Museums and Cultural Sites
Individuals with master’s or doctoral degrees in the humanities may find work in a museum or a venue related to cultural heritage and preservation – including roles in archives, libraries and parks – an ideal match for their skills, interests and expertise.
Employment opportunities in museum settings include roles within museum administration and operations, education, development, artifact preservation, and exhibition curation. Advanced training in the humanities offers a skillset well-suited to work of this nature. For example, graduate students are trained to think carefully about how best to interpret and synthesize information in succinct and accessible ways.
Typically, they showcase these skills through preparing documents in the form of publishable articles. The same skills which facilitate good writing are necessary to prepare the text for exhibition pieces or to inform members of the public visiting museums and cultural sites about the exhibitions they are experiencing. Alongside of employment in museum settings, leading tours in major parks, cities, and other sites offers an enriching source of work for individuals who enjoy interacting with the public and translating their research into language that a varied audience can appreciate.
Although employers in each of these settings will require skills and experience that directly pertain to openings that become available in their organizations, many cultural sites welcome volunteers and interns who can utilize the opportunity to network within the organization and gain relevant skills to become eligible for long-term positions.
Roles in museums and cultural sites may require skills and experience pertaining to:
- Preserving, collating, researching, and documenting collections which may include material and visual culture
- Designing and preparing text for exhibitions featuring museum collections
- Educating the visiting public on museum exhibitions
- Raising funds from foundations and donors to support cultural activities
- Applying expertise in history, art, music, STEM fields and/or an array of other subject areas according to the needs of the museum or cultural site
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median annual salary for archivists, curators, and museum workers as $47,360 in 2017 with an anticipated job growth rate through 2026 of 13%. Competition exists for entry level jobs at many cultural sites, but participating in opportunities to build one’s skills for museum and cultural heritage-based settings while still enrolled in graduate school can raise a candidate’s profile to prospective employers.
Making the most of academic training can also make one well-positioned for work in museums, libraries, archives and related settings. For example, honing one’s grant writing, teaching and administrative skills can help a candidate to make a compelling case for his or her desire to work in an environment that makes extensive use of these skills on a day-to-day basis.
Professional Associations for Museum Professionals, Archivists and Tour Guides:
- American Alliance of Museums
- Museum Association of New York
- National Association for Museum Exhibition (Affiliated with the Alliance of American Museums)
- Small Museum Association
- Society of American Archivists
- Guides Association of New York City
Job Boards and Resources for Professionals in Museums and Cultural Sites:
- National Council on Public History: This platform features openings in a variety of employment fields related to the practice of public history, including work in academia, non-profits, government, museums, and libraries.
- Museum.Jobs: This platform includes an extensive database of job openings in museums.
- Small Museum Association: Features job opportunities in small museum settings. Many opportunities are for temporary or part-time employment.
Many museums, libraries and similar organizations provide web pages with information for prospective volunteers or interns. If you are interested in working in this capacity for a cultural site that interests you, you may wish to search for opportunities on the web page of the organization of interest.