Culture and Heritage

  • Museums and Galleries; e.g. The National Gallery, The Natural History Museum, The Ashmolean Museum
  • Heritage organisations; eg: The National Trust, English Heritage, Oxford Preservation Trust
  • Theatre and Performance organisations; e.g. The Royal Opera House, The Oxford Playhouse
  • Auction Houses

The sector also includes a number of organisations and projects dedicated to promoting the culture and heritage of historically under-represented groups eg:  The Black Cultural Archives  and Our Shared Cultural Heritage

Organisations in the sector are funded in a number of different ways, such as revenue from commercial activities, national/local government funding or donations from the public and high-net-worth individuals, many are funded by a combination of all of the above. The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on funding for the sector, with some organisations being forced to shut down and many facing serious shortfalls in their finances. However there are still many exciting opportunities for new entrants into the sector, as organisations seek to engage more actively with the public and commercial enterprises, broadening the scope of their work to reflect and incorporate new perspectives and content.

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There are a very wide range of jobs available in the sector, vacancies pages on websites such as  Arts Job Finder can be useful to demonstrate the scope and types of roles available. Don't forget, culture and heritage organisations also need administrators, HR professionals, marketing teams, IT specialists etc, so don't overlook these roles. 

As most organisations rely on external funding and cannot always predict income generation from year to year, many offer both fixed-term and permanent roles and it's common for people to work on fixed-term contracts in the early stages of their career before progressing to and finding permanent positions.

Below is a brief overview of some of the different types of roles 

Museums & Galleries

These can vary greatly in size and specialism, ranging from the National Gallery in London displaying and exhibiting art works from around the world across many centuries, to small galleries or museums focusing on the work of an individual artist or the history of particular town. The Oxford University Gardens Libraries & Museums (GLAM) careers page also highlights some of the different roles available and some are listed below:


Probably the most popular and recognised role within museums and galleries. Their responsibilities can vary and be very broad depending on their level of seniority, covering a range of matters such as, the management of their department and staff, involvement in fundraising and donor relations, overseeing the acquisition, research and display of the objects in their care. Curators have specialised academic knowledge of their subject matter from studying a relevant DPhil/PhD combined with extensive practical work experience.


Conservators are responsible for the maintenance, repair and restoration of objects within museum/gallery collections. Their role is pivotal as some of the works displayed may be several centuries old or made from rare materials that require specialist cleaning and repair. Many conservators have postgraduate qualifications specialising in conservation and their work usually focuses on a specific type of medium eg: paintings, sculpture, drawings etc.

Researcher/Research Assistant

Researcher and research assistants are specialists who use their academic knowledge ( gained by studying a DPhil/PhD) on a particular subject to enhance the knowledge and information museums and galleries have on their collections. They often publish research on their subject and researchers can also act as curators in some institutions and/or for specific exhibitions. They can be permanent members of staff or work at an institution on a scholarship or fellowship to research a particular subject. 

Administrators & Management

Museums and galleries can be complex organisations to run, therefore to be successful they need professional and well structured administration teams. Many people get their "first break" in the sector by working in these roles eg: as a summer or contract job. These roles can include a range of functions including, Finance, IT, HR, Administration, Legal and some of the most senior roles in an organisation such as board members and directors.


Fundraising is a key aspect of ensuring the survival of a gallery or museum as they have to find funds from a range of different sources. These funds can come from government grants, donations from the public and high-net-worth individuals, commercial enterprises eg: their retail shops, renting out the gallery/museum spaces. Depending on the size of the museum/gallery, fundraising may be managed by a dedicated team or could be an additional responsibility for another member of staff. Fundraising roles are great for people who enjoy networking and building relationships with organisations and people who may be potential donors.

Public Engagement/Outreach & Education 

Museums and galleries are also places of learning and education and many have education/outreach programmes to engage with the public. Roles within these teams can vary and can include creating and managing education programmes for the public and schools, supervising tours and promoting the institution's work.

Retail assistants

Many galleries and museums supplement their income by selling items related to their collections eg: books and postcards. These jobs are usually located in gallery/museum shops and are a great way to get experience working in this environment

Guides/Gallery Assistants/Welcome Teams

Guides, gallery assistants and welcome teams are usually the first people you meet when visiting a gallery or museum. They provide assistance and information to guests. Some of these roles are paid and some are volunteer roles. They're a great way to learn about these institutions and how they work and some offer vacation opportunities for students.

