5 Types of Museum Educator Jobs (Plus Skills and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 7, 2021

Museums contain large numbers of artifacts, documents and artwork that visitors can browse to learn information about various cultures and eras of history. Museum educators help the public access and interpret information in museums so that they can appreciate their visit and expand their knowledge. If you're interested in facilitating museum visits as a career, learning about museum education jobs can help you compare possible job paths. In this article, we explain the basics of jobs in museum education, review qualifications for museum educators and explore tips for getting museum education jobs.

What are museum educator jobs?

Museum educator jobs are positions that involve teaching in museums or using museum tools and information to share knowledge and concepts. Many museums have education departments that hire professionals to find various ways to engage visitors and teach them about the artifacts and their historical context. Museum educators may interact directly with visitors or prepare lesson plans using the museum collection to inspire activities and lectures.

Related: Top 9 Careers Working in or With Museums

Types of museum educator jobs

Because museum visitors and community members engage with museums in different ways, there are several types of jobs within the museum education field. Depending on the size of the museum, multiple museum educators may work in the same department or in different parts of the museum. Here are some of the types of museum educator positions you can explore in a museum:

Docents

A docent is a museum tour guide with extensive training in that specific museum's collection. They provide tours to museum visitors and teach them information about items at the museum, including stories and extra context to supplement the labels for each artifact. Docents communicate with visitors to determine which artworks in the collection may interest them most, then design custom tours that emphasize those topics. Some museums hire full-time or part-time paid docents, while others have a group of volunteer docents.

Related: How To Become a Tour Guide in a Museum

Volunteer managers

Museums often have large volunteer populations who help with education programs for children, families and adults. Volunteer managers train volunteers on details about the museum collection, museum education strategies and other practices for interacting with visitors. They also act as a liaison between community groups and volunteers, ensuring that volunteers understand special requests and have access to the educational materials they need to serve guests. Museum volunteer managers may recruit qualified managers for different types of educational museum programming, create schedules and supervise volunteers during programs.

Education managers

Many museums have relationships with local schools for field trips and other programs. Education and school programs managers communicate with school districts and teachers to align tour content at museums with what students learn in class and enhance their educational experience. They determine which exhibits and museum artifacts contribute to student growth and academic benchmarks at different developmental levels. Education managers review the content of upcoming galleries and determine the best ways to use that information to educate community members and develop their interest in art, history and related subjects.

Teaching specialists

At museums, teaching specialists guide classes and events like summer camps and gallery programs. Museums may hire teaching specialists to design museum-based curriculum for community partner groups like nonprofits for low-income facilities or assisted living facilities. Teaching specialists at museums may also design methods and gallery materials to help people of all abilities to enjoy museum exhibits. Museum teaching specialists create lesson plans that they and other museum educators can use in the gallery or the classroom to inspire students.

Curators

Although curators primarily source and organize artworks and artifacts, they have some museum education responsibilities as well. When preparing wall labels for items, curators consider what information visitors want to know and how to best share those details. They also collaborate with teaching specialists and education managers to create exhibits that serve the community's interests and needs. Curators may also educate the public during gallery talks, presentations and articles about their upcoming exhibits.

Education for museum educator careers

Museum educators typically need a minimum of a bachelor's degree, although many have a master's degree or even a Ph.D. Aspiring museum educators with a bachelor's degree can often qualify for entry-level positions as volunteer coordinators or tour guides. If you have a master's degree, you may search for management positions in museum education. Museum education professionals with Ph.D.s in their field may work in museum education management, consulting or as education department directors in museums.

To work in museum education, it's important to get a degree that focuses on history, art history or education. Studying a combination of these topics can help you develop the interdisciplinary knowledge you need to teach others about art, history, artifacts, cultures, music and countless other topics museums address. Your formal education develops your critical thinking skills, teaches you how to use them in a museum environment and builds your ability to interact with visitors of all ages. Many museum educators study history or art history during their undergraduate degree then get a master's in museum education.

Related: 10 Popular History Degree Jobs

Skills for museum educator roles

While the specific duties of museum educators vary depending on their title and the type of position, most museum educators use several core skills as part of their job:

  • Observation: Museum educators teach students to observe the visual elements of artwork and other items to learn about historic and cultural contexts.

  • Class management: When teaching in a gallery, museum educators use class management techniques to guide students to behave appropriately in a museum environment and engage with the lesson.

  • Critical thinking: One of the key roles of a museum educator is to think critically about what an audience can learn about historical artifacts and pieces of art. They use critical thinking skills to guide discussion among students and teach lessons to visitors.

  • Communication: An important part of educating museum guests is communicating ideas and answering questions. Museum educators have strong communication skills to engage with visitors and promote productive discussion about the gallery content.

  • Memorization: Successful museum educators often have a strong memory so that they can recall details about items in the museum, like dates, locations, cultural movements, artist names and other background details.

Related: How To Incorporate Teaching Skills on a Resume

Tips for finding museum educator jobs

Museum education is a competitive field, so it's important to prepare for your job search. Use these tips to increase your chances of finding a museum educator job:

  • Get an internship. Being an intern at a museum is a great way to meet museum educators, expand your network and build your resume. During your internship, explore museum various museum education positions and communicate with your colleagues about your future career aspirations.

  • Volunteer at museums. Applying to volunteer at museums where you want to work demonstrates your passion and devotion to their work. Because the museum field is competitive, showing commitment to your community and a passion for museums for volunteering may help you find a job.

  • Browse job boards. Search online job boards with keywords related to museum education, including variations of museum educator job titles. Consider setting up an email alert to notify you about new postings for museum educator roles.

  • Search museum websites. Think of the top museums you want to work for, and regularly review their website for open positions. Many museums have a career page on their website where they list job openings, so checking them regularly can help you apply quickly.

Explore more articles