Academic and training needs
Most jobs in museums require a high standard of education:
Academic qualifications

GCSEs and A level

Subjects aren't usually important at this level. But it helps to have chemistry A level if you want to become a conservator.

Undergraduate degree

In theory the subject you study isn't important - most people go on to do a professional qualification as well anyway. In practice museum workers say that if you want to specialise in a particular area - such as fine art, social history even education - then it helps to have a relevant degree.

Professional qualifications

Most people following a professional or management career in museums have a postgraduate professional qualification. It could be a certificate (such as a PGCE), a diploma or a masters degree. Mostly these require students to be graduates but some universities operate an access route for people with valid experience.

Some people take a postgraduate museum studies qualification before getting their first museum job, but many get their first job without one.

Is a postgraduate museum studies course right for you?

Research into entry to the museum workforce
Work-based qualifications

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) levels two to five are available. Levels two and three in visitor services are the most popular but there is some demand for levels four and five which roughly equate to professional and management qualifications. You need to have a museum or heritage related job to work for NVQs, which are based on experience. You also need plenty of management support.

Postgraduate museum studies qualifications are often taken part-time, or by distance learning, by people working in museums.

The Associateship of the Museums Association (AMA) is a membership level of the MA rather than a qualification. It is a professional development award recognised across the UK museum sector that acknowledges the experience, qualifications and commitment of museum professionals. The AMA is open to all museum staff, whether full- or part-time, paid or unpaid. It takes two years to achieve and participants have to make a commitment of 70 hours in that period.

For more about the AMA, click here
Work-based training schemes

CMC Apprentices from Cumbria Museum Consortium on Vimeo.

Museum apprentices in Cumbria describing their experiences on the Cumbria Museums Cornsortium Apprenticeship Scheme

The route into a museum or gallery career is primarily an academic one, but there are paid, work-based training and internship schemes on offer. Bear in mind that space on all of these programmes is limited and demand is extremely high.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) runs a programme called Skills for the Future that funds paid, work-based training at museums across the UK. More information about work placement programmes at specific museums can be found on the HLF website.

The British Museum has a programme called Future Curators, which offers trainees a bursary to spend 18 months working at UK museums, combining formal training and on-the-job experience. Participants gain an accredited diploma in curatorship at the end of their placement.

Museums Galleries Scotland runs an internship programme that offers 20 paid placements a year at a number of host museums across Scotland. The scheme is aimed at applicants who have not completed a postgraduate degree. www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/skills-and-training/mgs-interns/

The Institute of Conservation (Icon) runs work-based, paid internship programmes for would-be conservators in partnership with host museums across the UK.

Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service is the UK's first 'teaching museum', offering an on-the-job training and development programme to museum trainees. The placements are paid a starting salary and do not require applicants to have previous museum experience, but higher level qualifications (A-level or undergraduate degree) are a must. 

The Cumbria Museums Consortium sponsors nine paid apprenticeships each year at Tullie House Museum, the Wordsworth Trust and Lakeland Arts. The placements are for non-graduates living in England who are over 16 and not in fulltime education.

If you know of other museum-run training programmes that should be on this list, please email: cpd@museumsassociation.org