Children’s Museum Educator: Career Outlook and Requirements
Children’s museum educators develop and promote museum exhibitions that fire the imaginations of their young visitors. If you’re excited about creating and sharing imaginative educational content for kids, you should look into a career as a children’s museum educator.
This guide is a concise overview of the job responsibilities, required education and likely salary of a children’s museum educator. Read all the way through or use these links to jump to a specific destination:
> What children’s museum educators do
> Where children’s museum educators work
> Educational and certification requirements
> Income estimates
> Pros and cons of being a children’s museum educator
At-a-glance: children’s museum educators
|Education||Bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred|
|Salary projections||$46,710 (BLS)
Children’s museum educator job description
Children’s museum educators work in various roles to ensure museum exhibits successfully inspire children to learn and expand their horizons. They may lead the planning or design of the exhibits, develop community outreach programs to aid in promoting museum offerings, or guide children through museum visits and related educational activities.
Children’s museum educators should stay current on trends and ideas in science, art, and education. By incorporating innovative elements into their work, they increase the likelihood that visitors have an engrossing experience.
Work schedules vary for children’s museum educators. Some children’s museums hire only on a part-time or temporary basis. Others offer full-time, permanent positions because the job has more expansive responsibilities.
Who makes a good children’s museum educator?
To succeed as a children’s museum educator, you need to have a passion for science, history, and culture as well as a desire to educate children in an engaging way. If you’re going to be working directly with children, you’ll need a friendly, accessible manner to help them understand the exhibits and programs in the museum.
Children’s museum educators also need superior organizational skills to oversee the creation, budgeting, and promotion of the exhibits. You should be able to communicate clearly with others verbally and in writing. Computer knowledge will be essential if you are coordinating exhibits that rely on interactive media such as touch-screen kiosks and audio tours.
Successful children’s museum educators usually possess several of these traits:
- Passionate about interactive educational experiences
- Sociable and easy to talk to
- Patient and resourceful
- Organized and careful about time management
- Devoted to learning
- Informed about science, history and culture
- Creative and always generating ideas
- Attentive to details
- Highly curious and a lifelong learner
- Comfortable working independently and collaboratively with other team members
- Careful about documentation and note-taking
- Qualified with training or a degree in education or a related field
Interested in becoming a museum educator?
This video can get you thinking about the possibilities of this career.
In-depth: children’s museum educators
Let’s take a more detailed look at what children’s museum educators do, where they work, how much they earn and more.
Where children’s museum educators work
Children’s museum educators work for employers in the children’s education field, including:
- Children’s museums
- Exhibit design firms
- Nonprofit/charitable foundations focused on children’s education and culture
- K-12 schools
- Education and cultural think tanks
- Scientific institutions
Job responsibilities vary depending on the goals and operations of each employer. For example, an exhibit design firm may focus solely on creating exhibits, while a job with a school or museum may include more direct educational roles with children.
What children’s museum educators do
Children’s museum educators ensure that all guests, families and school groups have an outstanding experience. Your day-to-day responsibilities will likely focus on:
Let’s take a look at each of these areas in more detail.
Management and operations
If you work in management and operations, you will be responsible for overall educational objectives of the organization. Job duties for a children’s museum educator working in management and operations may involve:
- Setting a budget and timeline to develop and construct each exhibit
- Coordinating with other museum personnel to create exhibits
- Host events and complete other important projects
- Developing a calendar of exhibits, events and other attractions
- Managing curatorial, technical and student staff
- Hosting events related to the institution’s mission or selected educational themes
- Interviewing and hiring assistants and other support staff
- Collaborating with an outreach team on partnerships with other educational institutions
- Representing the institution in the media and at civic events
- Attending relevant conventions and professional conferences
- Promoting exhibits and events with advertisements and other materials
Research and design
If you work in research and design, your job will be to develop engaging educational exhibits for young museum-goers. Job duties may include:
- Choosing a theme and pedagogical approach for the exhibits
- Researching topics related to the educational goals of the exhibit
- Finding experts in the appropriate academic field to consult with on exhibit design and educational goals
- Drawing concept art for the exhibit using analog or digital tools
- Creating a plan or blueprint for the exhibit
- Working with a team of builders to fabricate exhibits according to design specifications
- Planning and conducting special research projects
Construction and maintenance
Construction and maintenance workers build and maintain museum exhibits. Construction and maintenance responsibilities include:
- Acquiring materials to build exhibits
- Building and/or fabricating elements of exhibits
- Installing exhibits in the museum hall or in special rooms of the institution
- Cleaning exhibits regularly
- Making timely repairs and performing upkeep on exhibits when necessary
- Refurbishing exhibits according to revisions provided by the design team
- Ensuring exhibits are safe and functional
- Performing daily maintenance checks on each exhibit
- Participating in museum events as needed
Outreach and education
Children’s museum educators also perform teaching duties and other outreach support activities. These duties typically include:
- Ensuring a welcoming and helpful atmosphere at the entrance and exit of the museum
- Providing information for guests
- Actively monitoring for safety throughout the museum or institution
- Organizing and conducting tours and workshops for museum visitors
- Teaching on-site programs to school groups
- Acting as a community liaison among artists, technicians, teachers and volunteers participating in museum events
- Leading meetings and events
- Processing transactions in the museum store or ticket booth
Education and certification requirements
Educational and certification requirements vary depending on your employer’s needs. Having a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education and/or management will give you a better chance at a secure, high-paying position. Some institutions may hire you if you have at least a high school diploma and experience working in a museum, but the job may have lower pay and status.
