How to Get a Job in a Museum
If you want to get a job at a museum, there are certain things you need to know. Here is useful information to boost your chances.
If you want to get a job at a museum, there are certain things you need to know. Here is useful information to boost your chances.
During just the first three weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 16 million Americans lost their jobs. The coronavirus caused the unemployment rate to skyrocket and surpass the levels of the Great Recession. But the good news is that as of September 2020, many museums, galleries, archives, libraries, etc. are no longer under lockdown, and they are actively looking for new workers. So it is a favorable time to get a new job. This article will tell you about the basic steps you need to take to find a job at a museum and share useful tips.
How to Start a Career in a Museum Or Gallery
Working in a museum can be extremely interesting and exciting. It's an excellent opportunity to make new acquaintances. This industry offers many job openings even for people without a bachelor's degree. Let's look at the main ways of how to get a job at a museum.
There are 35,144 museums of various subjects in the USA. Taxpayers’ funds support nearly all of them, so the help of volunteers is essential. As with other positions, to volunteer at a museum or gallery, you will need to prepare your resume and cover letter and even go through an interview. But at the same time, volunteer experience will give a start to your career. Many employees in this field admit that they got the job because they started as a non-paid aide.
The most popular method for finding jobs is by using the Internet. Naturally, there are lots of notable sites that post job offers. But did you know that several platforms publish vacancies exclusively for museum staff? Here are some:
- American Alliance of Museums. This is an alliance that was founded in 1906. Its mission is to protect museums, history, and develop art. On the alliance website, you can find a variety of job offers from entry-level to high-level positions all over the country.
- Association of Children’s Museums. The history of the Association's activity began in 1962. It is a non-profit organization that supports the existence of children's museums around the world. The Association operates in 50 states and 19 countries globally. You can find up-to-date vacancies in such areas as local attractions, learning labs, community resources, and advocacy for children on its website.
- The Guardian. It is one of the most popular British daily newspapers. But it will also showcase vacancies in museums and galleries across all of the UK. There are job offers for beginner applicants and experienced employees, ranging from curators to marketing experts.
- Museum Jobs. This is a user-friendly site that shows current jobs in museums, galleries, libraries, and archives worldwide.
From time to time, be sure to visit the websites of museums or galleries that interest you, as there you can find current offers for employment.
Build a Network
Professional networking offers lots of opportunities. Many independent experts argue that people with more extensive contacts are more successful. And here's why: networking allows you to improve your skills and qualifications, be the first to learn about new professional opportunities, know all the news of the labor market, and so on. By maintaining relationships with people in your industry, you gain the chance to find new mentors, coaches, or even patrons.
You will get employment in the art industry faster by attending exhibitions, seminars, workshops, and other events organized by museums. Meet new people there and make professional contacts.
Museums use the services of various companies, including archives, design agencies, exhibition venues, software development teams, and so on. If you cannot get a job at a museum right away, try one of these firms.
Write a Resume and Cover Letter
Due to the enormous amount of job losses in early 2020, labor market competition is fierce. If you want to get a job in the museum sector, you have to beat out many other applicants. The prospective employer should see all of your talents, skills, and benefits even before meeting you in their office. The surest way to accomplish this is by preparing a winning resume and cover letter. Let's take a closer look at these two documents.
A resume is written evidence of your experience, education, and skills. It is a short self-presentation that should showcase the best aspects of the candidate. Accordingly, this document must contain only those experiences that are directly related to the desired position. So if you want to become a museum employee, there is no need to indicate that you worked as a barista.
Here are some tips to help you prepare a winning resume:
- Be brief. The text should not exceed 1-2 pages.
- Be detailed. Instead of merely indicating that you "curated exhibitions," say "curated up to 10 exhibitions annually."
- If you don't have experience yet, focus on your education and soft skills.
- For each position you apply your candidacy, a unique resume is a must-have to cover each job opening’s specifics.
A cover letter is a characteristic of your personality traits and emphasizes why you are the best candidate for the role. It is an addition to your resume, which provides more information about your skills, professional achievements, and individual qualities. You have to prepare a cover letter for a museum job even if it's not indicated in the job opening.
To summarize, the resume tells about your qualifications, while the task of the cover letter is to "sell" your candidacy more expensively.
Here are some tips for creating a successful cover letter:
- The optimal volume of text is from half-page to 1 page.
- The document must contain an introduction, body, and conclusion.
- Start your self- presentation with what is most important to you. For example, "Over the past three years, I have successfully curated over 20 historical exhibitions with an average attendance of over 700 people per day."
Prepare For an Interview
You have prepared a high-quality resume and cover letter and have even received an interview invitation. You are close to success, but there are still a lot of things to do. Based on the interview results, the employer will conclude how well you are suitable for the position. Therefore, you need to prepare carefully.
You can have an interview by telephone or at the museum director's office. It's better to prepare in advance the answers to the most popular questions, rehearse them in front of the mirror, and take care of your appearance. Prepare copies of your resume and cover letter and take your diplomas or certificates confirming your qualifications.
Best Museum Jobs on the Market
Whether you have a passion for history, art, or science, the museum sector offers a wide range of professions. Here is a list of the most relevant disciplines in the industry.
