When you visit a museum, you probably seek to know much more about various artifacts or collections than just seeing them. Museum education officers are the professionals tasked with helping visitors to learn and understand the history and importance of museum collections. If you have excellent instructional skills and would love to teach in a non-school setting, this is a career you could pursue.
What do museum education officers do?
Their primary duties include:
- Developing museum education programs
- Planning tours and exhibitions for all museum visitors
- Collaborating with curators to exhibit collections in a thoughtful and informative manner
- Answering questions from museum visitors to help them discover more about the collections
- Training and supervising museum education volunteers
- Creating educational materials such as newsletters and pocket brochures for visitors
Museum education officers typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday - Friday. However, with some large museums operating day and night, there is a possibility you could work on a shift basis.
Although these officers spend most of their time in the museums, they frequently hit the road to conduct community education programs or attend exhibitions and meetings.
Level of experience
Beginning museum education officers
£17,000 - £20,000
Experienced museum education officers
£31,000 - £45,000
It takes substantial experience and knowledge to become a museum education officer. To get started, earn a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:
- Museum studies
- Archival science
- Cultural studies
These programs will enhance your knowledge of the history and practice of collecting and conserving art. They also require students to complete an internship, meaning you have the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience before you graduate.
It is essential to note some employers may prefer specific degrees. For example, a science and technology museum may prefer graduates with a bachelor’s degree in information technology. So you should evaluate your long-term career interests before choosing your degree.
To gain more experience and increase your chances of landing this job, you can start out as a volunteer in a local museum or gallery. You can also visit the British Association of Friends of Museums and the Association of Independent Museums to access voluntary vacancies.
The skills and abilities required to succeed as a museum educator include:
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Strong instructional skills
- An interest in sharing information with people
- Strong interpersonal skills
- An interest in art and history
- Strong organizational and presentation skills
- Good active listening skills
- A decent level of creativity
- Good computer skills
- Good teamwork skills
- Knowledge of fundraising strategies
To fast-track your transition from a volunteer or entry-level education worker to a museum education officer, you should:
- Pursue a postgraduate certificate in education
- Attend several exhibitions and industry events to network with museum curators and directors – These are the professionals who can connect you with potential employers
After getting this job, you can embark on gaining vast work experience and broadening your professional knowledge. You can pursue a master’s degree in museum education. The University of Leicester and University College London are some of the British universities offering this degree.
Securing memberships in industry associations such as the Museums Association is also an ideal way to enhance your knowledge since you can easily access resources such as industry publications.
Apart from national, regional, university and specialist museums, you can also be hired by:
- Heritage centers
With vast experience and advanced degrees, you could progress to become museum education program manager and, in time, a chief learning officer.
Although the National Careers Service doesn’t provide job growth prospects for museum education officers, you can expect to face strong competition for jobs. In fact, some educators only manage to secure freelance or short-term contracts. This is mainly because many museums aren’t big enough to sustain a large in-house workforce.
Tough as it may look, your love for sharing information and ideas with new people can propel you to a full-time position. Good luck!