A heritage manager is responsible for the conservation and management of heritage sites like historic buildings, landscapes, museums, ancient monuments and other properties.

It is an evolving career with a broad remit of responsibilities, ranging from the preservation of important sites, through to developing plans to maintain a community's culture or a region's industrial legacy.

A management role in the heritage sector is all about balancing the preservation of the site while also ensuring the project is generating income and is sustainable from a business perspective.

A heritage management role can encompass a considerable diversity of job titles, with individual post holders coming from a variety of backgrounds from both within and outside the sector.

Responsibilities

Tasks vary depending on the specific role and responsibilities held, as well as the setting of the job.

At large sites, managing the property, the collections and visitor services are likely to be separate functions for a team of managers, while at smaller sites one manager may be responsible for all of these things.

In general, activities may involve:

  • managing budgets and strategic planning;
  • securing funding from external sources;
  • generating income from commercial activities, such as catering and hiring out the venue for events and film shoots;
  • running a commercial shop;
  • administering the collection of entrance fees, donations, sponsorship and memberships;
  • organising and monitoring building, renovation and conservation work;
  • recruiting, supervising and motivating staff and volunteers;
  • dealing with the media to promote the site;
  • using IT to generate market share, raise visitor numbers, etc.;
  • developing new ways to present the attraction or collection to maximise visitors' enjoyment and understanding;
  • ensuring high standards of customer service and health and safety for visitors to the site;
  • writing reports, policies and procedures, marketing documents and interpretive material;
  • project management;
  • relating at a senior level to local authorities or national bodies within whose remit the site may fall;
  • liaising 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;
  • developing outreach activities in the local community;
  • keeping up to date with developments in the field and with historical research into topics related to the attraction;
  • dealing with enquiries from the public and researchers;
  • designing and analysing visitor feedback surveys.

Salary

The sector is generally regarded as low paying. Seasonal, holiday, non-graduate related posts usually start at the minimum wage but may reach higher scales.

  • There are various roles at different levels within heritage work, meaning a range of salaries are available. At an entry or trainee level, salaries can be around £16,000 to £19,500.
  • With a postgraduate qualification, salaries of £19,750 to £23,750 can be achieved.
  • After two to three years' experience has been gained and with more strategic responsibilities salaries can be in the region of £24,250 to £31,250. With a PhD, this can increase to £36,250.
  • At a senior management or director level expected salaries can be £31,250 to £68,750, progressing at various stages depending on the seniority of the role.

Income data from the Museums Association. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

here can be early starts and late finishes. You can expect to work unsocial hours if employed at visitor attractions that are open at weekends, or for evening events or filming.

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

What to expect

  • Most jobs are office based, but many heritage sites include unusual historic buildings and are open air, so guided tours and special activities may take place out of doors.
  • 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.
  • Area managers with national organisations may spend a significant proportion of their time travelling, whereas managers of museums in an urban local authority would be centrally based.

Qualifications

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

  • 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 museum work-based postgraduate qualification is not always essential, although a pre-entry qualification in heritage or museum management provides evidence of commitment. Search for postgraduate courses in heritage management.

Many postgraduate courses include 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;
  • negotiating and persuading 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 and leadership qualities.

Work experience

Relevant experience is essential, even for entry-level posts, for which competition is fierce. Seasonal work as a tour guide, interpreter or visitor reception assistant, though often poorly paid, provides experience and can sometimes lead to permanent work.

Voluntary experience can be gained at many heritage sites and some, such as the Wordsworth Trust, have structured programmes that last a year. Speculative approaches should be carefully researched and targeted. Think about your skills and experience and which area interests you most. You are more likely to be successful if you can make a regular commitment.

The National Trust and the National Trust for Scotland recruit volunteers to work directly with the public and for practical conservation projects. Time spent as a volunteer is viewed favourably if you apply for paid employment with the National Trust, as it demonstrates commitment to its ethos.

A variety of volunteering opportunities including education, visitor and interpretation roles can be found at English Heritage.

Your local heritage attractions may also have volunteer positions, especially during the school holidays, which are traditionally the busiest times of year for the heritage sector. To find your nearest attractions contact your local tourist information office or check the websites of regional tourist boards.

Employers

The largest employers are national organisations such as:

Public sector employers include local authorities, where heritage may be associated with a number of departments including:

  • education;
  • leisure;
  • planning;
  • marketing;
  • exhibition organisation;
  • conservation;
  • tourism.

Tourist boards offer further opportunities, as do cathedrals and churches. Amenity societies, such as the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, generally have a very small permanent staff, but sometimes offer voluntary opportunities.

Private sector employers include privately owned historic houses, heritage centres and independent museums. Many of these are members of the:

Look for job vacancies at:

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

The larger national bodies and local authorities run in-house training courses covering areas such as IT and management skills, as well as courses and conferences on heritage issues.

Training may also be available through a local consortia of heritage organisations and museums. Most of the larger heritage organisations encourage studying qualifications that will aid career development.

If you do not have a postgraduate qualification, you may be encouraged to complete a part-time Masters in heritage management or museum studies while you are 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).

The AMA 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:

Smaller heritage attractions may not have the scope or money to offer regular training. Joining a local heritage group may provide you with access to the training opportunities and networks you will need to progress.

Career prospects

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

Career progression in general is based on gaining a range of skills in managing people, budgets and projects. It can be useful to have a specialism, especially if you are looking to develop as a freelance consultant or build in career flexibility to move within the sector or even outside it.

Senior managers may come from specific functions, such as education, visitor services or collections management. Alternatively, they may be recruited for their skills and experience in areas such as marketing, finance, project management and human resources, which they gained outside the heritage sector. The growing need to develop commercial activities means that substantial business or financial experience is valued, wherever it has been acquired.

Promotion is likely to involve moving to a different museum or historical site so flexibility and a willingness to be geographically mobile are helpful. You may need to move from a small to a large employer in order to get experience in areas such as managing staff, or from a large employer to a small one in order to broaden your experience.

Managers who remain with a particular heritage attraction for a number of years tend to find they are given the opportunity to influence their job description by taking on functions that play to their personal strengths or professional interests. This may mean expanding the team and managing a group of staff including a shop manager, curator and education officer. In addition it may involve being responsible for guides, front-of-house staff and volunteer groups, all of whom need considerable management input.

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 is 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.