Career Story: Programs Manager At A Natural History Museum

Programs Manager At A Natural History Museum

Job Title: Programs Manager

Type of Company: I work for a natural history museum in northeastern Alabama.

Education: BS, Secondary Education/Science Composite (Grades 7-12)

Previous Experience: I taught seventh grade science and then began to work as a seventh grade outreach teacher for a natural history museum. I am still at the natural history museum but have moved into a management position.

Job Tasks: My primary responsibility is to manage the Programs Department of our natural history museum. This department consists of three people: me, a naturalist and an educational specialist. I oversee the booking of all field trips, volunteers, outreach programs, and facilities rentals. I am responsible for planning, organizing and carrying out special events such as our annual festivals and fundraising events. I am also in charge of programming at both a natural history museum and a world history museum. We are a complex and our staffs overlap.

I don't think there is a typical day for me. The theme for our museum for years has been "Expect the unexpected" and that is pretty much my day. I usually start the day with a manager's or department meeting and if we have school groups on schedule my morning is spent greeting them and organizing their visit for them as they arrive. Many times I need to spend the day on the phone, calling volunteers who are needed to guide tours for the next month. I also oversee the care of about 65 live animals that we house at our facility.

When I am planning a special event I spend a lot of time on the phone, the computer and in meetings. Facility rentals take up full days also at times. This involves set-up and in general providing hospitality services throughout the day.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is being thrown into contact with so many different people from different businesses when I am dealing with facility rentals and special events. I also enjoy working with students and teachers in organizing field trips and special programs.

The worst part of my job is that our staff is too small to do a good job of all programming. I am on call seven days a week and managers are expected to work as many hours as they have to to get the job done. And my salary, at a non-profit, does not really compensate for that many hours.

Job Tips:
1. Be aware of what it means to work for a non-profit. They have their rewards, but when times are hard they are the first to be hit.

2. If I had started out working in a small museum I would have taken a greater variety of electives while in college. Business Administration and Marketing are two topics that would have benefited me greatly.

3. In a small museum or business be prepared to do anything and don't plan to specialize in anything... at first.

Additional Thoughts: This job requiems you to multi-task everyday. You have to be able to focus on many different tasks as well as be able to research situations at the drop of a hat. The most surprising thing for most people about my job is that I go from hosting a formal event one evening to washing ferrets in the Live Animal Facility the next. You need to be a people person and realize that the customer is always right (within reason). We are a non-profit that relies on public support so we try to make each visitor as happy as possible.

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