Approximately 13,700 set and exhibit designers work in all industries in the United States. Museums and private companies that display collections hire exhibit designers. Historical societies, state and federal agencies with archives, and libraries also employ exhibit designers because of their specialized skills in developing thoughtful displays while considering object safety. Exhibit designers may also find work with private design firms as well as exhibition companies that create and distribute both temporary and permanent exhibits throughout the world.
Students who wish to become exhibit designers should supplement their design courses with an internship in a museum or a related institution. Some museums offer full- or part-time positions to qualified candidates when they complete their internship hours. Museum-oriented publications often contain classified advertisements for available museum positions. Job postings are also listed on museum Web sites as well as employment agency Web sites. Contacting professional associations for job listings is also an acceptable method of starting out. Museum positions are highly competitive, and a proven history of experience is invaluable. Keep a portfolio of your design examples to show to potential employers.
Experienced exhibit designers with appropriate academic credentials and a history of creating educational and visitor-friendly displays are well situated to move into supervisory positions with greater responsibility and design freedom. Exhibit designers may choose to acquire advanced degrees in specialties such as architecture, digital design, or graphic design in order to achieve the director of exhibitions position. Appropriately educated exhibit designers wishing to move into another area of the museum field may become conservators, museum educators, collections managers, curators, or registrars. Exhibit designers who leave museum work are well positioned to seek employment in private design firms.
Tips for Entry
Join the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) to access networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Attend the AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo (https://annualmeeting.aam-us.org) to network and participate in continuing education classes.
Visit https://www.aam-us.org/programs/manage-your-career and http://www.nemanet.org/resources/career-center/nema-jobs for job listings.