Heritage Organisations

Many of the roles that exist in galleries and museums also exist in individual heritage locations eg: Chatsworth House and can also include landscape, stonemasonry, veterinary, water conservation, agricultural roles and much more to maintain their upkeep.

Larger organisations such as the National Trust, which oversee and care for multiple locations eg: historical houses, castles, parks, forests and the of works of art in those locations also have a range of roles. Many are similar to those found in museums and galleries eg: curations, researchers, public engagement specialists and managers. Some of the roles may be focused on specific properties/locations and others may have a broader scope with a national or regional focus.

Theatre &  Performance Organisations

Theatre and performance organisations offer a range of roles which cover their administration  and also the "creative" aspect of their work eg: The Royal Opera House employs administrators and finance staff as well as stage lighting specialists and costume makers. Many people start their careers as ushers or box-office assistants which is a great way to understand the inner-workings of a theatre. To get a better idea about the type of permanent and fixed term contract roles available in these types of organisations, visit their vacancies pages eg: The Royal Opera House,  The National Theatre 

Auction Houses 

The purpose of auction houses is to provide a market to sell and buy high value luxury goods. These items can include art, jewellery, rare watches, designer handbags and classic cars. These organisations have staff with a range of skills and experience that can include valuation specialists (often with an academic background in their specialist area), business development, client strategy and liaison experts, legal and finance teams. The larger the auction house, the broader the range of roles. In smaller auction houses staff may have responsibility for a combination of areas eg: Finance and HR. Review the vacancies pages for some of the larger auction houses eg: Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams to learn more about the types of roles they recruit for.

There are very few graduate schemes in the sector and competition is fierce for those that exist, with successful applicants often having extensive experience in the sector either through volunteering or paid work experience.

Most people's careers start with entry-level junior positions. There isn't a typical "recruitment cycle" timeline, so you will need to be proactive to find work and continuously review individual organisations' vacancies pages and relevant job sites.

It's important to note that most entry level jobs require previous experience in the sector. The level of experience required will depend on the role, for example a curatorial position will usually require a PhD/DPhil combined with relevant work experience and a marketing position could require previous marketing experience  - although it may not need to have been within the culture and heritage sector. 

Some roles require postgraduate qualifications, but before committing your time and resources to a course, check whether it's an essential requirement for the type of work you want to do. Is it possible to gain the relevant skills by getting work experience?

Some people move into the sector later in their career via a "lateral move". This usually happens when someone has trained in another sector and has a specific skill set that an organisation is looking for and their skills are considered to be "transferable" eg: a lawyer in private practice can join a cultural organisation as legal counsel or Company Secretary. Most people who make successful lateral moves are also able to demonstrate in their applications/interviews an interest in the sector.

The External Resources section of this briefing lists relevant vacancies websites for entry level work.


Skills needed

Each individual role will have its own set of requirements and skills, however listed below are some general skills that are helpful for working in the sector:

  • Flexibility (particularly with fixed-term contracts, and funding changes)
  • Creativity
  • Excellent communication skills (written and verbal)
  • Demonstrable interest in the sector (eg: relevant previous work experience/volunteering)
  • Initiative and drive
  • Evaluative skills
  • Strong organisational skills

Getting experience

There is no substitute for relevant experience and you should aim to acquire this as early as you can. Volunteer and get involved both whilst at Oxford and during vacations to ensure that your enthusiasm is supported by experience and expertise - volunteer at local museums/galleries (don't forget many Oxford colleges have galleries and art collections); get involved in your local community cultural/heritage/history projects; contact theatres and auction houses to see if they can offer  work experience.

