Chances are, you are not being paid your worth as a museum professional.
When we consider the chronic under-funding of museums, it is no surprise that museum salaries are unlivably low—especially with the last two years of inflation. This under-valuation problem is compounded when we realize that very few Human Resource and leadership persons know what museum knowledge and experience are worth—and even fewer are equipped to find the funding to pay for it. Additionally, as museum professionals we are historically bad about both knowing and standing in our value.
The love we have for our jobs does not pay the bills. And, when we’re not paid our worth, when our worth isn’t recognized, it takes a psychological toll. This mini-series will cover the resources and knowledge needed to calculate and advocate for your worth as a museum professional, starting with today’s post on resources.
A Note on Resources
As in any predominantly nonprofit field, keeping industry resources up to date is a challenge. However, we have at least a few data points to work with for calculating our worth in a particular position. This is not an exact science, but the resources shared in today’s post will help to give you position parameters in terms of gauging expertise and responsibility as well as real numbers to work with.
Get the Numbers
First, let’s cover the resources you’ll need to establish the floor—the “We can’t go lower than this.” For these numbers we need to consult:
- Your State’s minimum wage
- A Living Wage calculator: The MIT Living Wage Calculator
- A Consumer Price Index (CPI) or Inflation Rate calculator
In the majority of cases, the cost of living for your area is more than minimum wage. This is part of the reason why many people can “make more than minimum wage” and yet can’t afford many life staples. It’s important to know this number because it can help substantiate why your salary is insufficient—especially if it has not kept up with the last few years of inflation. Many people are now making less than they were 2 years ago (in terms of purchasing power) even though their salary may be more.
Get the Position Dialed in and Defined
Your educational level, years of experience, and expertise will factor into how much you’re paid, but it’s within the larger confines of your position description. This is why it’s important to know what your position description says and that it accurately reflects your daily duties and responsibilities. For this qualitative information you have a few places you can go:
- Your position description from your current (or previous) museum
- Position descriptions transparently shared by professional organizations and other peer museums
- US Government Position Classification Standard
If you do not have a current position description, utilizing one that is close to the position you are currently in (or anticipate holding) will do. The goal is to develop an accurate sense of what the documented job role requires, the expertise needed, and the responsibilities assumed. Each of these areas will impact the salary assigned and will be a helpful persuasion tool in the event you need to advocate for yourself.
Get the Salary Range
Now that you have the baseline numbers and a position description to work with, it’s time to gather sample salary ranges from a few sources to inform what your salary should be. There are a couple of salary surveys available, although both major surveys are pre-COVID and have seen 12-20% inflation rate increases—which we’ll need to account for. Additionally, we can review the state and federal pay schedules available to us. In fact, identifying the equivalent “US Government Position Classification Standard” will tell you which area of the pay table to look at for the equivalent federal salary.
- National Museum Salary Survey (2017)
- Art & All Museum Salary Transparency (2019)
- US Government Pay Tables by Location
Now that we’ve reviewed the resources available to consult, it’s time to put the pieces together. The next few posts will walk you through each step of the process and use each of these resources to help you build your case.
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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