Career Center

Museums and Outreach

Careers in museums and outreach focus on helping a public audience to learn and have access to interesting objects and experiences. Traditional museum careers include curators and conservators; now, however, museums employ a wide variety of other professionals, including educators, craftspeople, designers, technicians, fundraisers, and business people. The current focus for museums and galleries is on interpreting collections and opening them up to as many people as possible. See these videos for more detailed introductions. 

Other outreach careers can be found in many different settings including nonprofit education centers, youth camps, and in conjunction with school systems. In the sciences, this can also be called Informal Science Education (ISE). 

Explore The Variety of Positions and Roles in Museums and Outreach

Look up these titles or fields on Indeed or LinkedIn to learn more about what projects they work on and what skills are needed. This information is also useful when writing your application documents and preparing for interviews.

 

Curator/Exhibit Developer

  • Create engaging experiences for different audiences
  • Conduct field research 
  • Acquire, store, and arrange exhibits of the materials 
  • Oversee the care and display of objects and exhibits
  • Assist registrars and designers in assembling the museum catalog

Archivist

  • Authenticate, appraise, and preserve documents and objects
  • Create and manage electronic records
  • Research and acquire new materials
  • Exhibit designer
  • Plan layout and display of objects in the space 
  • Contribute to creation of museum catalog, posters, brochures, and advertisements

Educator/Programs

  • Lead tours and programs for museum visitors 
  • Collaborate with curators and designers to develop exhibits from an educational perspective
  • Make information from exhibits approachable to audiences of different ages and backgrounds

Researcher/Professor

  • Conduct research relevant to the focus of the museum
  • Create opportunities for public to interact with current research topics
  • Sometimes in joint appointment with a nearby university or college

Registrar

  • Manage the movement of catalogued materials
  • Add new materials to the collections 
  • Oversee safety

Program Coordinator

  • Establish and run educational programs for specific groups
  • Recruit and oversee volunteers
  • Manage events
  • Interact with public, students, participants

Conservator

  • Maintain the integrity of objects
  • Keep detailed records of all conservation work done
  • Maintain stable environmental conditions for objects on exhibit and in storage

Public Relations Officer

  • Write and distribute press releases and announcements to inform the school and the community about events
  • Contact local television stations and newspapers with information about the museum
  • Collaborate with designer to create promotional materials 

Development/Fundraising

  • Develop and manage fundraising events and teams
  • Create new events to promote particular topics
  • or exhibits
  • Reach out to and partner with donors, schools,
  • and vendors

Business Officer 

  • Write applications for grants from corporate sponsors 
  • Contact businesses, government agencies and charitable foundations
  • Promote museums and their exhibitions
  • Manage social media campaigns and invite critics to review exhibitions

Compare Different Organizations with Museum and Outreach Roles

* = in the Raleigh-Durham area; # = history of sponsoring visas from myvisajobs.com

Search LinkedIn or Google Finance for these employers, and look for the section on related companies to help you identify others.

U.S. Government

  • National Museum of American History
  • Smithsonian Design Museum
  • National Archives and Records Administration

State-Funded Public Museum

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • North Carolina Museum of History*
  • California Science Center

Corporate Museum

  • 21c Museum Hotel*
  • King Arthur Flour Museum
  • Wells Fargo History Museum
  • WWE

Preservation

  • John Milner Associates Preservation
  • Art Preservation Services

University Museum

  • Nasher Museum of Art*#
  • Harvard University Museum of Natural History#
  • African American Cultural Center, NCSU*#

Exhibit Design

  • ESI Design#
  • ProExhibits
  • Studio Displays, Inc.

Nonprofits

  • Emily K Center*
  • Greensboro Science Center
  • Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts

Seek Out These Additional Museum and Outreach Career Resources

Museum Planner blog 

Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits 

Surrounded by Science 

Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects 

Profile of a Musicology PhD alum who is the Education Director of the Savannah Music Festival

Profile of an Art, Art History and Visual Studies PhD alum who is the Curator of Academic Programs at the Nasher Museum of Art

See museum and outreach professionals’ career stories, sample application documents, and panel discussion on Versatile PhD 

Meet Museum and Outreach Professionals to Talk About Opportunities and Their Careers

Join a professional association

American Association of Museums 

Association of Science and Technology Centers 

Association of Zoos and Aquariums 

National AfterSchool Association  

Citizen Science Association 

Other associations listed on Cultural Connections  

Particpate in the Museum-L email list of museum professionals 

Contact Duke alumni and other professionals in museum and outreach roles for informational interviews

Duke Alumni Association  

Alumni on LinkedIn (use the Find Alumni tool under My Network)

LinkedIn Groups: Museum & Art Galleries, National Emerging Museum Professionals Network, Small Museum Professionals

Gain Experience

You can gain experience in many ways that involve different amounts of time investment.

Participate in existing outreach programs and internships

Nasher Museum of Art 

Ackland Museum of Art  

NC Museum of Art volunteer  

NC Museum of Art intern  

Thompson Writing Program 

Duke Office of Durham and Regional Affairs 

Duke Center for Science Education 

Duke Biology Dept. 

Duke Chemistry Dept. 

Center for Biomolecular and Tissue Engineering 

Pratt School of Engineering 

NC Museum of Natural Sciences volunteer  

NC Museum of Natural Sciences intern 

Museum of Life and Science 

Take part in professional development programs from the American Alliance of Museums 

Intern at a museum such as the Smithsonian 

Intern at a museum such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Teach relevant age groups and develop instructional design skills through these opportunities

Participate in improv or acting classes to better interact with live audiences

Communicate complex ideas from your field for lay audiences through a blog or social media

Build These Specific Skill Sets and Highlight Them When Applying

We summarized the skills professionals mentioned in LinkedIn profiles and job postings. Particular jobs may not require all of these skill sets, so find out from online resources and professionals you meet which of these skills sets are most relevant.

Expertise & research

  • Relevant knowledge and understanding of relevant topics
  • Stay current on developments in field
  • Conduct background research
  • Analyze historical evidence or evidence from the literature

Communicate 

  • Write and speak to diverse audiences
  • Teach
  • Help students grasp complex and abstract concepts
  • Break down complicated ideas into bite-sized pieces

Organization 

  • Manage databases
  • Keep records of exhibits and artifacts
  • Detail-oriented

Interpersonal

  • Client-focused
  • Customer service-oriented
  • Interfacing with diverse stakeholders

Project management

  • Coordinate efforts on multiple, concurrent projects
  • Produce under deadlines
  • Budget management
  • Collaborate
  • Leadership

Artistic (design/teaching roles)

  • Drawing and/or computer-based design
  • Use programs such as Quark Xpress, InDesign, and FreeHand
  • Creativity
  • Studio art experience

Museum and Outreach Job Search Tools

Consider the common skills required by jobs and internships.

Museum Employment Resource Center, job listings for museums 

Global Museum, museum-focused job listings and news 

HERCjobs, job listing for the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium 

Association of Science-Technology Centers Job Bank 

Idealist, nonprofit job listings 

HigherEdJobs 

USAJobs, and career sites for state and local governments; get application tips 

Fellowship/postdoc at Smithsonian 

Exhibit design firms listing 

AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship