12 Popular Types of Museum Careers (Including Benefits)

Updated 26 June 2023

There are many interesting careers that exist within a museum. These careers may be attractive if you have an interest in art, history or natural history and want to expand your knowledge and share it with the public. Understanding what type of museum jobs are available and what responsibilities they involve may be beneficial in helping you choose the right career for you.

In this article, we discuss 12 museum careers with their average salary and primary duties and explore the benefits of working in or with a museum.

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12 museum careers

Museum careers may be a rewarding way to work while staying in touch with your interests in history or arts. Some positions are entry-level and require little to no education. Others are leadership or specialised roles that may require qualification as a minimum requirement for application. Many people who fill museum positions are volunteers who work free of charge out of passion and dedication to the cause. Some of the top museum jobs may include:

1. Conservator

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Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries and the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

National average salary: $67,000 per year

Primary duties: A museum conservator documents, preserves and restores artefacts that are on display in the exhibits. They complete chemical and physical tests on the artefacts to determine how old they are and what they are composed of. Conservators also determine the best way to repair, display, store and preserve the objects. Museum and art conservators generally have scientific training, and often use advanced technology and scientific techniques in their work.

Read more: What Does a Conservator Do? (With Skills and Salary)

2. Tour guide

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National average salary: $42,650 per year

Primary duties: Tour guides at a museum take groups of visitors on tours through the museum to discover the history of various artefacts and detailed information relating to the exhibits. Tour guides may also greet customers on arrival at the museum and direct them to the area of the museum they want to visit. Tour guides also spend time updating their knowledge of the museum exhibits to ensure they have sufficient information to share with visitors. Smaller museums may recruit voluntary tour guides to perform these tasks.

3. Curator

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National average salary: $86,085 per year

Primary duties: A museum curator creates collections and develops ways to display objects, artwork and archives at museums. They organise exhibits, publications, events and presentations to assist with educating museum visitors. Curators arrange the restoration of artefacts and identify and record items for presentation in the museum. They also collaborate with other areas of the museum on education, design and marketing.

Related: What Does a Museum Curator Do? Including Required Skills

4. Archivist

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National average salary: $83,311 per year

Primary duties: An archivist's primary responsibility is the care management of documents and records. In a museum, an archivist typically manages documents and records that form part of a collection, such as natural historians' case notes and observations. Archivists arrange and describe these records, and provide assistance with research queries about them. They ensure documents are correctly labelled and stored in appropriate conditions. This helps to ensure the museum keeps them indefinitely and protects them from fires, floods or other threats such as theft. Archivists may set up exhibits to showcase documents from museum collections and interpret documents so they can explain their history.

5. Historian

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National average salary: $107,999 per year

Primary duties: A historian gathers historical information from manuscripts, records, books and artefacts and interprets it to determine its authenticity and significance. They provide input to museum educational programs and provide guidance or advice surrounding historical topics. Historians also conduct research using government records, newspapers, photographs, films, manuscripts and other primary source documents. They utilise this information to build and trace a profile of a particular person, area, object or event to assist other museum employees with compiling this information for exhibitions.

Related: What Does It Take to Be a Historian? (With Typical Duties)

6. Head of exhibitions

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National average salary: $95,000 per year

Primary duties: The head of exhibitions oversees a team of curators in managing the creation of exhibits. They also work with other areas of the museum to manage exhibition projects to ensure they are delivered on time and within budget. Those in a head of exhibitions role generally supervise a team of curators. This means they typically have involvement in other tasks, including managing people and creating financial reports.

7. Digital marketing coordinator

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National average salary: $79,514 per year

Primary duties: A museum's digital marketing coordinator expands the digital and social media footprint of the museum. They produce engaging digital marketing campaigns to help attract visitors to the museum. Digital marketing coordinators usually do this through email, website content, social media engagement and ongoing digital advertising campaigns.

