Working in museums, public galleries, stately homes and other sites of historical importance, museum education officers are responsible for providing visitors with accurate and interesting information about exhibited items or historical and anecdotal facts about the site in question.
The majority of museums and other such institutions are dependent on public funding or income generated from entrance fees and the sale of souvenirs. Therefore, museum education officers may often take on other roles simultaneously. For instance, you may also find yourself working as an archivist or administrator.
If you enter this profession, the scope of your day-to-day activities will involve giving lectures, leading tours, running workshops and supervising educational seminars and practical demonstrations.
Furthermore, you’ll be responsible for training and managing volunteer staff and junior employees.
In addition to your hands-on educational responsibilities, you may play a vital role in promotional and public relations exercises, maintaining exhibits and overseeing the storage of educational materials, props and other learning tools.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for entry-level museum education officers range between £15,000 and £20,000, while experienced officers with basic supervisory responsibilities can earn around £30,000 to £35,000 per annum.
Salaries for senior personnel with managerial and strategic decision-making responsibilities can increase up to £45,000 a year.
Working hours are determined by the operating hours of the museum, gallery or historical site where you work. Consequently, you may be required to work in the evenings, over weekends and on national holidays from time to time during peak seasons, such as school holidays.
If your role involves organising road shows and mobile exhibitions, you will occasionally be required to travel the length and breadth of the UK.
To enter this profession you will need an undergraduate degree. However, the specific entry requirements for each position will depend on what kind of museum it is.
Generally though, a degree in a subject such as history, fine art, history of art, museum studies, classics, archaeology, war studies, anthropology or geography will be perfect for roles in art galleries, historical museums and places of cultural significance, such as the V&A, Imperial War Museum and the Jorvik Viking Centre.
On the other hand, a degree focusing on a scientific, engineering or I.T. discipline will be useful if you want to work in an establishment such as the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum or the Eden Project.
Some employers look for candidates with postgraduate qualifications in museum studies or a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), since the main focus of museum education work is on teaching school groups.
Training & progression
Professional training and development is largely self-initiated, although various professional bodies offer courses and opportunities for professional development, such as the Museums Association (MA) and the Group for Education in Museums (GEM).
Opportunities for career progression within large museums and galleries are limited to supervisory and managerial positions.
However, some museum education officers may eventually move into government roles which focus on administration and policy development within the wider remit of education and culture.
In a few exceptional cases, where you have established a reputation, freelance consulting is a viable alternative.