From local and national collections to art galleries, historic properties and heritage sites, there are plenty of job opportunities at UK museums for graduates
The Museums Association (MA) has revealed that there are around 2,500 museums in the UK, with nearly 1,800 having attained a nationally approved standard in management and collections care, as well as for their information delivery and provision of visitor services.
There are four main types of museum, according to how they are owned, managed and funded:
While average salary levels are lower for heritage jobs compared with other sectors, competition for roles is fierce in this increasingly popular field - so to take on a museum job you'll need a genuine love for what you do.
A passion for preserving history is important, although it won't be enough to secure a job. You'll need to be educated to at least degree level for many roles (though not all), but relevant work experience is even more vital.
Gaining knowledge of the sector through volunteering, work shadowing and/or an internship is essential for entry into this profession. Take advantage of every opportunity to stand out to potential employers.
You'll be the first point-of-contact for visitors to the museum, as admissions and booking staff are responsible for organising and managing ticketing systems for entry into heritage venues. You may issue tickets face-to-face or over the phone. Other responsibilities include greeting visitors and providing information about the venue.
A degree isn't necessary, but you'll stand a better chance of gaining employment if you've experience in a customer-facing role. Admin experience and proficiency when using IT systems may also be an advantage.
For this rewarding profession you'll need a range of practical experience. As an archaeologist you'll examine ancient sites and objects to learn about the past and record, interpret and preserve archaeological remains for future generations.
You'll need a degree in archaeology or a related field such as ancient history, anthropology, conservation or heritage management. Look into volunteering with local historical or archaeological societies to gain experience.
Find out more about the skills you'll need to become an archaeologist.
If you have an interest in history and in preserving records for posterity, a career as an archivist may be for you. Archivists acquire, manage and maintain documents and other materials that have historical importance.
Archives include books, papers, maps, plans, photographs and films. A large part of the job involves making information accessible to users.
To become an archivist you'll need a degree, followed by a postgraduate qualification accredited by the Archives and Records Association (ARA). The starting salary band for qualified archivists with a basic level of responsibility is £28,093 to £33,295.
Discover what life as an archivist is like.
Museums and galleries employ conservators to care for cultural collections. You'll do this by applying scientific methods to preserve and restore artefacts. Work mainly involves monitoring and controlling the environment in which collections are stored or displayed to prevent deterioration.
Conservators are often employed on short-term contracts or as self-employed freelancers. The Institute of Conservation (Icon) recommends a minimum starting salary of £24,648.
You'll need a degree in conservation, although it's possible to enter the profession with a different relevant qualification in the arts or sciences. Masters study will be needed if you don't have a relevant undergraduate degree.
Take a look at how to become a conservator.
You'll manage collections and works of art, deal with the acquisition, care and display of items, and inform and educate the public. You may also deal with fundraising, marketing, and public relations.
Jobs are open to graduates from a range of backgrounds, with a good honours degree considered the minimum academic requirement. A postgraduate qualification is often necessary.
For assistant curators, salaries are between £18,000 and £25,000, rising to £26,000 to £35,000 with experience.
Explore the responsibilities of a museum/gallery curator.
As a designer it's your responsibility to effectively communicate a story or message to exhibition visitors. Within the heritage sector, designers create cultural exhibitions to ensure historical material is educational, enjoyable and accessible.
This job is open to all graduates, but a degree in architecture, fine art, graphic design or interior or spatial design is particularly useful. The University of Lincoln runs an undergraduate degree in design for exhibition and museums.
Discover more about the role of an exhibition designer.
On the whole, exhibitions officers are responsible for planning, organising, developing, marketing, administering, producing, sourcing and maintaining permanent or travelling exhibitions for museums and galleries.
The work is open to all graduates with a good undergraduate qualification, but you may be at an advantage if you have a relevant degree such as archaeology, archive and museum studies, art conservation, history or education. A pre-entry postgraduate qualification, such as an MA or Diploma in Museum Studies, is highly desirable.
Work experience is essential. You'll also need a genuine interest in artefacts, art or other cultural material, practical skills in setting up exhibitions and excellent organisational, time and project management skills. Salaries range from £19,000 to £25,000.
Read about the skills and responsibilities of a museum/gallery exhibitions officer.
It's your job to take on the management and conservation of heritage sites such as museums, historic buildings, ancient monuments and other properties. The job focuses on balancing the preservation of historically important sites with ensuring all projects are sustainable from a business perspective.
The largest employers of heritage managers are English Heritage, the National Trust, Historic Environment Scotland and National Museum Wales.
This line of work is open to all graduates, although a relevant degree in history, heritage, archaeology, library and information services, education or geography may be useful. A museum work-based postgraduate qualification isn't essential, although a pre-entry qualification in heritage or museum management shows evidence of commitment.
Take a look at the responsibilities of a heritage manager.
You'll need an enquiring mind and excellent research skills to be a successful historian, using documents, maps, official records and photographs to study the past. You'll likely specialise in a specific time period, place, or aspect of history and some of your work may overlap with that of archaeologists, archivists and researchers.
Employers include university departments, museums and heritage organisations where you can use your expertise to educate the public about collections or artefacts.
To become a historian, you'll need a relevant undergraduate degree. The majority of people working in this field also have a Masters or PhD.
Historic buildings inspector
You'll work within central government to provide advice and information on buildings of national and historical importance.
You'll work with listed buildings such as churches, windmills, lighthouses and residential properties, and report and advise on structures and areas of special historic, architectural or artistic interest.
Although this job is open to all graduates, a degree or HND in archaeology, architecture, history, building conservation/construction, heritage management, planning or surveying may increase your chances of entry. A postgraduate qualification can also be highly advantageous.
Find out about the salary of a historic buildings inspector.
Museum education officer
Curiosity, enthusiasm, passion and an interest in the museum sector, coupled with strong communication and teaching skills are vital for a career as a museum education officer.
You'll aim to deliver high quality programmes of learning and participation and ensure that the collections in a museum act as a learning resource for all ages. You'll need at least an undergraduate degree to secure a job. Subjects such as education, community education, history, museum studies, cultural studies and archaeology may give you an advantage.
Where you hope to work may have an influence on your degree - for example, a qualification in fine art or visual art may be useful for the V&A Museum, a science and technology degree for the Science Museum, and an English literature degree for the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth.
Find out what skills you'll need to become a museum education officer.
Effectively the chief curator, a director manages and oversees all work carried out at a museum and ensures the smooth running of the operation. You'll supervise staff, set targets, control budgets and have the final say on exhibits and displays. You'll also need a solid understanding of business and finance.
As well as extensive experience of working in a museum job, you'll also need a degree. Many museum directors hold postgraduate qualifications such as a Masters or PhD.
Salaries vary considerably and depend on the type and size of museum in which you work.
General museum roles
Museums, galleries and heritage sites also employ staff to work in other departments, including roles in catering, digital media/technology, finance and fundraising, HR and recruitment, marketing and PR, and retail.
Find out more
- Gain an insight into the creative arts and design sector.
- Discover how to get into museum conservation.
- Explore more creative jobs.