MA launches UK-wide survey into museum salaries

Geraldine Kendall, 05.01.2017
Survey will inform up-to-date salary guidelines for museums
The Museums Association (MA) is launching a comprehensive salary survey this week to gain up-to-date data on the state of pay and benefits in the sector. The UK-wide survey will be the first of its kind since the MA’s pay survey in 2004.

Funding from Arts Council England has enabled the MA to work with the specialist company Incomes Data Research to survey pay and benefits across a range of different museum job types, including front of house staff, curators, conservators, directors, technicians and learning and outreach staff. The research will also look at the growing role of freelancers and the self-employed within museums.

The research will inform a new set of salary guidelines to be published by the MA later this year. These are intended to provide a useful benchmarking tool to assess pay and benefits across museums and with equivalent roles in other sectors.
Alistair Brown, the MA’s policy officer, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to really understand how pay and benefits have changed in the museums sector in the past decade. There have been huge economic changes in that period, and we want to understand how these have affected pay in museums and equivalent professions. I’d encourage every museum to complete the survey.”
Incomes Data Research will be contacting museum HR departments this week with details about the survey.

If you have not been contacted by the Monday 9 January and would like to participate, email:


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10.01.2017, 18:17
Great to see that this survey is taking place.
There are three main types of job description:
a) The first is a list of all the jobs that need doing in a particular museum and then someone just comes up with a job title. Usually produced by an overworked museum manager/curator who desperately needs someone to share the burden.
b) The second is a list of all the duties of the job carefully reworded so as to ensure that the job doesn't merit too high a pay grade. Initially written by a museum manager, reworded by or after a meeting with the HR and Finance teams.
b) The third is the Lottery bid job description which includes everything that was squeezed into the learning and engagement plan to get the money, but with a job title at the top.
09.01.2017, 12:34
As I am the only museum professional on staff and we have no on-site HR rep, can I request information about this survey direct so I can respond?
I feel that this survey needs to go beyond contacting HR departments and needs to connect directly with the MA membership. Many museum professionals are working beyond their job descriptions - as the MA Cuts Surveys demonstrated - and I do not feel that requesting job specs and salaries will reveal enough about what salaries actually equate to in real terms with regards to hours and responsibilities.
Alistair Brown
Policy Officer, Museums Association
12.01.2017, 11:31
Yes - Please do get in touch with Claire at IDR for a copy of the survey - contact details at bottom of survey. It would be best for someone with an organisation-wide view of salaries to complete it, but let me know if you have more questions.
06.01.2017, 10:56
I have been looking for work for about a year and this has given me the opportunity to compare pay levels, JDs and recruitment procedures for a wide range of organisations advertising for similar posts.

With many organisations; whether universities, Nationals, private or trust museums, there is a wide disparity between experience and qualification requirements, level of responsibility and pay. The intermediate level jobs I have been looking at are generally being offered at around £22000 pa or less and there is quite often an essential requirement for a degree or even a post graduate qualification. I have also found posts being offered at this pay level in London (or for not much more) for 'Curator' which have been essentially a Museum Manager job, with the unfortunate candidate being expected to do everything that is required to run a museum, and some.

The person spec requirements also vary widely between a reasonable number to answer to the impossible; the Imperial War Museum's being the most unrealistically excessive. The IWM's HR department seems to have taken up the concept of competencies with an excess of zeal unmatched by any other organisation.

Some organisations manage to make the proper link between their Equality and Diversity policies and their recruitment standards and procedures, qualification requirements and pay levels. For instance the Courtauld gets the Gold Star from me for actually putting into practice the following with a good salary and reasonable requirements for qualifications and experience:

"The duties of a job and the requirements of the person to perform it shall be identified before recruitment begins. The job shall be designed to fulfill the needs intended and the educational qualifications, knowledge, experience, and skills and abilities shall be those that are essential for the effective performance of the job. These shall be reviewed regularly to ensure they remain valid".

Its been interesting to note how many organisations make much of their Equality and Diversity policies but fail to apply them to employment and recruitment, as the Courtauld does.
05.01.2017, 15:05
Small museums and private trusts do not have museum HR departments - how will data be collected from such sites? It is important to get a full picture from all museums and heritage attractions across the country - big and small.
Alistair Brown
Policy Officer, Museums Association
12.01.2017, 11:34
We're very keen to get the view from all types and sizes of museum - and have had a really good response so far. We are inviting HR departments or equivalent to fill in the survey, so for smaller organisations the survey will have been sent to the Director. If you think your museum hasn't received it and want to request a copy, please get in touch with Claire at IDR - contact details in the article.
05.01.2017, 12:31
Whilst I welcome the survey like many others, I am concerned that reaching out to Museum HR departments and local authority museums who don't have an HR departments will result in lost data as some organisations might not be responsive.

Would having an online form that individuals can fill in benefit from more data?
Alistair Brown
Policy Officer, Museums Association
12.01.2017, 11:38
We're getting good feedback from local authority museums so far, but if you think that your museum will struggle to complete it because of the structure of the local authority then please get in touch by email.

There are pros and cons to individual and institutional approaches to surveys like this - on balance we decided to go with the institutional approach, as this tends to give a more accurate picture of pay rates and grades. We also have some data from individuals from a piece of research last year.
05.01.2017, 10:54
This sounds a good idea. But may I suggest that, when you launch your survey, that you make sure you try to find some way of evaluating the extra work which staff do which may not appear on their official job descriptions?

I know this would probably be difficult to assess, but in my experience, if you look at what staff are supposed to be doing, according to their approved JD, person spec, grade etc, their pay may not seem too bad. However, in practice, years of cuts have meant that people have mountains of extra work shoved unofficially their way, unremunerated, under the radar, and absolutely not allowed to be acknowledged to be happening by management, because that would be admitting to the world that the post which the council deleted last month as supposedly redundant and not necessary, was necessary after all. It's just that some other poor soul left behind is now having to take it on instead. It's a particularly insidious form of dishonesty and it happens all the time.

The end result is that museum staff are actually doing work many grades above what they are paid for, as a matter of course. Will there be any way do you think of evaluating this?

Also - you say you will be contacting museum HR departments. I don't think local authority museums have HR of their own, we certainly don't. One is directed instead to the central council HR department who, having been cut to the bone themselves, are usually not there, or if they are, usually just say - go to our web page and sort it out yourself! It might be difficult to make sure you contact the right people under those circumstances.
06.01.2017, 11:19
This was precisely my experience. I started out as a Museum Assistant, Hey Grade level 4 in a Local Authority run museum. This post was supposed to have been basically invigilating with a little education thrown in. Within a year I was doing collections documentation, creating exhibitions, running education etc. and the post was regraded to Hay 6.
A new, more ambitious, Museum Manager came into the job and my level of responsibility began to grow and grow. I didn't mind too much as I welcomed the experience and chance to gain more skills and knowledge.
As a result of restructuring in the Council, with various managerial posts being deleted, my line manager took on a raft of new responsibilities not directly related to the running of the museum. This meant that many of the responsibilities related to the Museum Manager's post were shuffled down to me.
I eventually found myself in the position of doing my manager's job, as it had been at the time they had first started, but without the line management responsibilities for permanent members of staff. I was at the top of my grade, with no prospect of advancement or pay rise, being responsible for things I actually had no authority over. My JD didn't reflect in any degree what I was actually doing.
06.01.2017, 11:42
Yes, there are only a few factors which mean HR/management are obliged to look at your grade - one is being responsible for budgets, the other is managing staff. If they take those off your official job description but leave you with everything else you can be stuck on your low grade forever because there is no official 'reason' to upgrade you any further. Similar happened to me, so I sympathise.

While I am sure this can happen in every public sector role these days, I would be interested to hear how the Museums Association can take some of these factors into account, I know it won't be easy, but it would be a shame to go to all the trouble of commissioning this potentially very worthwhile survey but then have its results skewed and unrepresentative of the realities which so many museum staff face.