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Careers Centre

Museums and galleries

About this sector

You can read information about role responsibilities, salary, working hours, what to expect, qualifications, skills, work experience, career prospects and related roles on the following Prospects Job Profiles:

You might also see other job profiles of interest in the Creative arts and design profiles page (which gives links to the 38 profiles in the sector).

How to gain experience/internships

In the face of so much competition, it is vital to get real experience of working in a museum or gallery on a paid or, more likely, unpaid basis; both employers and course providers will expect this demonstration of your commitment. A number of museums, galleries and heritage organisations offer student internships, work placements and also have well-run volunteer programmes. A part-time job can sometimes lead to a permanent position on the staff of the host organisation upon graduation, and getting work experience at a relevant institution can also secure you a reference and might introduce you to a mentor, and at the least it will give you an insight into the sector and you can use this to great effect on your CV when applying for subsequent jobs by showing you know the industry. Work experience can also help you discover if working in that sector is what you would want to do for a career upon graduation and can also help you decide if there is an industry specialism within which you particularly enjoy working.

Internships


Volunteering


Resources

How to find a (graduate) job

Jobs in museums and galleries tend to arise individually and are, therefore, rarely advertised on our website.

There are a number of ways to make yourself more employable in the sector. For instance, there tends to be fewer staff with science or technology qualifications, so having a related degree could give you an edge in certain institutions. Also, having a broad range of skills, including IT and finance skills, could help you acquire a job as people with these abilities are often put off by the relatively low rate of pay. Furthermore, you must be willing to move in order to secure a job and to thrive in the sector of museums and galleries - as competition for careers is a global issue, applicants must be prepared to look far afield for jobs in the industry. This also applies to career progression into subsequent jobs in the business, as a promotion will often necessitate relocation.

When beginning your career it is important to bear in mind that to acquire a higher-end job in a museum or gallery it is likely that you will need to be an expert in a specific field or have done a relevant postgraduate course; for instance, you might be an expert on the First World War and so your knowledge would be valued by an exhibition centre focusing on that era and conflict.

Vacancy sources:

Relevant Postgraduate Study - is it a requirement?

According to the Museums Association 'A postgraduate qualification in museum studies is a useful way to develop your career in the museum sector, but it’s no guarantee of a job and there is always tremendous competition for museum careers.' It is important that you think carefully about your decision and invest time and effort in ensuring that you make the right choice to benefit you in the long term. You can search for relevant postgraduate courses on the Prospects website. The University of St Andrews runs various courses in Museum and Gallery Studies.

A Masters degree related to Museum and Gallery Studies usually incorporates both theoretical and practical elements as working in a museum requires both practical and intellectual skills. As a result, most courses will have a vocational emphasis and include practical aspects and placements in museums and galleries. For this reason, forms of assessment are unlikely to be limited to academic essays.

Work placements as part of a postgraduate degree can give you the essential transferrable skills desired by many organisations. These might include project management skills which can help you define aims and objectives, understand what resources might be necessary, and give you a good sense of time management as well. As projects might be coordinated either individually or as part of a group, participants must be both self-motivated and good team workers.

In order to get on a Masters degree programme it is likely that you will be expected to have had some prior experience of working in a museum or gallery. Not only does experience show you have the necessary skills for the course, but it also shows that you have an active interest, enthusiasm and commitment to the industry. Gaining experience will also help you realise if a career in the museum and gallery business is right for you personally.

Applications, interviews and assessment centres

Before you start searching for a job, you should take some time to consider the image of yourself that is readily available on the internet. Consider doctoring your Facebook page and changing your email address to something that sounds more professional than the one you have used since school.

Every aspect of your CV will be scrutinised, but in the field of museums and galleries your interests might receive particular attention because they hint at your personality-type and organisations in the industry are looking for people who function well as part of a team as well as on their own. Another important aspect of the application process to bear in mind is that your CV will be read by a variety of different people, including very cultured and cultivated individuals. For this reason, be specific about your interests; for instance, instead of saying that ‘reading’ is a hobby of yours, name individual authors that you like.

Key UK Resources

Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:

Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines

International resources

GoinGlobal

The Careers Centre subscribes to GoinGlobal, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide.

USA

The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.

The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.