The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 14,400 museum technicians and conservators are employed in the United States. Institutions and private companies that display collections hire museum technicians. Historical societies, state and federal agencies, and libraries also employ museum technicians because of their specialized skills in working with valuable and fragile art and artifacts. Museum technicians may also find work with private exhibition companies that design, display, and distribute both temporary and permanent exhibits to museums throughout the world.
When possible, a student should seek a volunteer position in a museum to learn more about the internal workings of the institution while also becoming known within the museum system. The job market is competitive, and a proven history of experience is invaluable. Students can occasionally find volunteer positions assisting technicians, which may eventually lead to regular employment.
Many technical colleges offer two-year programs that can contribute to the range of knowledge needed by museum technicians, and four-year colleges or universities offer degrees in programs such as graphic arts, drafting, engineering, and design. While participating in degree programs, students may be better situated to find apprenticeship positions within a museum and to gain firsthand knowledge of the field.
Experienced museum technicians with a history of devising and contributing significantly to museum displays are well situated to move into more specialized positions. A museum technician may choose to specialize in the graphic arts and eventually seek a position as a graphic artist in a large, metropolitan museum. Some specialize in exhibit design and choose to take continuing or additional courses in architecture and design with the intention of tackling major exhibitions, possibly including collaborating with other museum employees to address museum renovations. Others may continue to study art conservation or restoration and move into the position of conservation technician or preparator, supervising technicians and working with curators to present exhibits.
Tips for Entry
Read Museum magazine and Aviso (both available at https://www.aam-us.org/programs/about-aam/publications) to learn more about the field.
Join the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and other organizations to take advantage of networking opportunities, continuing education, and other resources.
Attend the American Alliance of Museums' AAM's Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo to learn about potential employers, network, and participate in continuing classes.
Visit https://aam-us-jobs.careerwebsite.com for job listings, or contact museums directly to learn more about job openings.
The AAM's Emerging Museum Professionals group (https://www.aam-us.org/programs/manage-your-career/emerging-professionals) offers career advice, networking opportunities, and other resources for new museum professionals.