There are very few internship programmes in the sector  (although Sotheby's and Christie's both have internship programmes). As many arts and heritage organisations are registered charities, there are more volunteering opportunities available than formal internships/work experience programmes, so be proactive and flexible when looking for work experience. Here are some tips:

  • Use the websites listed under ‘External Resources’ to find advertised roles on job sites
  • Look at the ‘get involved’ pages of an organisation’s website to find out what opportunities exist
  • Some organisations source and create internships for historically under-represented groups in the sector eg: Creative Access 
  • The Oxford Playhouse lists current vacancies on their website
  • Contact organisations directly to ask if they offer any work experience opportunities

Oxford University Internship Programmes

If you're a current Oxford University student, you can apply to our Micro and Summer Internship programmes which are a great opportunity to gain some work experience in the sector. The programmes source a range of  culture and heritage internships that students can apply to and previous internships include: Curatorial & Collections internships at Chawton House, a research internship at Muncaster Castle and a Medieval Manuscripts internship at the Bodleian Libraries.

TORCH Heritage Pathway programme

Heritage Pathway is a series of training and engagement activities which run termly.  Providing current undergraduate, postgraduate students and Early Career Researchers with the skills, knowledge and confidence to engage effectively with a wide range of partners in the heritage, museums and cultural sector. 

The programme combines lectures, workshops and site visits led by expert practitioners, to help participants understand their research in a wider context and gain experience in the heritage, museums and cultural sector. Contact the programme administrators for more information:

Start volunteering

Here's a list of organisations you can contact about volunteering opportunities in Oxford and beyond:

Join relevant clubs & societies

  • Oxford University societies
  • Oxford Hub – Volunteering hub, particularly look for arts, outreach and education
  • Alumni telethons, College Art Weeks and similar events are great ways to build your skills 

Temporary & seasonal work

There are dozens of events and festivals (literary; arts; music; theatre) where you might be able to secure paid work and/or free entry if volunteering:

  • Look for box-office or front-of-house roles in local arts venues – research on the individual festival website, or use sites that provide information on multiple festivals, e.g. Festaff
  • Explore vacancy websites listed under ‘External Resources’ 
  • Consider a speculative approach. For example, if you have IT (or design/ marketing/ translation etc.) skills, and could improve a local arts organisation’s work, get in touch to suggest a project you could do. They may be willing to pay!

Will I get paid?

Internships and summer jobs are governed in the UK by National Minimum Wage law which means that if you are carrying out activities that class yo as a "worker" by the employer, then you should be paid. Full details of Employment Rights and Pay for Interns are published by the government.

If you are undertaking a learning and development opportunity such as a micro-internship or volunteering for a charity or statutory body or shadowing or observing, then you may not be eligible for the National Minimum Wage. The organisation may reimburse you for your travel and/or lunch expenses but they aren't obliged to do so.

There isn't a standard "recruitment cycle" for the sector and jobs are often advertised when the need arises dependent upon seasonal events, new funding, project and roles becoming available. It's never to early to start looking for work, being familiar with job descriptions and their requirements can also indicate areas in which you may need to improve your skills. Be proactive, read through vacancies pages on a regular basis - doing this weekly is ideal so that you don't miss out on any recently posted opportunities.

Be flexible

Fixed-term contract or temporary jobs are a great way to start in the industry and are sometimes converted into permanent roles. Either way, they are a good way of getting professional experience which you can leverage when applying to your next role. 

Think laterally

  • Skills gained from other industries could provide you with some transferable experience, particularly when coupled with relevant volunteering.
  • You could work for an organisation that ‘serves’ the arts and heritage sector. There are specialist firms that work mainly or only with this field, including architects, manufacturers, events companies, marketers, consultancies, printers, shippers, packagers, insurers, trainers, recruiters and many more. 


  • Read our advice on networking
  • Join professional associations as a student member to access networking events
  • Get in touch with alumni via your college Development/Alumni office and LinkedIn

Develop your interests and skills

  • Even if there aren't any suitable jobs available in the sector, think about ways that you can develop skills that will be useful in the future eg: by self-directed learning such as, IT courses, continuing your own research on a subject you're interested in
  • Keep up to date with news about the sector such as government policy by reading the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport website and other relevant publications for your area of interest



Museums & galleries

Science centres

Art market


Theatre & Performance


Recruiters are keen to have a diverse workforce, and many will have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. An increasing number of recruiters are offering traineeships, internships and insight events that are aimed at specific groups and many are being recognised for their approach to being inclusive employers. 

Try the following to discover more about the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in:

The UK Equality Act 2010 has a number of protected characteristics to prevent discrimination due to your age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs, sex or sexual orientation. For further information, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s webpage on the Equality Act and the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

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