Museum Studies

Earnings Potential

There are many positions for someone interested in museum studies, so salaries vary. According to the BLS website Median annual earnings of archivists in May 2004 were $36,470. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,900 and $46,480. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,260. Median annual earnings of curators in May 2004 were $43,620. The middle 50 percent earned between $32,790 and $58,280. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,360, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $77,490. Median annual earnings of museum technicians and conservators in May 2004 were $31,820. The middle 50 percent earned between $23,770 and $43,020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,260.

In 2005, the average annual salary for archivists in the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions was $75,876; for museum curators, $76,126; for museum specialists and technicians, $55,291; and for archives technicians, $41,347. More examples of the salary that can be earned are on the American Association of museums website (http://www.aam-us.org/aboutaam/employment/index.cfm).  An assistant director can make in the low to mid $50,000 a year. Someone who wants to write for their newsletter can make in the high 30’s or mid 40’s in terms of thousands of dollars a year.

Facts at a glance

  • Most worked in museums, historical sites, and similar institutions; educational institutions; or in Federal, State, or local government.
  • A graduate degree and related work experience generally are required.
  • Keen competition is expected for most jobs because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings.

Summary of what this career entails

Those who work in museum studies can work for museums, governments, zoos, colleges and universities, and corporations. For the most part if one is working in the museum field, he or she is obtaining, documenting and preserving important documents and records for permanent display (or at least permanent storage). The types of achieves that are analyzed, recorded, described and maintained are works of art, transcriptions of meetings, coins and stamps, plants and animals (including those that are living) and historic places. When it comes to specifics, an achiever usually puts together education and public outreach programs. Examples of that can be tours, workshops, lectures and classes. A curator will do similar things, but they usually deal with historical pieces such as artistic works (ex. Paintings). An achiever deals with records and documents because of possible past, present or future importance. The kinds of documents that an achiever keeps records of are photographs, films, media, computer tapes, disks, and papers. A curator is another word for an administrator; they oversee museums, zoos, aquariums and other things in a similar vein.  

Examples and or details of work

The work that is done by people in the museum studies field has been analyzed in the last 20 years as two books have come out in the last 16 years discussing it. Peter Vergo wrote a book that was published in 1989 called the New Museology. The book was a series of essays on museums that talk about the phenomenon of museums and how they create discussion about cultural issues. The other book is Issues of Representation and the Smithsonian by Amy Henderson and Adrienne L. Kaeppler. The book is a series of essays that mainly discuss the job of a curator. http://gmoa.blogspot.com/2006/08/books-museum-studies-part-i.html.

Degrees that lead to this career

To gain employment in the museum studies field most likely involves a graduate degree (during this time an achiever or a curator is usually working in a museum to get experience). Employers prefer archivist who have a masters degree in library science or history, along with an undergraduate degree in museum studies. Curators for the most part need a masters degree in art, history, archaeology or museum studies.

Specific Career openings in this field

Jobs in the field include archivists, curator, museum technician, professor, or teacher.

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