How to Become a Museum Director

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Museums are facilities that house collections of artifacts and other items of historic value. Museum directors are highly education professionals that are responsible for the overall function of a museum.


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What does a museum director do?

Museum directors oversee all the operations of museums. They supervise curators, archivists, museum technicians, and other museum staff and provide direction and resolve conflicts. They ensure the objects are carefully handled and they make executive decisions regarding exhibits and displays. They also coordinate sponsorships, fundraising, and educational programs. Museum directors are responsible for finances, payroll, creating and following budgets, and scheduling tours for a variety of individuals and groups. Some museum directors also handle research activities and participate in writing grants. The museum director acts as an important liaison between the staff and the Board of Trustees of the museum. They communicate the board’s policies, goals, and strategies and protect the interests of the staff.

What kind of training does a museum director need?

Museum directors typically need at least a master degree in museum studies, history, or other related field and sufficient work experience. Some museum directors have a doctorate degree or two master degrees (usually one in museum studies and the other in a specialty) to remain competitive in the field. Many aspiring museum directors complete internships while pursuing their education to gain practical experience in the field. Many museum directors begin their careers in lower level positions and advance to directors when they gain the required skills and experience. Most museum directors complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers to keep their skills up to date and stay abreast with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a museum director?

Employment of museum directors is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 20% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing population and increased demand for new museums will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good with keen competition. Museum directors with advanced training and extensive experience will have the best job opportunities.

How much do museum directors make?

As of January 2010, the average annual salary for museum directors is $50,000; average annual museum director salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a museum director is a great choice for people with a strong interest in managing the overall function of many different types of museums. Museum directors must have a solid understanding of museum studies and the policies and procedures of running a museum. Good business skills, detail orientation, excellent problem solving skills, and good leadership ability are necessary characteristics. Museum directors must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to interact with a variety of people. They must be quick on their feet and make effective decisions. They must also have good marketing skills to coordinate fundraising efforts and increase museum attendance.

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