How do I Become a Museum Director?

B. Koch

The job of a museum director is varied and requires many different skills. To become a museum director, one must have a background in the topic the museum focuses on as well as previous experience in and knowledge about museums. A director must also have solid background in fundraising and fiscal planning and be an effective leader.

Experience working in a museum can be a step toward becoming a museum director.
Experience working in a museum can be a step toward becoming a museum director.

It is unusual for someone to become a museum director who has never worked in a museum. Museum directors must know how a museum works and the general needs and requirements of museums. It is not uncommon for museum directors to have degrees in museum studies.

Having a solid knowledge of the subject area of the museum is essential to becoming a museum director. A director of an impressionist art museum must know about impressionist art, while a science museum director usually has a background in science. Many of these individuals have either a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in their related field.

A museum director must have experience in and be capable of successful fundraising. Since museums tend to be nonprofit institutions, fundraising is especially important. The director must be able to find creative ways to raise money and be able to solve budgeting problems. Not only is the director in charge of fundraising, he or she also must be able to manage the museum’s budget, so many museum directors also have a background in business or finance.

Being a good leader and able to communicate effectively are essential qualities for a director. Depending on the size of the museum, the director may be directly in charge of all employees. In a larger museum, the director may only be directly responsible for department directors. Either way, the director must be able to effectively lead and manage these individuals. The director is also the public face of the museum and must be able to communicate news about the museum and the needs of the museum clearly to various groups of people.

Some say that the most vital role of a museum director is the job of making sure a museum maintains its mission. A museum’s mission statement will be unique to that museum but always outlines the purpose and goals of the institution. Without a mission, a museum runs the risk of losing its focus or taking on more than it can handle. The director must make sure that the museum is working within its mission guidelines and, if needed, update the mission statement to reflect new developments.

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