Working in museums.

Oct 19, 2006
Not sure if this is the right place for this question, so if not please move it as necessary and I apologise...

I was wondering if anyone here knew anything about how one goes about getting a job as a scientific assistant/curator's assistant or any such thing at a natural history museum. I'm taking some time off the academic track after graduation this year and am looking for somewhere to work, and as I love museums and my B.S. is in geology, I figured natural history museums were a good target.
My question is this: what's the protocol? If they don't post a specific job I want, can I e-mail them anyhow and ask? Who should I e-mail -- curators, human resources, someone else? I think my background's sufficient, considering that it's pretty much exactly what a job of this sort at the AMNH was asking for.
Anyhow, sorry for dumping things like this in here again (I posted before about graduate school questions), but TONMO forumites seemed like a likely lot to be involved with natural history museums in some capacity or other. Thanks very much.
has job listings every now and again like the one below.

Good Luck. :wink2:

This just in.


Position Title: Collections Manager (Research Assistant III) - # 102030
Department: Department of Geosciences
Closing Date: Open Until Filled, Screening to Begin, Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Work Schedule: Full-time, 12 months/year, 1.0 FTE
Minimum Entry Rate: $12.85/hr.
Union Affiliation: Montana Public Employees Association
Probationary Period: Six months minimum
Benefits Include: Insurance package; mandatory retirement plan; partial tuition waiver; professional development/wellness program

Primary Functions

* The University of Montana Paleontology Center maintains a paleontology research collection focusing on the region of the Rocky Mountains and western North America . Position assists the Director of the Paleontology Center at The University of Montana with the collection of fossils
* Responsible for: database management; fossil preparation and conservation; maintenance of invertebrate, vertebrate, and plant fossils; loans; student supervision . Maintains lab and computer facilities
* Assists at the summer paleontology field station

Minimum Job Qualifications

Bachelor’s degree in a related field and two (2) years of directly-related experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience

Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

* Previous knowledge and understanding of fossils in paleontology, and experience in the care and conservation of fossils
* Demonstrated knowledge and experience with database work on collections in natural history
* Skills in the physical and electronic organization of files and filing systems
* Ability to assist in the excavation and preparation of fossils in the field
* Demonstrated skills in the operation of personal computers and related word processing, spreadsheet, and database software, with the ability to learn other software
* Effective interpersonal, oral and written communication skills, including ability to work with a diverse group of individuals, and to establish and maintain good working relationships
* Ability to use standard office equipment including copiers, fax machine, and multi-line phone system
* Ability to work with student volunteers

Preferred Qualifications

* Master’s degree in related field

Physical Requirements of the Position
(Qualified candidates must be able to meet minimum requirements and perform the primary functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.)

* Ability to climb step ladders, lift heavy trays of rocks and fossils
* Ability to work outdoors in the summer


* Cover letter addressing the position number and title applying for and the above-described knowledge, skills, abilities, and job qualifications
* Detailed resume listing education and describing work experience
* Contact information for three professional references*
* Authorization for Criminal Background Investigation form

Apply directly to:
Office of Human Resource Services
EL Center Room 252; Missoula, MT 59812
(406) 243-6760; Fax (406) 243-6095
[email protected]

Criminal Background Investigation is required prior to Offer of Employment
In accordance with University regulations, finalists for this position will be subject to criminal background investigations.

ADA/EOE/AA/Veteran's Preference
Qualified candidates must be able to meet minimum requirements and perform the primary functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodations. As an Equal opportunity/Affirmative Action employer, we encourage applications from minorities, Vietnam era veterans, and women. This material is available in an alternative format upon request. Qualified candidates may request veterans’ preference in accordance with state law.

References. *References in addition to those listed on the application may be contacted without applicant’s prior approval.

Testing. Individual hiring departments at UM-M may elect to administer pre-employment tests, which are relevant to essential job functions.
I did this exact thing this year. I'm working on my second year of an undergrad in marine biology. All I did was e-mailed the curator of zoology at my local natural history museum. I expressed my interest in having a look at the collections, we set up a date for a collections visit, and during the visit I repeated my interest and offered to volunteer to help organize and establish the collections. Presto! They are generally most welcoming of volunteers, though I don't know about paid positions. Maybe at a large museum they might have such a job. Good luck! It really is a lot of fun.


You might want to look into the possibility of internships. Sometimes internships are posted under another heading and if you're lucky, they may just have funding that can go towards a co-op/intern of sorts.

Good luck!
Keep in mind these are tough positions to get. For the Missoula job posted above (which doesn't even pay $26,000 per year!) you're probably looking at a hundred applicants. Even though they're only asking for a masters, I would guess that half of the serious applicants will have PhDs.
If you go to the website of most museums, they have a link for job opportunities. For example, the Los Angeles Natural History Museum has the following openings.

Careers at our Museums

It is at least a place to start... Good luck!

The American Museum of Natural History has the following openings.

Careers at the Museum | American Museum of Natural History

I couldn't find a link to it on their front page but I did a search for "job opportunities" and I found the link.

Trending content

Shop Amazon

Shop Amazon
Shop Amazon; support TONMO!
Shop Amazon
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.