What Does an Art Museum Attendant Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A Day in the Life of an Art Museum Attendant

Lisa Fasol/The Balance 

An art museum attendant works in an art museum facilitating interactions between visitors and exhibits. Attendants welcome visitors and provide them with information, directions, and other assistance.

A museum attendant also makes sure artwork is protected and that visitors follow museum rules, which usually include no food or drink in the galleries, no unauthorized picture taking, and no touching the works of art. The job requires a combination of skills used for visitor services and museum security.

Art Museum Attendant Duties & Responsibilities

This position generally involves the following responsibilities, however, these duties may vary depending on the size of the museum and staff:

  • Oversee the museum's collection to ensure it stays safe, secure, and undisturbed.
  • Monitor visitors to make sure they adhere to the rules, which includes not touching or damaging the artwork.
  • Greet visitors and offer guidance, such as exhibit information or directions.
  • Assist curators in moving art objects or changing gallery displays.
  • Perform administrative duties, as required.

One of the most important responsibilities of a museum attendant is to protect the museum’s collection. A museum attendant is stationed in a specific area or exhibition gallery of the museum and continually observes visitors to make sure they do not touch or damage the artwork.

Even though a museum attendant carefully monitors the artworks on display and observes the behavior of museum visitors, the attendant’s role is more akin to a customer service representative rather than a security guard, as security guards receive different training and have different job duties.

In addition, some telephone answering may be required, depending on the size of the museum. Light office administration, such as keeping track of museum attendance with a clicker and recording the data on a computer may be additional responsibilities.

Art Museum Attendant Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes art museum attendants under archivists, curators, and museum workers. Professionals in this industry earn the following salary:

  • Median Annual Salary: $48,400 ($23.27/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $86,480 ($41.58/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $27,190 ($13.07/hour)

PayScale offers salary information for gallery attendants as follows:

  • Median Annual Salary: $32,796 ($15.77/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $47,077 ($22.63/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $20,253 ($9.74/hour)

Source: PayScale.com, 2019

Education, Training, & Certification

This job requires the following education and experience:

  • Education: To work as an art museum attendant usually requires a high school diploma, but having a bachelor's or associate's degree in a related field such as art history, history, or archaeology is helpful.
  • Training: Some museum or public service work experience is helpful in getting hired for this type of job. Museums may prefer candidates with knowledge of the museum’s specialty, training in museum studies, or previous experience working in museums. Being knowledgeable in museum security and general office work can work in a candidate's favor.

    Art Museum Attendant Skills & Competencies

    To be an art museum attendant, you will need the following skills:

    • Interpersonal skills: You are personable and engaging and are trained so that you will be able to answer visitor questions regarding the art and exhibitions.
    • Deep interest in and knowledge about art: A passion or an affinity for art that you are willing to share with the public is important.
    • Communication skills: You speak clearly when providing information to visitors as well as museum staff.
    • Confidence: You display a confident, friendly manner as a museum professional, who provides information that visitors can trust.
    • Good listener: You are able to answer visitor requests efficiently.
    • Physical and mental stamina: You can stay alert and physically active, as standing all day or walking from gallery to gallery is part of the job.

    Job Outlook

    The BLS states that employment of museum technicians and conservators is projected to grow 12% until 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Public interest in science, art, history, and technology is expected to increase the demand for these positions.

    Work Environment

    Art museum attendants may work in an office as well as on the floor with the public, providing information and other guidance to visitors. Those who assist in restoring or setting up exhibits may need to lift or shift heavy or large art objects, as well as climb ladders to reach items.

    Work Schedule

    According to the BLS, most museum attendants work full time. Attendants may also need to work evenings and weekends if their institutions are open to the public during those times.

    How to Get the Job

    APPLY

    Many art museums post jobs on their websites. The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) posts museum jobs. Also, search online job postings for museums in your area. Depending on the museum, you may be requested to apply directly on the site, which may include uploading your cover letter and resume, and answering additional questions. For example, Fraunces Tavern Museum provides a job opportunity that includes online directions for applicants.

    JOIN AN ORGANIZATION

    Organizations such as the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) offer career assistance, such as job postings, network building, and career development. The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) provides its members with career advancement resources as well as opportunities to connect with others in the industry.

    Comparing Similar Jobs

    People interested in working as an art museum attendant may also want to consider the following careers, along with the median annual salary: