Students in art gallery and museum studies at the University of Manchester

Entry points

Tamsin Russell, 01.03.2018
There are multiple ways in which students can engage with the museum sector to develop their career, says Tamsin Russell
Museums and galleries are complex organisations that perform a wide variety of functions with public benefit at their heart. This means that there is huge diversity in the types of organisations, collections and job roles in the sector, in addition to the range of towns and cities they are in. There are multiple entry points and career paths, which is a strength as it means the sector is open to different experiences and specialisms.

If you have been thinking about a career in museums you may be surprised by the breadth of roles available and how the more traditional jobs, such as that of curator, have evolved to reflect 21st-century priorities. Part of your career journey will be to navigate these possibilities, as it will influence the approach you take.

There are multiple ways to engage with the sector and a career can start from volunteering and working your way up; from participating in a traineeship; or from undertaking a PhD on part of a collection. Postgraduate study provides dedicated time and space to immerse yourself in current theory and practice. It can be something you undertake early on to gain an additional qualification, or later in your career, providing you with updates and advances in the field.

The museums and galleries sector is competitive so you need to be able to demonstrate your skills, knowledge and experience to be successful.

One way is to undertake postgraduate study. Also, the sector needs a workforce that can make an effective contribution as quickly as possible, so having experience in the sector is essential. It is important to remember that working in the sector is not a theoretical pursuit but a practical one.

Our commitment

The Museums Association (MA) is committed to developing a workforce that meets the needs of museums, collections and audiences. We also support the health, wellbeing and professionalism of the workforce.

Our professional development programme includes events, resources and continuing professional development schemes such as the Associateship of the MA and the Fellowship of the MA. It enables those in the sector to develop in a role or specialism, and remain up to date with best practice and current thinking.

Whether you are an MA member, early in your career or looking to move into the sector, we are here to support, signpost and develop your career.

Your commitment

The museum sector is going through a challenging period, with funding being cut, institutions shutting down and jobs changing. To be successful, you need to be tenacious, curious, opportunistic and prepared.

You need to know what you want to do, where you want to go and what you want to work with – not necessarily now but as a future destination. Knowing all this will help you make the right decisions along the way.

You need to be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, have an insatiable appetite for learning and the ability to be realistic. This is where your journey starts and we are here to help and support you.

Links and downloads

Courses guide and listings 2018 (pdf)