Getting a job in museums and galleries

How to get a job in museums and galleries

If you love art, history or science, working in an art gallery or museum in the UK might be the right career choice for you.

It may sound like a quite traditional sector at first, but these days it offers a range of exciting and varied graduate jobs: from exhibitions design, to documenting, digitising and managing collections, or even school trips management as an education officer.

To begin with, you definitely need creativity, enthusiasm and the ability to work with others, plus ideas on how to make museums more accessible.

It’s a very competitive sector, but with thousands of museums and art galleries in London and smaller local museums, the opportunities are there if you are determined enough to find them.

Jobs in museums and galleries

The most popular jobs in museums and galleries include:

Director

You’ll be in charge of the whole museum and its workings and will represents the museum in contacts with the public. You will work with the entire staff to make sure museum runs smoothly, and assists wherever needed in any department. Skills required to be a museum director include: enjoy working with people, being a flexible and organized worker, a comfortable public speaker, enjoy doing a variety of different things, being a good problem-solver.

Curator

A curator’s job is build the collections in exhibitions and to look after them, from the initial assembling and cataloguing of items right up to them being displayed for the public.

You can choose to focus on a particular item or era, or to work on anything. It’s a varied job, also depending on your employer, but it generally includes: planning, developing and presenting exhibitions, buying items, cataloguing exhibition items, writing articles for both website and print to promote it, hiring and training staff. Skills needed to be a curator are good writing skills and an interest in reading and researching.

Registrar

Your job will be to keep track of all museum objects, to maintain records of ownership and borrowing. You’ll have to carefully watch the safety and condition of objects on display and to work with the Curators and the Graphic Designers in assembling the museum catalog. Skills required for this role are: organizational skills, being a good record keeper, being careful with details.

Museum Educator

Your job will involve planning tours and other programs for museum visitors of all ages, working with the Curators to develop exhibits and overseeing the docents. Skills required: good writing skills, creativity, people skills.

Docent

A docent welcomes visitors to the museum, guides and teaches visitors on tours, answers questions about the objects in the museum. Skills: being a good public speaker, enjoying research, people skills.

Public Relations Officer

Your job will be to write and distribute press releases and announcements to inform the school and the community about events and activities at the museum. You’ll also be in charge of contacting local television stations and newspapers with information about the museum, and work with the Graphic Designer to create posters, brochures, and advertisements. Skills needed: a good vocabulary, creative writing, public speaking.

Staying up to date with museums and galleries news

The main websites to check regularly for news and updates about museums and galleries are:

Culture24
British Association of Friends of Museums
International Council of Museums

Support for your career in museums and galleries

Working in a museum or a gallery is one of the most rewarding jobs. However, the museum sector has been badly hit by funding cuts in recent years, meaning the competition is always high.

For most types of entry-level job, you’ll find you need to have relevant experience, which you can usually get by volunteering. Some types of job, such as museum assistants or administrative jobs, can be easier to get.

On the upside, the profession needs a regular flow of new blood, and you may find yourself with a high level of responsibility early in your career.

So, whether you want to pursue a passion, become actively involved in your community or simply help people have a good time, museums and galleries may have something to offer you. Make sure you check out the websites of associations that support people working in museums and galleries, such as:

Museums Association
National Museum Directors’ Council
Association of Independent Museums

 

Find your ideal job in museums and galleries

Arts job sector guides

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