What is a museum education officer and how much money do museum educators make? These are two common questions I am often asked. So, here’s my advice on this interesting and rewarding career choice, with insights from professionals working in the field today.
Museum education is a growing field, which aims to ensure that the collections within a museum or gallery act as an engaging learning resource for all ages and groups, including: under 5s and early years, families, schools, adults, and outreach.
A museum education officer develops, delivers and evaluates programmes and events, which offer learning opportunities for classes, groups and individuals. Whilst much of their work takes place within the gallery or museum setting, they are also required to offer outreach activities in the community. They often design activities and workshops which aim to engage those who don’t usually use the museum or gallery, such as hard-to-reach young people, young children, older people and families.
Starting salaries usually fall between £17,000 and £20,000.
Case Study: Rachel Craddock is Young Persons Programmer at the National Gallery, London
Rachel says that she loves her job in museum education, which is a dynamic area of work that reaches far beyond the confines of the gallery, from schools and artists’ studios, to communities and the outdoors.
“Museum education is such a dynamic area of work, which aims to widen access to the arts and respond to the needs of different audiences”.
In her role, Rachel uses visual arts to support learning for groups of all ages and backgrounds. Recently, she has been working in partnership with a number of charities and at-risk young people in local youth groups. She often works with colleagues in the Curatorial Department, considering how to break down knowledge into bite size chunks and different resources for each audience.
What are the top skills required?
- Interpersonal skills
- Communication skills: verbal and written
- Knowledge about the changes in formal education
- Willingness to share information
Why is museum & gallery education so important?
Rachel explains that museum education plays an important role in unlocking creativity, promoting visual literacy, bringing about cultural empowerment, building transferable skills, promoting health and well-being, sharing the expertise of art experts, and allowing for the exchange of skills/knowledge.
Rachel’s top tips for a career in this field
“There are many different pathways into this field as museums/galleries take on artists, art historians and teachers. Most important is obtaining work experience with the audiences you would be working with”.
The best part of the role
“You get to campaign for the values of art and education, bring cultural empowerment to people, and allow for the exchange of skills”.
How do I find work experience?
Get in touch with your local museums/galleries, as they often require volunteers, and can offer work experience opportunities and internships. It is also worth gaining some experience within other educational organisations, such as schools and educational charities, with a range of age groups.Follow institutions you are interested in on social media, as they often advertise opportunities on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Arts Council England – www.artsjobs.org.uk/ – list adverts for a range of job opportunities within the art and culture sector.
Kids in Museums – kidsinmuseums.org.uk/ – work with museums to help them welcome and include families, teenagers and children.
Engage – www.engage.org/ – is a membership organisation representing gallery, art and education professionals in the UK and over 20 countries worldwide.
GEM – www.gem.org.uk/ – champions excellence in heritage learning to improve the education, health and well-being of the general public.
Museum Studies Jobs Desk, University of Leicester – www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/JobsDesk – lists jobs, voluntary roles and internships at museums/galleries worldwide.
Day Out With The Kids – www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk – allows you to find educational activities for families at various museums/galleries, searchable by region in the UK, and which could require volunteers.
If you want more advice on getting into museum education, then head over to my interview with Jon Sleigh, who explains how he got his first job in this field.
You can also check out my resources page, filled with advice on arts careers and tips for your CV.