Career Transparency and Resources - Career Chats

This piece was written by Michael Madeja with the assistance of Angela Vassallo. Consider this a starting point on your journey to finding a career and a launching point for doing extra research into GLAM careers.

The Gallery, Library, Archive, and Museum (GLAM) careers discussed in the Career Chats series all have their pros and cons. Just like any career you might be considering, it helps to know a bit more about what work-life balance might look like in that field. The videos help to a certain degree, but we wanted to provide insight into some other aspects of these careers in this piece. The essential point is that, before choosing any career, do your research. Make sure you know how much money you’ll make, what education you’ll need (what money you’ll spend), what work-life balance is like, and what diversity, equity, access, and inclusion look like in that field. 

Generally speaking, you don’t end up working in a gallery, library, archive, or museum without having great passion for what you do and what audiences you serve. The content, tangible objects, and communities surrounding these careers are what non-profit professionals live for. There are so many pros to working in these fields: knowing you’ve made someone’s day, educating others about the past, conserving the objects that tell historical stories, providing access to information, and a sense of community and meaning. However, like many fields that have a deep history in privilege and colonialism, there are problems. These problems only get solved by talking about them openly and by encouraging the next generation to get involved. That’s part of the reason we want to keep providing Career Chats: to increase awareness of these careers and the reality of working in these fields so that future professionals have a greater understanding of these pathways. 

GLAM careers typically require Masters Degrees or even PhDs. As these fields now begin to realize that obtaining these degrees present barriers, this is beginning to change. For now though, these still seem to be requirements -- even for entry level positions. If an applicant doesn’t meet the degree requirement, it's expected that they have the experience to compensate for that. That level of experience typically comes from poorly paid front-facing jobs or unpaid internships. Again, at the time this was written, these barriers to entry are changing. However, they still exist and carry the need for financial privilege and create and maintain certain levels of inequity. 

The GLAM sector is becoming a pink collar field. This means that more women than men are becoming professionals or are professionals in these fields. Though not an inherently negative thing, this means that salaries may become suppressed and these careers may be looked upon as less significant than they really are. The economic and social implications of both sexism and sexual harassment need to be addressed to reconcile this issue. Lesser salaries and lack of respect are compounded based on intersections of identity, too. For example, there are pay differences between women who identify as Latinx, Black, or white. 

Historically, non-profit jobs, like those in the GLAM sectors, have not been among the highest paying. With the education requirements, which are usually a sign of economic privilege, and reliance on philanthropy or donations, these careers have typically paid poorly. As more folks became interested in and met the existing thresholds, this pay issue has come into broader light. Still, despite the recently increased awareness of this issue, it has yet to be solved. The issue has implications for not only these fields as entire entities but also within the sub-fields. For example, education-focused jobs tend to pay less than finance-oriented ones. Be aware of both large and small trends when job hunting and in career planning.  

Due to most of the points above, GLAM careers haven’t been particularly welcoming to BIPOC workers and workers with disabilities. The general barriers that society, academia, and these fields have created are only amplified when you come from a societal group that already faces increased discrimination. And, again, intersectionality needs to be acknowledged here. Pay rates and workforce and leadership representation shift based on overlaps of gender identity and expression, race, and ability. 

As non-profits, GLAMs are generally held to greater accountability to the public. This means that you’ll likely have access to more information more easily than with some for-profit careers. For instance, you can check tax documents like 990’s (which list salaries of some of the highest paid employees). Along with these types of tax documents and some of the resources below, check websites and the professional side of social media. Social media skimming can help you see what conversations real professionals and organizations are having! 

As you consider a career or applying to a job, ask yourself some of these questions:

Does an organization’s website mention internal and external values?

While checking a document like the 990, do those values match budgetary information? 

Does the organization clearly list staff? Do you see yourself represented in their staff? 

Does that organization provide salary information when posting a job? Do they offer paid internships?  

Some resources to get your GLAM career research started:

2019 Salary Survey, Association of Art Museum Directors

Arts Administrators of Color Network

Arts-based BIPOC Resources 

Emerging Professionals Networks

Inclusion in museums: a matter of social justice, Rose Paquet Kinsley (2016)  

Leadership Matters (general leadership, women in leadership, and women in the GLAM sector)

LGBTQIA+ Welcoming Guide (American Alliance of Museums, 2016)

Living Wage Calculator (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Mentoring Programs

Museum Salary Spreadsheet 

Nonprofit AF - blog covering contemporary topics in non-profits

Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of Association of College and Research Libraries -- Careers FAQ Page