Nearly all institutions require you to pass a background check and be fingerprinted.
Income for children’s museum educators depends on your experience and level of responsibilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for museum workers is $46,710. Other career websites list the following income levels for museum educators:
- $35,309 (PayScale.com)
- $32,600 (Glassdoor.com)
PayScale.com also reports an income of $61,042 for executive director positions at children’s museums. This figure suggests the executive and management staff may earn higher pay, especially at larger and more prestigious institutions.
Salaries may also vary depending on how much funding the museum can generate. Since museums are non-profit organizations, most depend on outside sources of revenue such as charitable contributions or federal, state and local grants or endowments. Children’s museums may also generate revenue from admission fees, sales of food and merchandise, building rentals, or through parent organizations such as universities and colleges.
Pros and cons of being a children’s museum educator
Let’s break down the positives and negatives of working as a children’s museum educator:
- Broad impact because your work inspires and educates thousands of children who visit the museum
- Opportunity to express yourself creatively through exhibition design
- Many kinds of roles depending on your background and interests
- Potential to earn promotions within the institution for higher pay and responsibilities
- Spend time in locations dedicated to inspiration and novelty
- Low pay for many jobs in this field relative to the rest of the education sector
- Many jobs are part time or temporary
- Some jobs do not include a lot of opportunity to work directly with kids compared to other jobs in education
Professional development for children’s museum educators
Whatever your background, there are many routes to becoming a children’s museum educator. You’ll want to think about what part of museum work best fits your skills and develop your education and experience in that area. Pursuing an advanced degree may be necessary, depending on your career goals. If you haven’t worked in a museum before, start volunteering at one at the earliest opportunity. Volunteering will give you valuable experience and help you develop a professional network of contacts in the museum world.
As you map out your approach to becoming a children’s museum educator, read as much as you can about current exhibits and trends in children’s museums. Follow interesting blogs and Twitter handles of museum educators and curators. Forming a thoughtful perspective on children’s museums and education is crucial to succeeding in interactions and interviews with potential employers.
You may also want to get involved in an organization or community like the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and attend events to pursue networking opportunities.
Benefits of continuing education
If you’re interested in working in management, research or design as a children’s museum educator, think about pursuing a master’s degree. Once you have decided to get an advanced degree, start researching the specialization you want and the programs that best serve your professional goals.
What kinds of programs can help children’s museum educators?
Concordia University-Portland offers online graduate degree programs in education that will prepare you to create innovate exhibits and/or lead museums and other educational institutions.
Check out the following programs that can help give you a leg up for job opportunities as a children’s museum educator:
MEd in Curriculum and Instruction: Methods and Curriculum
MEd in Curriculum and Instruction: Educational Technology Leadership
MEd in Educational Leadership
EdD in Professional Leadership, Inquiry and Transformation
EdD in Transformational Leadership
Jobs for children’s museum educators beyond the museum world
Children’s museum educators may also work as teachers, librarians, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, principals, or as an educational administrator at a college or university.
Teacher: Children’s museum educators can easily become teachers if they obtain a teaching credential and have a strong educational background in the subject they plan to teach.
Professor: Children’s museum educators can become professors if they earn a doctorate in the area where they wish to research and teach.
Librarian: A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is generally required for employment, and some states also require librarians to pass a standardized test.
Instructional coordinator: Children’s museum educators are well-positioned to become instructional coordinators. Instructional coordinators should complete a master’s degree related to curriculum and instruction and may be required to have a teaching or education administrator license.
Academic advisor: With a master’s degree in an education-related field, you can transition into being an academic advisor at either the K-12 or college/university level.
School principal: You will need a master’s degree in an education-related field to become a school principal. Most states also require public school principals to be licensed school administrators.
Education administrator: Depending upon the position, either a bachelor’s or master’s degree may be required. For a higher-level position such as dean or president, a master’s degree or doctorate in educational leadership may be required.
Best of the web: our favorite children’s museum educator blogs, websites and Twitter handles
The web makes it easy to connect with prominent children’s museum educators. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter handles, in no particular order.
Favorite children’s museum educator websites and blogs
- Museum Questions
- Boston Children’s Museum Educator Resources
- Think Play Create Educator Resources
- TCMUpstate Educator’s Blog
- Bay Area Discovery Museum Professional Development Resources
Favorite children’s museum Twitter handles
- Mo Weinhardt: @MoWeinhardt
- Carol Tang: @CarolTang1
- Rebecca Herz: @rebeccaherz
- Petrushkabazin: @petrushkab
- Lindsay Balfour: @MaKeyLindsay
- Pretend City: @pretendcity
- Cate Heroman: @cateheroman
- Children’s Museum of Indianapolis: @TCMIndy
- Please Touch Museum: @pleasetouch
- Foundling Museum: @FoundlingMuseum
- Minnesota Children’s Museum: @MNChildMuseum
- Eureka Museum: @eurekamuseum
- "Museum occupations: skills on exhibit," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily