Issue 114/03, p15, 01.03.2014
Do you need a postgraduate qualification for a career in museums?
Christopher Whitby learning audience researcher and advocate, Science Museum
“Qualifications can teach you theory, but working with people and objects and trying a variety of events, activities and tasks creates an understanding of the implementation of these skills, while picking up this theory in practice. Educational knowledge doesn’t always equate to a confident worker.
In a competitive job market, qualifications are a simple, but restrictive, way of sifting. Museums have a chance to create a more representative and diverse workforce that may not have access to further education, or degrees, but has the drive to understand our ever-evolving audiences.”
Simon Brown, artefact loans officer, Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
“I worked outside the sector for four years after gaining a degree, just waiting for any chance in a museum. When that chance came, it was a two-day-a-week assistant post, which I leapt at.
I have taken every opportunity to gain more experience (voluntary or otherwise) in every aspect of the sector, learning from the experienced professionals with whom I have been fortunate to work.
I know that a broad range of experience can only improve my ability, and this experience has given me the knowledge and confidence to take the first steps on my career. An MA certainly isn’t a prerequisite.”
Hilary McGowan, cultural consultant and executive coach
“No. Your skills, knowledge, experience and attitude are more important. Experience from any walk of life improves your employability and voluntary work can teach a lot.
You need to stand out from the crowd, so visit as many museums and talk to as many museum staff as you can.
Observe the visitors, examine websites and reflect on what these tell you. If you can show that you have thought about museums, have reflected on what you have learnt and can speak eloquently about how you can contribute to the post for which you are applying, you will stand out.”
Lauren Field, collections management trainee, Stockport Museums
“Three years ago, I would have said yes. I applied for a master’s as the jobs I was applying for cited it as essential.
However, I gave up my postgraduate education in favour of a year-long on-the-job curatorial traineeship. It soon became obvious to me that practical experience and a passion for what you do is just as, if not more, essential.
Not everyone who has the qualifications has the skills. If I had spent that year reading about caring for a collection rather than doing it, I would have been in exactly the same position as before – unprepared.”