“I’m interested in working in an art museum. Any advice?”

intern working and smiling

A smiling UMFA intern

Why yes, I do have some advice for people interested in museum work – volunteer, do an internship, and know something about the museum before you apply for a job.

(Disclaimer – this blog’s author is also the internship coordinator. And I share an office with the volunteer coordinator. We are currently accepting applications for both the intern program (due March 9)  and the weekend docent program (due March 3). Is the topic of this blog post a total coincidence given those rapidly approaching deadlines? No, not even a little bit.)

So here’s what you should know about working in the museum field: it’s a tough profession to get into, and the pay is crappy. But you should also know that it is a truly rewarding field to work in. Seriously – even on those occasional horrific days, I can console myself with the knowledge that I help people have an amazing art museum experience, where they can become inspired by 5000 years of human creativity, learn something about a different culture, be challenged by a work of art that they may not even like, or just be surrounded by something beautiful.

So now that I have you convinced, we are back to my original advice: if you want to get your foot in the door, volunteering or interning is the best way to gain some applicable skills, learn the reality of what museum work is and is not, and get to know people in the profession. When I am pouring through hundreds of resumes for entry level positions at the museum, the people who stick out are the ones who can demonstrate that they are interested in museum work and back that up with actual experience.

And one more piece of advice for all job seekers: get rid of the ring back music on your cell phone. Being forced to listen to R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” (link includes adult themes. And R. Kelly) when I call you to schedule an interview gives a less than professional first impression, even if it is the freakin’ weekend (true story!).

Got a burning question about museum internships or volunteering? Ask away!


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