Related: What Does a Marketing Coordinator Do? (With Skills and FAQs)

8. Education officer

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National average salary: $80,577 per year

Primary duties: An education officer plays an active role in creating or improving experiences for school groups and other educational groups who visit museums. One of the core target audiences for museums is school students. Because of this, the education officer works with teachers and special needs groups to promote the museum education components and to develop learning materials suited to these groups. Education officers also work with other areas of the museum to develop learning programs and to ensure the marketing team is capturing relevant information in their campaigns to attract schools and other educational institutions to the museum.

9. Philanthropy manager

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National average salary: $86,105 per year

Primary duties: A philanthropy manager designs, implements and manages strategies to cultivate and raise funds for the museum. They oversee and host fundraising events and campaigns to help raise awareness and obtain capital to support the ongoing work of the museum. Philanthropy managers also work with and seek regular donors who may have an interest in contributing financially to the museum.

Related: 11 Careers in Philanthropy (With Salaries and Duties)

10. Engagement manager

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National average salary: $105,905 per year

Primary duties: An engagement manager develops the overall museum experience. They enhance gallery visits and tours and work with the digital marketing coordinator and philanthropy manager to promote and host community fundraisers. They also seek ways to attract visitors to the museum and engage with stakeholders to maintain interest and funds for the museum.

11. Venue manager

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National average salary: $74,618 per year

Primary duties: The major role of a venue manager is to lead the venue's team in promoting venue hire opportunities for the museum. Venue hire is one of the many avenues a museum can use to earn revenue, due to the fact that many museums have large and interesting spaces which can be used for events conferences and even weddings. The venue manager works with the digital marketing team to promote the use of a museum for commercial or private events. They also develop and implement a business plan for the venue hire department to achieve revenue and meet their annual budgets.

12. Museum director

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National average salary: $71,931 per year

Primary duties: A museum director is often the lead curator, and is in overall charge of the museum. They manage programming, procurement, education, venue hire and ensure all areas of the museum operate effectively. Museum directors are also responsible for people management, including human resource matters and financial planning. This is the most senior position within the museum industry.

Benefits of working in a museum

There can be several benefits to working in a museum. Below, you can find a list of some of the top benefits:

You get to do something you love

If history and arts are something you love, then working in a museum may be the perfect job for you. Being paid to work with something you have a tremendous interest in is invaluable and is often something some people aspire towards. Being able to share your passion with visitors attending the museum may be really motivating and make your days at work feel a lot more enjoyable.

Related: What Does a Curator Do? (With Key Skills and Career Steps)

You may learn while working

Working in a museum can be an interesting career. The variety of exhibits means that there can be plenty of opportunities for you to learn something new about a part of history you may not have learnt about previously. Many museum roles require detailed research and investigation into specific details about a period or artefact. A career in a museum can be an educational career that allows for continual learning and discovery.

Related: Learning Styles for Career Development

You can spend your day sharing your interests with people

Museums attract a variety of people, from school students and the elderly to international visitors and families. A career in a museum may give you opportunities to talk with visitors and answer questions they may have about the exhibitions or any particular artefacts they have an interest in. You may also give presentations on a particular topic which may see you addressing large groups of people. Providing a service to the public and talking with people who have a common interest in the exhibits may be very rewarding.

Related: How to Start a Conversation (With Examples)

Museums are important

Museums are important to the community. They help define national identity and provide interesting cultural experiences while educating visitors. They provide a service by keeping historic artefacts and valuable pieces of art safe. Museums also provide opportunities for people to see rare artefacts they could not see otherwise. People who work in museums often work hard to ensure the experiences they provide the visitors are as enriching and as exciting as possible.

The job may provide networking opportunities

There are many networking opportunities in the wider galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) sector. These include specialist events and conferences, which can be a great opportunity to meet people who have similar interests to you, gain new ideas and learn new techniques. Networking may also include working collaboratively with people from other institutions on joint projects, or providing specialist advice to other institutions and agencies.

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