Interview with a Museum Curator
I did not always know that I wanted to be a museum curator. As a child, books and the past had engaged my mind and informed my view of the world. While simultaneously learning the storied lore of history, I became more interested in history and the museums that cater to it. By my second year of college, I knew the path I had to take in life. Making the decision was the easy part—learning how to achieve my dreams was the challenging part.
When I started my college career, I did not know for sure what I wanted to do. For a long time, I thought that a career as an interpreter was the choice for me. Studying Chinese, Spanish and French simultaneously, the line between languages would blur and I would find myself forgetting which language was expected of me. I spent two semesters studying abroad to pursue my goal of being an interpreter. After a year spent in Taiwan and Spain, I started an internship with an interpretation agency.
Doing a job shadow was the best possible thing for me to have done. As each day went by, I realized that this career field was not for me. Interpreting other people’s words lacked the intellectual stimuli that I so desired. I quit the internship to face the impossible truth: I had no clue what I wanted.
For the remaining months of the summer, I struggled to find out what I wanted. As I listlessly walked into a museum one day, my passive attitude changed. Each exhibit brought to life the past I had read about as a child and made the lessons of the past real. At this moment, I discovered that I wanted to be a museum curator.
When I make a decision, I often do it impulsively. The docent told me that I could start volunteering at the museum to get my foot in the door. Within a month, I had made the museum a regular part of my weekends. As I switched my degree to match up with my new goal, I shuddered: after two years of language study, I was far behind on the history degree I needed.
For the next two years of my undergraduate, I stepped up my studies. Taking extra credits every quarter, I was able to graduate on time and with two years of experience in a museum under my belt. Following my undergraduate, I started a graduate degree in museum studies. Jobs as museum curators are few and far between. For every opening, there are more applicants than can ever hope for a job.
My experience during my graduate allowed me to do a paid internship which eventual led to me being hired on as a museum site administrator after my masters was finished. Today I spend my days fundraising for the museum, arranging exhibitions, hiring new staff and developing the budget. I find my work extremely rewarding and enjoy every minute of it. The varied tasks keep it exciting for me. Museums are often viewed as dull, dusty places where art work is stored, but my experience has been far different. I constantly interact with the public and get to constantly learn new information with every new exhibit that goes up.
After five years of working in my position, I have no regrets. Although it took me a decent amount of time to find my path, once I was on it I have enjoyed every minute of it. Even my false start at the beginning has proved useful. My experience in languages has proven to be extremely helpful with several of the exhibits we have set up and with a number of purchases we have made from abroad.
The most difficult thing about my line of work is the job hunt. Even after all of my years of experience and degrees, I still struggle whenever I try to find another job. Recently, I sent out a few resumes just to test the water and found myself distraught over the lack of openings. I am fine with my current position, but at some point I want to do more. Where I am at now does not provide the salary that generally comes with a masters degree and for my other personal goals, I need to ultimately work in a position that pays more. Money is not everything, but for a healthier, more balanced life I will need to get a more stable income at some point. I currently make $46,000 a year which, although more than some people, does not pay for much extra after my student loan and mortgage payments are accounted for.
All things considered, the drawbacks of my career have merely provided a continuous challenge for me to keep me on my toes. Each trial has taught me something new and keeps my work from every becoming boring. Within five years from now, my goal is to find a position that makes more money in the same field.
This is a true story as told to JustJobs Academy which houses career interviews and job search advice for professionals in any industry. Visit to read about how to get promoted by blogging the right way outside of work.