Careers Service Occupations

Museums, Galleries & Archaeology

Museums, Galleries and Archaeology

About

There are an estimated 2,500 museums and art galleries in the UK.

'Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.' This definition includes art galleries with collections of works of art, as well as museums with historical collections of objects. Museums definition, Museums Association (MA), 1998. 

Museums and galleries are having to embrace a new digital era, with many now offering virtual tours, online archives and connecting with visitors through social media.

Careers advice

Articles

Guardian Careers hold live Q&A forums with panels of experts, eg:

Industry news

Professional bodies

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates. 

They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.

The main professional associations for this sector include:

Councils and government departments

Heritage and archives

Museums and galleries

Antiquaries

Archaeology

Heraldry and genealogy

Find professional bodies outside of the UK on GoinGlobal by selecting ‘Professional and Personal Networking’ on each of the individual country guides.

Making contacts

Making contacts is useful for success in this sector. Many jobs in this field come through networking and speculative applications.

You could start with:

Events

Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and events give insight and opportunities to make contacts. 

Regular events for this sector include Creative Careers, hosted each year early in semester two. Past sessions have included ‘working for an arts venue’.

For more events for this sector see Careers Service events or External Events.

Related sectors

You may also be interested in:

Or see our other Explore Occupations pages for more options.

Roles

Museum and gallery professionals can work in a variety of locations, including national, independent, university and local authority museums and galleries, along with and heritage properties and sites.

In an analysis of job adverts from the museum sector, aside from specialist museum skills, communication, time management and IT skills were the most commonly requested skills. Passion and being a team player were the most common ‘personal qualities’. Character Matters: Attitudes, behaviours and skills in the UK Museum Workforce, BOP Consulting with The Museum Consultancy, September 2016

The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties, entry requirements and case studies.

There are additional case studies listed on the Museums Association website.

Archaeologist

Archivist

Exhibition designer

Heritage manager

Museum/gallery conservator

Museum/gallery curator

Museum/gallery exhibitions officer

Museum education officer

Skills employers look for

  • excellent written and verbal communication skills, along with the ability to effectively tailor your communication to different audiences
  • time management, planning and organisational skills
  • research skills and attention to detail
  • team working skills and a customer focused approach
  • IT skills and an awareness of how technology is impacting the sector
  • a genuine interest in and a commitment to the museum, heritage and galleries sector

Gaining Experience

Having relevant experience on your CV is a vital way of demonstrating your knowledge to employers. It helps develop your essential key skills and highlights your commitment.

In the museum and heritage sector, it is common for offers of internships on an unpaid basis.

Unpaid internships or volunteering can sometimes be the only way to get experience and successfully apply for full-time work. 

This can discriminate against students who don't have resources to support themselves in internship. These opportunities can provide excellent experience, invaluable contacts and industry knowledge. But you must also weigh up the implications of working for free. 

See Internships, Placements & Shadowing for links to information about unpaid work and your employment rights. 

Eligible students can apply for a Career Insights Bursary and receive a bursary of up to £500 to help with costs related to undertaking unpaid experience.

The Careers Service does not advertise unpaid opportunities unless for charitable or not-for-profit organisations. 

Work experience advice

In the North East

See also volunteering

Advertised opportunities

Vacancy sites

  • Museum Jobs - Leicester University's job site for heritage and museums management includes internships and voluntary opportunities
  • ICON: Internships - conservation internships
  • Global Museum – look under museum jobs for internships, based mainly in the US
  • Search for vacancies on MyCareer

Professional bodies and research councils also advertise opportunities. See About for a list of organisations.

Specific programmes

You can also find information about how to take part in a dig and to help protect listed buildings on Council for British Archaeology: volunteering and Training Online Resource Centre (TORC).

Finding organisations

Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach organisations or find work through networking in the industry.

Find organisations that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.
Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

Try the following sites to find companies to approach: 

Newcastle University Alumni

Other ways to gain experience

If you are having difficulty finding experience relevant to heritage and museum management, consider:

Finding Jobs

There are a wide variety of resources for sourcing jobs in the museums and galleries sector.

Competition is strong, especially for entry-level positions. Use the following resources to find advertised vacancies and also research employers for speculative applications.

Professional bodies and research councils also advertise opportunities. See About for a list of organisations.

Vacancy sites

Museums and galleries

Gallery jobs has a useful guide of where to look for jobs in galleries. You can also find jobs posted through National Trust and also through English Heritage.

Archaeology

Public sector and higher education vacancies

Finding organisations

Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach organisations or find work through networking in the industry.

Find organisation that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.
Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

Try the following sites to find companies to approach:

Newcastle University Alumni

See Researching Employers for more ways to source and research companies.

Find jobs and additional vacancy source websites outside of the UK on GoinGlobal.

Study & Training

It is possible to find work in museums and galleries with an undergraduate degree in a range of academic backgrounds. However, many positions require, or desire, a postgraduate qualification.

An MA or diploma in museum or gallery studies, or a PhD in your specialist area, can give you an advantage. 

But competition for jobs in this sector is high. Having a postgraduate qualification will not guarantee you a job. It can give you the chance to build your contacts through conferences and placements.

Work experience, voluntary or paid, is usually essential to get a place on a course and to find a job at the end of it.

If you're not sure if postgraduate study is for you, take a look at Further Study or come and talk to us. No appointment is needed.