Thursday, February 25, 2010

Link Roundup: Friday 26 February

We've been salary survey focused lately, but I think it's time for a link roundup. What with the economy, jobs bills, healthcare summits etc the media has picked up on a lot of interesting stories. We've already posted some of these on our Twitter account, which you should follow if you aren't already! We're mostly following institutional accounts (news services, museums, unions) at the moment, but we'd love to use it to interact with you.

Here some snowy day reading for those of you in the northeastern US, and some Friday reading for the rest of you:

U-Cubed, the union for the unemployed: This is an idea I find fascinating. Unemployed workers are a huge bloc, and organizing gives them a voice in the many policy debates that affect them. It also demonstrates a working model for a union representing people across a variety of locales who do not share a workplace/employer. (Granted they have backing from a "real" union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Money and an extant organizational structure help immensely!)

A conversation with's Rusty Rueff (video): A frank discussion of why so many people are reluctant to talk about salaries in the current economic climate. has some interesting salary data for museums, too. It's certainly more accurate than the nonsense reported by sites like etc.

The following links come from the AAM-CFM Newsletter. You should subscribe

A fuzzy picture: U.S. jobs projections for curators leave museum directors scratching their head: Sometimes it seems like sources outside the museum sector (, the US Department of Labor) don't quite know what's going on with museums. This is one of those times. 

US workforce shifting away from full-time employment and towards contract work: This one is pretty self-explanatory, so I'll indulge in a bit of editorializing. It's all well and good when you're choosing contract work because it's more flexible, but it's quite another when it's inflexible and without benefits, yet you choose it because it's the only option in your industry. OK, I'm done.

Whaling museum apprenticeship program launched: I think this method of training museum professionals has a lot of potential to overhaul the current system of "Masters degree + 3 to 5 years of experience = entry level position." What do you think?

We'll be back with more survey results and editorializing next week. Enjoy your weekend, and stay dry/warm if you're caught in the "snowicane" like I am in New York.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Salary Survey Post #4: Experience and Gender

People have been wondering how the gender breakdown we posted yesterday aligned with experience and roles within the museum. We didn’t ask respondents for their specific titles, just the general department they worked in, so this was a difficult thing to quantify. (People making gobs of money sometimes put “administrative” and sometimes put “collections” etc, so there wasn’t a clear way to differentiate among directors, head curators,very experienced secretaries etc. Clearer position titles: added to the list of future improvements!)

What I did was break down all respondents into 4 main categories, based (very roughly) on their level of experience. The divisions are somewhat arbitrary; I might run the data again with 0-5 years as entry level just to see if that normalizes the male salary averages a little. (More on that in a bit.) As you can see salaries do increase over time, albeit very slightly. An experienced museum professional can only expect to make an average salary equivalent to a high entry level marketer. [1]


The raw data chart is too large to include here, but here are the average salaries for each group. They were calculated using the high end of the range (i.e. $25,000-$30,000 would be calculated as $30,000) each respondent provided. For museos making less than $10,000 I used $10,000, and for those who said they were unpaid I used $0. The actual numbers might be slightly lower, but as Kat stated in the first entry there’s not a huge difference in the data if you use the low end of, the average of, or the high end of the range.

The “All Museos” category includes the 7 responses that didn’t specify male or female.


It’s difficult to say whether or not we had a good sample of males relative to the females. From my subjective point of view I think our ratio of male to female respondents (21:71 for full-time [2]) is roughly correct, but my workplace is all female and my museum studies program was only about 10% male. My personal experience might not be representative, although I doubt anyone would argue against the idea that the majority of museos are female.

While the overall ratio of male to female respondents might be correct, the ratio at each level is not. The number of males at each level had a tremendous effect on their average salaries. A smaller sample of males meant that each male salary had a disproportionate effect on the average. This can be seen below.


Female museo salaries and overall museo salaries rise at a steady (but slow) rate. Male salaries have crazy peaks and valleys all over the place. (Those are technical terms, naturally.) Maybe Kat will swoop in and calculate the rate of change for us at some point. As for me, I’m all mathed out for the week!

[1] Data arrived at via a highly scientific method called “poll your similarly-aged friends who work in marketing.”

[2] I knew I forgot something! This entry includes part time workers as well as full time workers. When I run the data again I’ll remove part timers so that our data is consistent across the board.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Salary Survey Post #3: The Role of Gender

So everyone says men get paid more than women.  This fact is well documented across the board.  But in an industry where women dominate in numbers, is this still true?


Now, disclaimer – when breaking things down by gender, for full time people we found that there were 71 female respondents, 21 male respondents, and the rest did not say if they were male or female.  So I am aware that comparing a data set of 71 and one of 21 is not completely accurate (although representative of the population in question), but heck yes, we are gonna do it anyways, folks.

The salary averages male vs. female (remember that our overall salary average was $40,360.76):

Average Male Salary: $48,452.38

Average Female Salary: $36,338.03

(That means the average male salary is ~$12,000 more than the average female salary).

