Good business and people skills are necessary to succeed as a heritage manager, as you will balance the sometimes conflicting needs of preservation, public interest and commercial necessity

As a heritage manager, you'll be responsible for the conservation and management of heritage sites like historic buildings, landscapes, museums, ancient monuments and other properties.

You'll have a broad remit, with responsibilities ranging from the preservation of important sites, through to developing plans to maintain a community's culture or a region's industrial legacy. Your aim will be to balance the preservation of a site, with the need for income generation and business sustainability.

Responsibilities

As a heritage manager, you'll need to:

  • manage budgets and strategic planning
  • secure funding from external sources
  • generate income from commercial activities, such as catering and hiring out the venue for events and film shoots
  • running a commercial shop
  • administer the collection of entrance fees, donations, sponsorship and memberships
  • organise and monitor building, renovation and conservation work
  • recruit, supervise and motivate staff and volunteers
  • deal with the media to promote the site
  • use IT to generate market share, raise visitor numbers, etc.
  • develop new ways to present the attraction or collection to maximise visitors' enjoyment and understanding
  • ensure high standards of customer service and health and safety for visitors to the site
  • write reports, policies and procedures, marketing documents and interpretive material
  • project management
  • relate at a senior level to local authorities or national bodies within whose remit the site may fall
  • liaise with external agencies such as funding bodies, professional associations, other heritage organisations, tourist bodies and regional development agencies, perhaps to deliver co-funded and joint-venture projects
  • develop outreach activities in the local community
  • keep up to date with developments in the field and with historical research into topics related to the attraction
  • deal with enquiries from researchers and the public
  • design and analyse visitor feedback surveys.

Salary

  • At entry or trainee level, your salary is likely to be in the range of £16,000 to £21,000, though with a postgraduate qualification you could expect to earn up to £25,000.
  • After two to three years' experience, and once you've dealt with more strategic responsibility, your salary will be around £25,000 to £35,000.
  • At senior management or director level, you may earn in the region of £35,000 to £70,000.

Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

There can be early starts and late finishes. Expect to work unsocial hours if employed at visitor attractions that are open on weekends, or for evening events/filming.

Part-time work, job sharing and career breaks are possible.

What to expect

  • You'll mainly be office based, but will likely spend some time outdoors at open-air heritage sites and on guided tours.
  • Self-employment is uncommon, although there is some scope for consultancy work at a senior level. Private consultants and specialists, such as bid writers, can earn around £250+ a day.
  • Jobs are available across the UK in both urban and rural locations.
  • Some jobs, for example in marketing, collection management or conservation, involve a variable amount of travel to sites within a region or to attend national meetings, including overnight stays.
  • If you work as an area manager with a national organisation you may spend a significant proportion of your time travelling. As a manager of a museum in an urban local authority, on the other hand, you would be centrally based.

Qualifications

This area of work is open to all graduates but the following subjects may be particularly useful:

  • administration
  • archaeology
  • countryside or estate management
  • education - secondary or primary with a PGCE qualification
  • geography
  • heritage or museum studies
  • history or history of art
  • library and information services
  • marketing or other business-related subjects, especially finance.

Entry with an HND or foundation degree only is unlikely. While lower-level jobs, such as seasonal posts or internships in visitor reception, interpretation or retail, do not require a degree, they are often sought by graduates as a direct entry post or by undergraduates and postgraduates as work placements or holiday jobs.

A role such as a heritage officer or interpreter would provide good experience and help towards achieving a management role.

A postgraduate qualification is not always essential, although a pre-entry qualification in heritage or museum management provides evidence of commitment and may increase your pay prospects. Search for postgraduate courses in heritage management.

A postgraduate course may provide you with the opportunity to complete a work placement or work-based project, which is valued by employers. Qualifications in areas such as teaching, marketing, communication, finance or digital and web-based technologies are useful for specific roles in the sector.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • the ability to deal effectively with a range of people
  • excellent written communication skills
  • a genuine interest in and understanding of the heritage sector, plus awareness of related current political agendas
  • good negotiation skills
  • administrative and budgeting skills
  • digital media and IT skills
  • commercial awareness and customer service skills
  • an enthusiasm for learning
  • the ability to use your initiative and work well in a team
  • experience of partnership and collaborative working
  • flexibility and creativity
  • time-management skills
  • project-management skills
  • leadership ability.

Work experience

You'll need to gain some relevant experience as competition is fierce. Look for seasonal work as a tour guide, interpreter or visitor reception assistant. It can be worth making speculative approaches, if you do your research.

Organisations such as the Wordsworth Trust and the National Trust offer paid structured training programmes, for a variety of roles in their buildings and grounds.

Volunteering is a good way of gaining experience too. Search for opportunities with the National Trust, English Heritage, the National Trust for Scotland and The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS), as these recruit volunteers to work directly with the public and for practical conservation projects.

Employers

The main employers of heritage managers are:

  • amenity societies
  • cathedrals and churches
  • conservation charities
  • conservation organisations and charities
  • heritage charities and trusts
  • local authorities
  • museums
  • privately owned historic houses, heritage centres and independent museums. Many of these are members of the Historic Houses Association
  • tourist boards and other tourism operators.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

If you work for a larger national body, or a local authority, you may receive in-house training on heritage issues and have the opportunity to attend conferences. You'll usually be encouraged to study qualifications that will aid your career development and may be given some training on general topics, such as IT, and management skills.

Training may also be available through a local consortia of heritage organisations and museums. For further information, see The Heritage Consortium.

Smaller heritage attractions may not have the scope or money to offer regular training, but joining a local heritage group can provide you with access to training opportunities and networks.

If you don't already have a postgraduate qualification, you may be encouraged to complete a part-time Masters in heritage management or museum studies, while you're working. Employers occasionally offer help with funding or study time.

A database of training courses and continuing professional development (CPD) events is provided by the MA. It encourages members working in the sector to obtain the AMA (Associateship of the Museums Association). This qualification is the MA's professional development programme and takes on average two to three years to complete. The aim is to take responsibility for your own development, with the support of a mentor, by developing job skills and the core competences needed for a career in the heritage sector.

The Association for Heritage Interpretation (AHI) also runs short courses and training events.

Specialist providers include:

Career prospects

Career paths within the sector are extremely diverse. You may begin at a fairly low level, but with a couple of years' experience secure posts with greater responsibility.

If you stay with a particular heritage attraction for a number of years, it's likely you'll be given the opportunity to influence your job description, by developing areas of personal strength or professional interest.

The larger national organisations offer scope for widening your experience and gaining promotion internally, perhaps into an area or property manager role. You may work towards gaining Associateship of the MA, which demonstrates competence developed over several years and a commitment to continuing professional development (CPD).

It's possible to move between related areas within heritage management, such as events, marketing and PR, outreach, visitor services or education. Alternatively, you could apply the skills developed in an associated area, such as writing bids and applying for funding, in order to develop a career in the independent heritage or museums sector.