How to Calculate Museum Job Salaries Accurately

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

November 15, 2023

Today we continue our miniseries on museum job salaries with a walkthrough of how to calculate salaries accurately based on your professional, geographic, and market profiles. 

These informational categories should be considered every time a position description is being published; they offer important information that should be kept up to date in order to insure accurate and ethical museum salaries. In other words, this is important information both you and your employer should know.

1. Create Your Professional Profile

The first step when building a case for an accurate museum salary is creating your professional profile. This is an exercise in assessing your position and job description, as well as your education and experience. Write down information for the following:

  • Identify your position (job title)
  • Define your position description
  • Note your education
  • Total your years of experience
  • Account for your areas of expertise

For the first two items—the title and description as provided by your employer—it’s entirely possible that these are out of date or were never truly accurate to begin with. If that’s the case, update both the job title and description to reflect your current reality so that you can request a position review with specific notes on how responsibilities have changed or shifted.

2. Create Your Geographic Profile

Next, where you live is a significant consideration as both minimum wage and cost of living will affect how far your money will go—and this is information that should inform every employer’s salary structure. To help build your case, it’s time to create a geographic profile:

  • Identify the geographic region(s)
  • Consider cost differentials among urban, suburban, and rural
  • Know the minimum wage for the area
  • Know the living wage for the area
  • Calculate the average inflation rate over the last 2-3 years

These numbers are important to consider when re-evaluating position compensation or when entering salary negotiations. In addition, it is important to realize that while these numbers are “for now”, they can help with future forecasting. We can no longer operate by anticipating a 2% or less inflation year over year. This needs to be factored in, especially if salaries aren’t reviewed and adjusted annually by the museum.

3. Create Your Market Profile

The final profile to create is the market profile. These numbers can be the most telling as they indicate what peer organizations are offering and can create positive pressure for museums to offer competitive (read: accurate) salaries for their employees. With that in mind, it’s incredibly important that you know the market profile as it’s a powerful negotiating tool.

4. Assess and Reveal a Salary Range

Assess all profile areas. In most cases there will be a clear salary range that emerges from your multiple points of data. While it’s not an exact science, the numbers do reflect what the financial reality is in your area and for your job position. These are real numbers to use and share with your peers, boss, Human Resources, and any additional persons or groups you’re advocating to or with.


We now have all of the ingredients we need to calculate our position’s value. Next week we will review a few different examples of position levels and geographic regions so you can see the application of the numbers in real world examples.

**We kicked off the miniseries with an outline of salary resources to consult and a review of what information to gather in order to crunch the data.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

To learn more, please join us for a free webinar, Building the Case for Museum Job Salaries, November 29,  2023 at 11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern. (Can’t make it? Register anyway and we will send you a link to the recording and slides afterwards). Register now or call 604-278-6717.

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