To be fair, we can’t really make this bold claim due to the sample size and such.  When I made the numbers into percentages, we get this graph, which is a bit closer to the truth…


So there you have it folks.  You can see the “bell curve” shape for both males and females.  You can see that the male’s center point  is around $10,000 more than females.

‘Nuff said.

We are going to further later in the week (or next week, as both Kirsten and I are having hugely busy weeks with our actual jobs) with gender and satisfaction, salary and experience, salary and education, etc.  I will also go deeper into breaking down gender and salary and years experience as much as possible with such a limited data set. 

Thoughts on the whole gender and salary thing?  Why, when there are 3/4 (or more…does anyone have a figure on this?) females in the field, males are still paid more than us on average?  Angry yet?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Salary Survey Post #2: Satisfaction Levels

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.” [1] We have to take a lot of these factors into account before we can present the majority of the results [2], 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 [3].


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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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!

[3] 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.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Salary Survey Post # 1: Preliminary Salary Analysis

Hi Museos.  Okay, so here is the moment you’ve been waiting for.  I am going to start with just our full time museos as far as salary analysis. 

Let me explain one assumption I had to make, as this affects the results.  For people who reported their exact salary, we used that number.  For everyone else, we used the middle number of the range.  In actuality, this does not make a huge difference in our calculations (I recalculated based on using the low- and high-ends of the range, just to check).  The difference on either side is about $2,700.

That said, let’s get down to our very first, simple analysis.

For full time museos (n=99)

Mean (average) Salary: $40,360.76
Standard Deviation: $23,426

Mode (most often occurring) Salary: $30-35,000


Median (number in the middle of the data set): $34,250

Range, or the infamous "Wage Discrepancy"
(difference between lowest reported exact salary and highest reported exact salary): $94,102.50


So what does this all mean in plain English?

1 – the average salary is about $40,000.  That is for respondents ranging from just starting out to working for less than a year up to 34 years, people.  THAT IS INSANELY LOW considering that range of time working.  Think about it for a minute… think about the fact that some people are making over $100,000 (as seen above).  That should pull up the average.  It IS pulling it up.  To a mere $40,000. 

2 – The most often reported salary is somewhere between $30-35,000.  That is $5-10,000 below the average salary.  You do the math.  Museos are more often paid less than the average salary.

3 – The median of our data set is $34,250, which makes sense.  That means if you were to lay out all the reported salaries in a row, the middle number would be $34,250, with half the people making more than that and half the people making less than that.  NOTICE: our median is ~$6,000 below our average.  That means there are more people earning below average than above average.

4 – The ‘wage discrepancy’ which was the inspiration behind the whole salary survey is HUGE.  $94,102.50.  That is the difference between our top earner and our lowest earner. 

5 – Take a moment and look at yourself in the mirror, seriously.  Are you hoping/expecting that someday you will be up in that top 10% (which is, interestingly, making more than $57,000 – only 10% of those we surveyed make more than that!!!)?  Do you think that staying quiet, keeping your head down, doing more work and getting paid less will get you there? 

Or is it time to start a revolution?


Conclusions: There is a big difference between high pay and low pay in museums.  More people are earning below the average salary than above it.  The average salary for a museo is not that high, really.


Comments? Are you surprised? Not? Do you agree or disagree with these results?  Remember, this is meant to be a starting point for our analysis, so never fear, more details to come!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Which I Make Awkward Transitions Between Topics: Salary Survey Update + Museos On Strike

Alas, I don't come bearing survey results. Though we are anxious to release the data, our resident statistics guru (that would be Kat) is busy crunching numbers and making pretty, pretty graphs. It takes a little time! We want to make sure everything is as good as it can be before we share any of it, but rest assured that you will see the first post on the subject this week.

I don't think any of us are expecting to be shocked by whatever the survey reveals to be the average museum salary. It's probably going to be low, but above the minimum wage. Right? Well that really depends on who responded. If some of the attendants at the National Gallery in London took the survey their pay--which is 60 pence per hour below a living wage--would certainly have an effect on the data. Their insultingly low wages plus long hours (between 50-60 hours per week) prompted them to stage a two hour walk out on Tuesday. Management has refused to negotiate with the striking members of the Public and Commercial Services Union, claiming that the museum cannot afford to pay them any more.

Of course that's the excuse. That's always going to be the excuse. As I said in a previous entry, museums are always going to have to make difficult decisions about where to allocate funds. If Museos don't speak out and insist that their labor is a valuable resource that's worthy of investment, then museums are always going to allocate their funds elsewhere. They're always going to be unable to afford to pay a decent wage. Not only must employees be valuable, but they also have to be willing to stand up and advocate for how valuable they are.

With their actions the attendants at the National Gallery have made the statement that they are valuable. They've demonstrated that their services are required. When they weren't on duty the museum had to shut the majority of its galleries! Museums need Museos even more than they need collections.