- Archivist Archivists are responsible for collecting, cataloging, and storing important information or artifacts. They provide access to archives to a broad audience while taking precautions not to damage exhibits or artifacts, negotiate new collections, determine the funding, plan budgets, and respond to inquiries. This role requires a bachelor's degree in any field, but a higher degree in English, history, or art will take precedence. The archiver must demonstrate attentiveness, logical thinking, friendliness, foresight, and be IT savvy.
- Curator Curators focus on collecting art examples in museums or galleries. They organize and manage exhibitions and presentations. The curators’ duties also include the restoration of exhibits, increasing their popularity, drawing public attention to exhibits, identifying and evaluating artifacts, and purchasing exhibits. They work closely with specialists in related fields, prepare and deliver lectures, catalog, and raise funds and grants needed for the collections. Some curators have the opportunity to travel in search of new artifacts. Many museums offer volunteer positions, so a bachelor's degree is not required for this position. If you are considering getting an entry-level museum job, this is a good solution.
- Exhibit Designer Specialists of this type are responsible for the complete decoration of the premises during exhibitions, including the color of the walls, the distribution of light inside, making sure that the works of art are displayed correctly, arranging the decorations, etc. They also study the client’s needs to provide an effective design solution, use specific techniques to obtain the desired design effect, create a general concept and direction of the exhibition, and demonstrate the client's vision to visitors. It is a fascinating and exciting job that does not require special education, only a passion for art, perfectionism, and a creative eye.
- Conservator Conservatives are essential members of archives and museums who research exhibits using reagents, chemicals, laser beams, and microscopes. Their main task is to determine the age, condition, and authenticity of a piece and to restore it if necessary. Requirements for candidates vary from museum to museum, but a master's degree is needed to get this position. A qualified professional must have an in-depth knowledge of chemistry, archeology, and art history.
- Director This is a management position that covers many aspects. They must clearly understand the museum’s purpose and mission and combine the qualities of a curator, financial manager, and CEO. The director is responsible for creating programs for the museum’s development, raising funds, preparing and conducting exhibitions, acquiring new collections, negotiating with collectors, planning and staffing, marketing, etc. This position assumes knowledge of the specifics of the sector, as well as significant work experience. They should have at least a bachelor's degree in arts or related fields.
- Museum Educator The museum educator is responsible for creating educational and interactive programs so that guests, school groups, children with their parents, etc., have an unforgettable experience. These experts build a pleasant and friendly atmosphere in the museum and actively accompany visitors. They also create new educational programs, conduct classes, monitor the cleanliness of exhibits, participate in museum events, and more. A museum educator must possess a passion for art, science, or history, and have excellent organizational skills. They demonstrate flexibility, patience, resourcefulness, and a desire for kindness.
- Security Officer This type of staff provides security inside museums. Their task is to observe visitors, museum staff, and artifacts. The security officers monitor the surveillance system, patrol the perimeter, ensure that all exhibits are in place, conduct crowd control, help lost children, and so on. For this position, it is enough to have a GED diploma. A specialist in this field must also have endurance, physical strength, and critical thinking.
- Public Relations Officer Every museum needs a public relations specialist to draw attention to exhibits and collections and spread news about important events. This position involves public speaking, writing articles, creating promotional content, and quickly making useful contacts. This role does not always require a bachelor's degree, but a suitable candidate must have excellent interpersonal qualities, creative thinking, outstanding writing skills, and artistry.
- Historian This position requires an expert with a master's degree and deep research skills. They explore objects, exhibits, artifacts, historical context, preconditions, and so on. Historians are required to take part in historical exhibitions, conferences, and public events. They publish articles in scientific or historical journals, draw attention to and assist in organizing and holding certain exhibits, translate historical documents, and are responsible for the storage of artifacts. The historian must have excellent attention to detail, organizational skills, and be a team player. Some museums offer part-time employment.
- Preparator These specialists work closely with the exhibit designer to organize and maintain the exhibitions in a quality manner. They sort and select the exhibits for display, put them in the correct order, pack and unpack the art objects, make sure that other employees treat the exhibits with care, prepare props and decorations, control the temperature and humidity in the room, and take responsibility for protecting the artifacts. If you want to dive into the museum sector as a preparator, you must have a Master of Fine Arts degree. You should also be able to establish strong relationships with colleagues and supervise the work of other staff.
- Membership Officer This profession has a business focus. It assumes that the candidate will manage membership programs, create new ones, modify old ones, and develop exciting proposals that will attract more members. Membership officers communicate with program participants, research their interests and wishes, take action to improve programs, create marketing materials, and maintain a membership database. This role may require a degree in business or administration.
- Museum Shop Manager This is a great opportunity to get a museum job for those who have a passion for art but have limited education, knowledge, and experience. Almost every museum has shops where visitors can buy various souvenirs. Shop managers are responsible for serving customers, maintaining significant sales, managing personnel, creating promotional materials, attracting new customers, etc. The right person must be attentive, friendly, and have excellent management skills and creative thinking.
Any candidate who wants to know how to get a job in a museum should keep the basic rules in mind: creating a top-notch resume, writing a customized cover letter, and preparing for an interview. A strong performance in all three areas will lead to success. The museum industry is very diverse and offers employment options with varying qualifications and experiences. So believe in yourself and keep looking for your dream job, even if at first it may seem like a difficult task.