerous federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. Historians also find work with private research firms that undertake contracted research and historical report preparation, or they may contract independently for such work.

Public History at WSU

The public history program at Washington State University was established in 1979 and offers both an M.A. and Ph.D. WSU’s mission is to train graduate students to work on historical projects with a broad range of audiences and institutions, as well as prepare them for positions in museums, archives, and historic preservation.


A WICHE Program

The graduate program in history is a participant in the Western Regional Graduate Program of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). This makes high-quality graduate programs available to WICHE-state students at a reasonable cost. Through this program, residents of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming are eligible to enroll at resident rates of tuition.