Informal science-education careers: museums and science centers

5/8/2019 4:33:12 PM

This is the first post in a series focused on informal science-education careers. Informal science simply refers to STEM learning and activities being done outside the context of a formal classroom. Science education happens in museums and science centers, aquariums and zoos and other community-based programs (e.g., after-school program, citizen science). The overarching goals of these efforts are to foster a science-engaged public and inspire a lifelong pursuit of intellectual curiosity. Here are some basic qualifications and skills you can work on now to prepare for careers in science education.  

  • Gain hands-on experience in science outreach with the general public by volunteering or working in an informal-education setting. (Note: With the summer-vacation season approaching, many museums and science centers are hiring part-time/seasonal staff to work with visitors. See the weekly jobs roundup for examples.)  
  • Find opportunities to design your own curriculum and outreach activities. If you are interested in working with K–12 students, also learn more about state math and science standards (e.g., next-generation science standards). There is a need for learning activities designed to complement what is required to be taught in the classroom.  
  • Take the initiative to learn the ancillary functions required to manage education programs (e.g., supervising volunteers, fundraising). This all can be done within the context of designing and implementing your own community outreach program or piecemealed together by serving in specific roles (e.g., volunteer coordinator, fundraising committee).  
  • Whenever possible, work on your #scicomm and #sciart skills to communicate science to the general public and take training courses in these areas. Most jobs will require writing and visualization components when creating content for education programs and displays. (Note: The summer session of the ASBMB’s The Art of Science Communication online course is accepting applications until May 17.)  

For this week’s job roundup, we looked into current openings within the education and outreach departments of museums and science centers. A few job boards that post related positions include those maintained by the Association of Science-Technology Centers and American Alliance of Museums.  

Weekly jobs roundup  

  • The Center of Science and Industry (Columbus, Ohio) is hiring a scientist on staff who will be the primary lead on researching and creating scientific content for exhibits, education programming and marketing materials. Minimum qualifications include a Ph.D. in a relevant field and two years of outreach experience. No application deadline is provided.  
  • The Pacific Science Center (Seattle) has an opening for a science interpretation program supervisor to oversee exhibit floor and show operations, train volunteers and staff, and support development of education programs. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in education, science or museum studies. No application deadline is provided. (Note: The science center also is hiring for a number of other education positions that include a weekend program educator, summer camp teacher and outreach education operation coordinator. Check out the job board for a full listing.)  
  • The California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco), which houses an aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum, is searching for an exhibit designs manager to join its Exhibit Studio team. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in architecture, design or a related field and eight or more years of related experience. The application deadline is June 3. (Note: The academy also is hiring a communications coordinator to support public-relations efforts and contribute to its multimedia magazine. That job closes on May 13.)  
  • The Museum of Life and Science (Durham, N.C.) is seeking a director of STEM learning to lead its Innovation and Learning Experiences team. Minimum qualifications include a college degree in STEM, education or nonprofit management and 10 or more years working in a museum, informal education setting or related field of work. (Note: The museum is hiring for summer camp educators and assistants as well. Check the job board for more details.)  

Recommended reading (ASBMB Today)

The CAISE for informal science education

Coming soon to a science center near you: You!

Donna Kridelbaugh is a contributor to the ASBMB Careers Blog. She holds an advanced degree in microbiology and is a former lab manager.   

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