The museum director oversees everything that happens within the institution, manages the staff, and ensures policies, budgets and goals are made and kept. They also have the final say on the exhibits and displays.

We like to think of it as someone who is well versed in EVERYTHING about the public and private aspects of a museum, a fantastic and thoughtful leader, and a vigilant protector of the world’s most precious artifacts and stories.

Museum Director Job Description

Museum directors have years of experience and they do it all! They oversee their museum’s collection, supervise and negotiate the exchange or loan of artifacts, and travel with exhibitions. They are also called on to authenticate and classify the museum’s newest acquisitions.

Check out this job description for The Executive Director at The Midwest Museum of Natural History:

The Executive Director has the overall responsibility to carry out the organization’s mission and policies established by the Board, including the financial, educational, collections, and operations management of the organization.

Strategic Leadership:

  • With the Board of Directors, establish a clear vision for the organization.
  • Assist the Board of Directors in long-range strategic planning and implementation of those plans.
  • Provide both support and leadership to the Board of Directors.
  • Serve as the liaison between the Board of Directors and staff.

Financial Management & Fundraising:

  • With the Finance Committee, the Executive Director will propose an annual budget for the Board’s adoption.
  • Prepare monthly financial reports to the Board of Directors.
  • Manage all accounts payable and receivable.
  • Support the Board’s fundraising efforts and special events.
  • Develop and sustain relationships with members and donors.
  • In partnership with staff, prepare grant applications and manage grant projects.
  • Maintain excellent donor records and stewardship of all donations made to the organization.

Human Resources & Administration:

  • Hire, train and supervise all staff and volunteers including scheduling and annual work goals.
  • Manage the visitor experience before and during their visit.
  • In conjunction with the Executive Committee, evaluate staff (other than the Executive Director); set performance standards; create annual goals; conduct annual staff evaluations; maintain personnel records.

Community Relations:

  • Represent MMNH and advocate its mission to external stakeholders and audiences including community organizations, schools, government at all levels, and the museum and nonprofit communities.
  • Maintain positive relationships with the City of Sycamore, the Sycamore Park District, and community partners such as the DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership/DeKalb County Community Foundation.
  • Establish and implement a marketing/communications plan that supports the MMNH’s brand and reputation including website content, social media accounts, media relations, and printed materials.
  • Work with the Sycamore Park District for the continuing maintenance and repair of the museum building.
  • Maintain museum calendar and coordinate all programming and events with museum staff.

Board & Volunteer Relations:

  • Involve board members in decisions that affect the future of MMNH.
  • Assist the Board with identifying community members who may be appropriate for board service and support their recruitment and orientation to the organization.
  • Recruit volunteers for appropriate positions within the organization.
  • Participate in Board meetings by working with the Executive Committee to create agendas, prepare staff reports for the meetings, and attend meetings of the Board and committees.

Exhibitions, Live Animal Care, Collections, and Education:

  • Create and maintain standards of excellence for all collections, exhibitions, and education efforts of the museum.
  • Oversee the proper care of the collections as well as the care of the live animals.
  • Oversee exhibitions to support the mission of the organization to attract audiences, donors and sponsors.
  • Oversee educational programming.
  • Oversee animal care including training and scheduling volunteers in proper animal care procedures (reptiles, anthropods, amphibians, and fish); and monitoring the overall health of the animals.

Museum Director Salary

Most museum director salaries fall in the range of $27,891 to $98,564. The salary for a museum director very much depends on the size of the museum, the type of museum, the collection, etc.

Here are some examples of museum director salaries from past jobs on

  • Executive Director at The Midwest Museum of Natural History
    • $20,000 to $25,000/year
  • Executive Director at Elsewhere
    • $60,000/year
  • Executive Director at the Maryland Historical Trust / Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum
    • $60,543 to $78,952/year

Museum Director Education Requirements

To become a museum director, you typically need (at least) a Master’s degree in museum studies, archaeology, anthropology, public history, public administration, historic preservation, architectural history, or related field and 5+ years of high-level museum management experience.

Check out these awesome schools and related programs:

Other Information

Museums are made up of lots of moving parts and it is the director’s job to not only keep the big picture in mind but make sure everything is running smoothly and moving forward.