Careers in the Museum World

So far I have encouraged you in very vague terms to think about ‘where you want to go’, but I haven’t actually gone into much detail about kinds of work you can actually find in the museum sector. If I’m completely honest, this hasn’t been by accident. I am a little wary of talking about the different types of career in the sector for the simple reason that there are just so many. On top of this, I have known for years that I specifically wanted to work with collections, ideally as a curator, and so I didn’t really pay as much attention to the job descriptions and specifications for other kinds of work. But what needs to be done needs to be done, so I will give it my best shot!

So the main areas of museum work (that differ from other professions) that I can think of can be broken down into a few categories:

  • Collections
  • Visitor experience
  • Exhibitions
  • Education
  • Outreach
  • Events
  • Press
  • Development
  • Volunteer management

Each of these areas are for the most part unique to the museum sector, bringing with them very distinct sets of responsibilities, and so they will each have their own little posts at some stage or other.* You could find a job that is focused on just one element, however there could also be a lot of overlap depending on your job role and the size of the museum. (It seems to be a truism in museums that the smaller the institution the broader the experience you will , mainly because the same jobs have to be shared between fewer people.)

Generally speaking, your responsibilities also change as your career progresses, moving slowly from the practical side of assisting the work of your line managers to more strategic concerns surrounding policy, planning, and the management of people as an organisation. This is a very important part of making sure that the entire organisation works towards the same goals (and will have its own post/s), but this is not going to be my priority for a while – I have too many other things to talk about!


*Obviously I am missing out a few pretty important areas, such as IT, human resources and finance, but as far as I know the nature of these roles don’t necessarily differ a great deal from similar teams found in other organisations. However, please correct me if I am wrong!



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