Museum Career Info

Helpful information for students who are interested in a career in the museum profession.

What is a museum? Although there are varying answers, in general a museum is an organization committed to public service, education and inclusion grounded in stewardship and scholarship.

As you start your museum career, remember the Oklahoma Museums Association is the primary provider of professional training and technical information to staff, board members and volunteers of Oklahoma's 500 museums, historic sites, tribal cultural centers and historical societies. OMA members receive discounted fees on seminars and other training opportunities. OMA membership benefits

US Bureau of Labor Statistics on Archivists, Curators and Museum Workers Information

As you think about your museum career, there are many areas in which to work in the museum - and they all have to work together as a whole to make a successful institution. Each museum is different regarding departments and which positions are in each department. In fact, many of the positions may overlap departments. The four main categories listed here are administration, collections, education and exhibitions.

  • Administration- Areas include Governance, Development (fund raising), Marketing and Public Relations, Legal, Visitor Services, Financial, Security, Gift Shop and Technology - the actual job titles will include Executive Director, Deputy Director, Administrative Associate, Accountant, Grants Administration, Marketing Director, Membership Coordinator, Attorney, Director of Security, Visitor Services Coordinator, IT Administrator, Special Events Coordinator, Facility Maintenance, Gift Shop Manager, etc.
  • Collections- Areas include accessioning, registration, conservation, collections management, inventory and storage - the actual job titles will include Curator of Collections, Collections Coordinator, Registrar, Conservator, Collections Assistance, Archivist, Photographic Curator, Data Entry, Research Assistant, etc.
  • Education- Areas include interpretation, tours, volunteer and docents, publications, programming both in-house and outreach- the actual job titles will include Curator of Education, Education Assistant, Volunteer and Docent Coordinator, Programming Director, Publications Coordinator, Tour Guide, Scheduler, Outreach Assistant
  • Exhibitions - Areas include permanent exhibit planning, research, design and construction, traveling exhibits, label writing, audience research and evaluation- the actual job titles will include Exhibit Technician, Preparator, Graphic Designer, Exhibit Director, Temporary and Traveling Exhibits Scheduler, Carpenter, Audience Researcher and Surveyor.
Top five list of practical advice to get ready for a career in the museum field:
1) Volunteer, volunteer and volunteer. Preferably at various museums, but other volunteer service is good also. Be sure and list this volunteer service on your resume.
2) Network, network and network. You never know who you will meet and what connections they have to the museum world. When you get a chance, talk to everyone about your interest in museums.
3) Keep up with current and latest best practices in the museum field. You can do this by reading books, articles, websites.... whatever it takes. Believe it or not, standards in our field change, just like other fields.
4) Have a good resume ready and sharp interview skills. You will need both as you apply for volunteer positions or when applying for an actual paying job. It is much better to work on both of those items now, when you are not rushed. One tip: the people you ask to be your references, be sure and alert them anytime you apply for a job, just in case the museum calls them for a reference, you do not want them to be taken off guard.
5) Become a member of OMA and attend as many training programs as your time and budget will allow, especially the annual fall conference! There are student discounted rates and scholarships are available for workshops and training.

OMA members may submit resumes to the staff at the Oklahoma Museums  Association for an informal evaluation. For more information, or to  submit a resume, contact Brenda Granger.

The Virginia Association of Museums website offers good tips for those new to the museum profession.

Great article titled, How to Build and Expand Your Career Network:  10 Proven Techniques for Job-Seekers

The Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies (SCEMS) assists the museum community in acquiring and strengthening its understandings and practices of museology. Their website is one of the Center's tools for serving the educational and informational needs of the field.