We first became aware of this strike via this post, Culture and a Living Wage. J at the Attic muses:
It seems to me to be a variation on the old conflation between intangible cultural value and economic free-market value. The argument is not so much that these workers just deserve to be paid for what they do, but that what they do is somehow worth more... Isn't it sad that museum workers have to resort to these arguments? Is as if we don't believe that our labour is equal to the labour of other workers, but that we have to somehow wrap ourselves in the aura of the art in order to ennoble and promote our work? Kind of like stay-at-home mums: they are valued not because their work is work, but because their work is connected to the sacred mysteries of raising the next generation...
We agree. Work is work. It should be fairly compensated regardless of its innate nobility or how much of a "dream job" it is.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Survey Teaser…

Before our big salary survey, which is now closed and being tallied, we ran a one-question poll on the sidebar of the blog.  The single question, “Do you feel fairly financially compensated for your museum work?”, was mostly intended to get the ball rolling and to get people thinking.  We had 23 responses, and the results are seen below.


An overwhelming 52% said an outright “no.”  Only 3 people out of 23 said “yes.”  That, fellow Museos, speaks volumes.  WHY IS NO ONE ELSE SHOUTING ABOUT THIS?  WHY IS EVERYONE JUST ACCEPTING LOW PAY? WHERE IS THE REVOLUTION?

Oops.  My caps lock got stuck for a minute.  Strange.

Thank you to all who participated!  There is another poll along the sidebar about volunteering.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Final Plea

Museos, unite!

You only have 60 hours left before our salary survey closes at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, February 14th. 

Please, take a moment to answer these quick questions.  If you have not already, please take a moment to FWD it to your coworkers or friends in the industry.

Here’s a taste of what will be revealed once we crunch the numbers:

  • the average salary for a Museo at various stages of their careers
  • whether MA education or years of experience really get you higher pay
  • how satisfied Museos are with their salaries
  • whether gender plays a role in Museo pay

And, excitingly, we will try to assess the data to figure out the best combination of education, experience, area of study, and location to figure out the BEST PAYING MUSEO JOB. 

It' won’t be easy, dear friends.  We are at 99 responses.  We would ideally like 120 responses by Sunday at Midnight.

Can you help us?  It’s the results that everyone will be talking about in the end… don’t you want to be able to say that you helped us get to the bottom of the Museo Salary Mystery?

Take the survey.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Last call to participate in the first Museos Unite salary survey, plus an advocacy update.

The last day to respond to the Museos Unite salary survey will be this coming Sunday, 14 February. If you haven't chimed in yet, please go here and make your voice heard. Pass the link on to colleagues, friends, grad school buddies: anyone you know who works in the museum field! Although we haven't finished collecting or compiling the data, we've already observed some interesting trends which we're looking forward to sharing.

Two weeks ago we called on the AAM to lobby to ensure that museums and other nonprofits were not left out of the Congressional jobs bill. Later that day the AAM send out an advocacy update outlining their lobbying efforts in relation to several issues relevant to museums, particularly President Obama's FY2011 budget. The next day the update focused on the need to include zoos and aquariums in the jobs bill. This had nothing to do with us (does anyone from the AAM even read this blog? Leave us a comment if you do!) but it is still encouraging. While these are not the actions we urged the AAM to consider they are nonetheless vital. Funding for various bodies that are integral to the life of US museums (such as the IMLS, the NEA, and the National Park Service) needs to be continued. Tax credits for small businesses who provide their employees with health insurance should be extended to small nonprofits. The IMLS needs to be reauthorized.

But do these things need to be done first? The impression I continue to get, from the words of people I speak with and the actions of bodies like the AAM, is that one day, when the economy is better and when museums are masters at earning revenue, then we will worry about fair salaries. That it's pointless to talk about it now, because how can we ensure fair salaries if we can't pay the low salaries we already have? The result is that no one is willing to talk about what constitutes a good salary or a poor salary. Is there an element of shame in acknowledging that you are underpaid (there should not be!), or in acknowledging that you are underpaying your employees? And is that shame so great that we're willing to put off an uncomfortable conversation indefinitely? There is never going to be a point where museums are incredibly wealthy, with all the outside funding and earned revenue they require to offer every program they want. Museums are always going to need to make hard decisions about where to allocate their funds. If museos don't assert themselves then they will be left out of those allocations every time.

This is evolving into another post and another topic altogether. What I'm trying to say is that museum salaries are a part and parcel of the overall conversation about museum solvency. We can't resolve the funding problem, or the issues about how museums are perceived in society, or the various ways museums can turn a profit, without questioning museum salaries. These are interrelated issues, and focusing exclusively on certain elements will lead to superficial solutions. If we wait until every other problem facing museums sorts itself out it will be too late for everyone reading this blog. You will be long retired (if you can afford to retire) or deceased. We have to stop putting off this conversation for a sunnier day. We need to have it soon.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Follow a Museum Day

Important Museo Announcement:

Today is Follow a Museum Day, basically a great excuse for museums (and Museos) around the world to connect and communicate via Twitter.  We encourage everyone to participate, and to follow Museos Unite on twitter as well!

Suggest a museum to all of your friends by mentioning the museum’s twitter name in a post and adding the hastag #followamuseum afterwards.

Let’s see the potential power of museums (and Museos) in action!