Museums rank as one of the most popular city attractions to visitors and non-tourists alike, and there’s a good reason for that: they’re darn interesting places. There’s a museum for every interest in the world, ranging from New York’s Museum of Natural History to San Francisco’s MOMA, from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in St. Paul, MN, to Berlin’s Erotik-Museum. For graduates in Museum Studies, this is confirmation that you really can put your obsession with, say, Japanese ukiyo-e art or Liberace to good use (the Liberace Museum, Las Vegas). Regardless of your field of study, you’ll be called on to understand objects and their contexts -– cultural, historical, political, etc. -– and to maintain, repair, display, and explain them. You may be working with Byzantine coins, early American stamps, haute-couture clothing, medieval paintings, ancient Greek sculpture, historical documents, preserved bones or skeletons, and other records of culture past and present.

Different titles you may take as a graduate with a museum studies degree include Archivist, Curator, Conservator, or Director. Your duties might overlap depending on the actual position -– some museum archivists do double-duty as conservators, for example. You will need skills in leadership, business, attention to detail, organization, imagination, and lots of creativity.

Degree Information

With these professions, the more education, the better. Graduate schools offer museology concentrations (paired with an applicable master’s degree), master’s degrees, and Ph.Ds. Employers love specialization, so you might want to consider a second master’s degree in your chosen field. A museum studies degree would go nicely with art history, botany, anthropology, zoology, or history. If you would like to be a museum director, an MBA is highly desirable. An education degree (either state certification or master’s -– again, it depends on what specific employers prefer) would be appropriate if you plan to teach about exhibits.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

    • What are your interests? How do you want to specialize?
  • Will the school you choose offer the degree you want -– a concentration as opposed to a Ph.D, for example?
  • If you choose to specialize and work on a museum studies degree simultaneously, will the faculty support your special interests?
  • Does the school offer internships and practica, so you can obtain field experience?
  • Does the school have positive relationships with nearby institutions pertinent to your degree?

Career Overview

As a museologist, you will be constantly learning and teaching. If you are a people-person, you may want to work with the public, leading tours or giving lectures. Someone with an interest in business may want to oversee the budgeting and marketing of a museum. If you are creative, you might design exhibits. A person who likes organization and detail-oriented work may want to research, keep records, or update the artifacts kept in a certain collection.

You might get a degree in Jewish Studies and end up running a museum in Israel. You could go on archaeological digs in Egypt or Greece. As a museologist, you’ll likely travel the world, work with historians, archeologists, artists, or anthropologists, and visit sites renowned for their cultural and historical import. Personal traits for a successful museologist include love of learning, respect, care, patience for handling valuable and/or rare materials, people skills, leadership, and, of course, a bucket-load of creativity.

Career/Licensing Requirements

Typical job requirements are a concentration or a master’s in Museum Studies. Again, a second master’s degree in your field of interest is highly desirable.

Salary Information

A typical starting range in this field is low-to-mid $30,000. Positions in administration/directorship will range from $35,000 for a small institution to $90,000 or more at a major museum.

Related Links

American Association of Museums
Professional organization site provides up-to-date information on points of interest. Offers links to articles, professional education, programming ideas, and joblines.

The Smithsonian
Under the Smithsonian’s "Explore and Learn" heading, the divisions of possible specializations are laid out: Art and Design, History and Culture, and Science and Technology.


  • History And Theory Of Museums

  • Collections And Exhibits

  • Conservation

  • Documentary Tradition

  • Exhibition Planning And Design

  • Management Of Not-For-Profit Agencies

  • Management

  • Museum Education

  • Non-Fiction Writing

  • Oral History