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Public History

People installing a history exhibit


A career in public history allows you to apply your passion for history and historical research to the world outside of academics. Public historians work at a variety of institutions including historic sites, museums, archives, the National Parks Service, and for state agencies that promote cultural and heritage tourism. This field is also growing; the Department of Labor expects the field of public history to grow 16% over the next 10 years.

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If you are interested in joining Western Carolina University’s Public History Program, please contact:

Dr. Jessie Swigger

The history department also offers two Accelerated Bachelors and Masters concentrations in Public History, allowing students to complete both History B.A. and M.A. degrees, or History B.S. and M.A. degrees, in five years.

Western Carolina University has several opportunities for students wishing to build a career in public history.

Undergraduate students have the option of completing our Public History Certification program. In addition to the hours required for the history major, students:

  • Complete 12 hours of Public History coursework
  • Complete an internship consisting of 150 hours of work

Graduate students pursuing a Master of Arts in history may choose to concentrate on public history within the American history program. In addition to 30 hours of coursework, demonstration of reading competency in a foreign language, public presentation of student research, and successful completion of a comprehensive examination, students:

  • Complete 9 hours of public history courses
  • Complete an internship consisting of 150 hours of work

We ensure that our students leave the program with experience working in the field. We have relationships with a variety of public history institutions in the area including:

  • The Cashiers Historical Society, Cashiers
  • Shelton House, Waynesville
  • The Montieth House, Dillsboro
  • Thomas Wolfe Memorial, Asheville
  • Smith-McDowell House, Asheville
  • Zebulon-Vance Birthplace, Asheville

We work hard to place students in internships that they will find interesting and professionally rewarding. Throughout the internship, you will be guided and assisted by our department’s public historian, Dr. Jessie Swigger. She is available if you have any questions or concerns. Along with completing 150 hours of service, interns:

  • Sign a letter of agreement detailing their responsibilities
  • Complete a log documenting the hours they have worked
  • Complete a self-evaluation at the conclusion of the internship
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