How to Work in an Art Museum
Working in an art museum affords the opportunity to continue art studies and educate others on the importance of the artistic process. A museum docent job is a great position for the art historian, but art museums also hire people for human resources, marketing, design, security, and preparation. Museums are highly selective, and they look for hard workers with an art education and experience.
Study art.For those who enjoy making art, classes are available in high school and most universities offer a bachelor in fine arts or an equivalent. You can also take a class at a local community college to see if this would be a good fit for you.
- For those who are interested in history, study art history. Art history courses are commonly held in colleges and universities.
- You could also consider media arts, graphic design, animation, fashion design, visual communications, photography, web design, game design and film, among other types of art.
Volunteer at an art museum.Many high schools and some colleges require volunteer hours in order to get a degree. You can also choose to volunteer in order to get some experience before applying for a job in an art museum. The experience you gain while volunteering can be used on resumes and in interviews.
- Volunteering in an art museum will help you to gain contacts in the art field. Networking is the best way to find out about jobs as they come available.
Attend art shows and museum collection openings.You’ll need to know what is currently happening in the world of art. These events gather the art world together, and they are a perfect place to enjoy art while networking. Introduce yourself to museum curators and directors, and don’t forget to carry a few copies of your resume in case someone asks you for it.
Choosing a Position
Work in the marketing department.Marketing and public relations employees entice people to come to the museum. Daily activities may include mailing, posting events, working with social media, making phone calls to media outlets, and developing contacts in order to promote the museum and its programs.
- Getting a marketing degree will qualify you to work in the marketing department of an art museum.
Join the development department.Many museums are non-profit organizations. The development department raises money through grant-writing, sponsors, and solicitation of the general public. It is not an easy task to ask people for money, so this is a job for an outgoing person.
Become part of the human resources team.If you are interested in hiring people and working with museum employees, the human resources department is a good choice. You may be responsible for performance reviews and determining compensation for employees.
- Those with backgrounds in human resources, public relations, or counseling are preferred for this position.
Choose the design department.The design department is split into graphic design and exhibit design. You may develop mailers and websites in the graphic design department, or help design and set up displays for exhibits. People fulfilling these roles need strong spatial skills.
- You’ll need an education in either graphic design or art to work in the design department.
Become a preparator.This position allows you to be active, putting up displays, changing labels, and carefully handling art. You would work under the curator and the exhibit designer. If you have a good eye for design, consider becoming a preparator.
- A degree in museum studies will give you an edge over others applying for this job.
Work in the education department.If you have experience teaching or like working with kids, the education department would be a great fit. The education department may put on talks for members or the general public. You may also be asked to teach children that visit the museum.
- A background in education will help you land this position.
Become a museum docent.The most recognizable job in education is a museum docent. A docent researches and leads tours through museums in order to educate the public on collections. This would be a great job for you if you like interacting with others.
- You should have strong public speaking skills as well as knowledge of various art and artists.
Join the finance team.If you’re good with numbers, becoming an accountant for the art museum may be the best job for you. You still get to be a part of the art museum staff, but don’t interact with visitors or other staff members as much.
- You will need an education in accounting to be considered for this role.
Choose to be part of the security staff.The security staff protects the art as well as the other staff and visitors. If you have experience working in security, but also enjoy art, this position is perfect for you.
- Take a training course to become certified as a security officer in your state.
Applying for a Position
Make a resume.Focus your resume toward the job you would like to have, highlighting your education and experience. Seek help through a vocational service if you are unsure how to format it. Be sure to thoroughly proofread your resume before submitting it.
Research jobs in local museums.The bigger the city is, the more museums it has. Visit all the museums in your area and check their websites to find out what positions are available.
Find openings on the Internet.Go to the museum’s website and check out the “Careers” section to see what positions are open. You can also search using the term “museum” on job search engines. Use sites like Careerbuilder, Monster, Indeed, and Craigslist.
Write a cover letter for each job.Each cover letter should be different, and it should show that you have researched the museum. Explain why your experience and interests make you the perfect candidate for the job. You can also request an in-person interview.
- Follow up by email or letter if you have not heard back. Always respect the wishes of the employer if they ask not to receive phone calls or other communication.
Speak with your prospective employer.Be prepared to answer phone calls from prospective employers or a human resources department. Change your voicemail message to reflect a professional attitude and call back immediately. Practice interview questions to be ready to explain why you would be a great fit for the position.
Interview with the museum.Dressing for an interview at an art museum may be slightly different than other jobs. You may want to add an artistic touch to your wardrobe, but dress professionally and err on the side of caution. Remember to be on time and bring a copy of your resume, referrals, and any other pertinent information.
Negotiate a salary and benefits, if applicable.Ask about insurance and travel expenses. Keep in mind that many museums are non-profit, and may not provide an attractive package to an entry level employee. With experience comes a higher salary.
Excelling At Your New Job
Study for new exhibits.Once you get a job at an art museum, you’ll need to keep training and learning. Research new artists and stay up to date on the pieces displayed in the museum.
Be professional.Respect your employer and coworkers by always arriving on time. Wear appropriate clothing and avoid cursing and inappropriate behavior. Speak to other staff and to visitors courteously and kindly.
Work hard.Ensure you are prepared to give your best effort each and every day. Do what your employer asks of you, and take initiative by completing tasks you notice need attention.
Further your education.This is a great idea if you want to move up the museum ladder. Curators generally have graduate degrees in museum studies and/or art history. They study administration, museology, marketing, museum law, collection management, and many other things in order to be curators. They may also work toward being a museum director in the future.
- Be patient and tenacious. A hard job market means you must apply often, network at local museums, and avoid getting discouraged if it takes a while to get an art museum job. Get a part-time or full-time job, if you can, to support yourself while you look for art museum work.
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