The numbers we put out yesterday shocked some people and left others cold. Obviously when you’re working with a self-selecting sample you’re going to have some built-in biases. For example, as Steven Lubar pointed out our “high end” isn’t actually as high as things go. There are much higher salaries reported and publically available on 990s; for example, the Director of the MoMA recently pulled down a salary of $2,111,000 as Kat pointed out back in December.
Of course, the most highly paid people are unlikely to have stumbled on our little survey. Since we are a blog and most people found us via Twitter, our sample is going to align most closely with the demographic of most Twitter-using museos. Twitter’s main demographic is aged 18-34, so it’s safe to assume that many of our respondents come from this group that the AAM would call “Emerging Museum Professionals.”  We have to take a lot of these factors into account before we can present the majority of the results , so we’re going to keep things simple at first.
Now that we know what the basic salary range was, let’s see how satisfied people were. [Note: Satisfaction level has not yet been plotted against the salaries themselves. This is general level of satisfaction. The rest will happen, I promise!]
As you can see, on a scale from 1-5 most museos rate their salary satisfaction a 3. This is again taken only from respondents who are working full time .
To present the data in another form, that’s fully 33% of the respondents. And as for mostly satisfied, i.e. a 4 0r a 5 out of 5? Just over 25% of the people who took our survey.
This breakdown strikes me as a little odd when compared to yesterday’s salary data. Do these cases surprise you?
- The Chicago area collections specialist making between $20,000-$25,000 who rates his or her satisfaction as a 3?
- The administrator with 25 years of experience who rates his or her roughly $35,000/year salary a 4 out of 5?
- The educator with 12 years of experience who is rates his or her $35,000-$40,000 salary a 3 out of 5?
- The full-time exhibits specialist making $10,000-$20,000 (full-time at minimum wage falls into this range) who rates his or her satisfaction a 3?
Here’s the part where I start to editorialize.
It seems like although people are unwilling to say they're satisfied with what they're earning, they're not willing to say they think it's terrible either. But from an objective standpoint? It's terrible. You should be angrier.
I feel like someone needs to grant you permission explicitly. I'm going to be a jerk and do it.
You have permission to be angry. Not just about salaries, or the lack of advancement opportunities. You have permission to be angry about anything. You have permission to be angry at museums as an institution. You have permission to be angry at your graduate school program. You have permission to be angry at your employer. You have permission to be angry at me for having the sheer gall to grant you permission to express your feelings. You have permission to be angry about anything.
More importantly, you have permission to voice your discontent. You don't have to pretend things are hunky dory when they're not. That's not how changes get made. You shouldn't have to worry that some potential future employer might stumble on your blog or your Twitter or a comment you wrote and decide that your refusal to deny your (fully justifiable) anger disqualifies you from working at their museum. That by saying "Yes, museum salaries are insufficient across the board and I feel I deserve better pay, more benefits, and greater advancement opportunities" you will price yourself out of the museum job market entirely. That's not how changes get made. If you feel like pay is insufficient but are both willing to accept that pay and unwilling to speak out against it, do you honestly believe things will improve? Optimism is wonderful, but hoping for a better future without doing anything precludes change.
I'm not encouraging you to riot or go on strike or do anything you're uncomfortable with, I'm just asking you to be wholehearted about what you're feeling. Discuss low salaries. Acknowledge that they're low. Who's going to do it if you don't?
Let’s take one last look at the numbers.
The average reported level of satisfaction for these 99 full-time museos was 2.78 out of 5. That’s ever so slightly closer to dissatisfied than satisfied. There’s hope for museos yet.
 Another question on the survey asked how many years respondents had been working in the museum field. We don’t have that graphed yet, but the answer is around 5.581 years on average.
 By that I mean that I need to wait on Kat to do these things, because she is the brains behind this salary survey. I am the opinionated hothead who editorializes, she comes bearing scientific data. What a team!
 This is something that will be ironed out in future surveys. There are many questions that require clarification. In the future we will probably ask for part-time wages to be stated as hourly earnings, not as an annual salary. There was no clear way to distinguish between museos who responded with actual earnings versus those who responded with their pro rata salary, or between people who were essentially full-time but paid hourly and people who worked 10 hours a week.