How to Become an Arts Administrator


A career as an arts administrator could be a great fit for you if you have a passion for arts programs, combined with the business administration skills to ensure they’re staffed, funded, promoted, and well managed.


This field offers the chance to work in an office but get out of it frequently, the ability to help the public have access to excellent art programs, and it offers plenty of room for career advancement and specialization.


So, if you'd like to know more about the ins and outs of this field then read on; we’ll fill you in on what you would be doing for a living, how much you could earn, and what you’ll need to break into this profession!



What is an Arts Administrator?

An arts administrator is someone who runs any kind of arts program: from ballet to photography; and belly dance to opera. They work behind the scenes to make sure artists keep creating and the public has the opportunity to be exposed to art of every kind.


The term ‘arts administrator’ is a blanket term that covers various job titles involved in running an arts program: an arts administrator could be a director of development, chief financial officer, arts education manager, or other kind of administrative professional. 



Education Needed to Get Into This Field

Having a certificate or a bachelor’s degree will likely qualify you to work in an entry-level role within arts administration. From there, you’ll have the chance to work your way up to more senior-level positions.


Having a master’s degree however, may qualify you for mid and senior-level positions without any relevant experience.


Although your certificate or degree can be in almost any field, the following areas of study are particularly relevant to a career as an arts administrator:


• Arts administration or management

• Art history

• Business-related studies, such as business administration, management, marketing, human resources

• English and literary studies

• Event planning

• Performing arts

• Visual arts and design





Business and/or Arts Experience

As mentioned above, you will likely need some form of post-secondary education to become an arts administrator. Having relevant work or volunteer experience in business or in the arts is also very important.


The right type of experience will give you an advantage over other candidates for competitive jobs, as it will give employers the confidence that you have the skills and competencies needed to get the job done. Luckily, gaining experience can be as simple as following the suggestions below:


• Helping with student or community drama productions or concerts

• Becoming involved with community events such as street carnivals

• Working front of house or at a box office at arts centres, cinemas or theatres

• Taking relevant temporary jobs, for example with arts festivals


If you haven’t worked with an arts organization before, don’t worry. Having work experience in jobs where you perform duties similar to arts administrators (even if it’s at a lower level of responsibility) can also help you get into this field. Relevant work experience includes:


• Budget development

• Public relations/communications projects

• Human resources

• Accounting/finance

• Fundraising/sponsorship development


Success Tip: Jobs in this field are very competitive. Having a blend of the right post-secondary education, some work experience in a related administrative field, and some volunteer or work experience with a local arts group is an excellent formula for being at the top of the candidate food chain. 



About This Profession: General Job Description

You may be wondering what you'll actually be doing as an arts administrator. To put it simply, you would be responsible for overseeing the administrative work activities of your organization, which would include developing budgets, planning events and performances, negotiating contracts and developing community interest in the organization.


In small galleries and arts centres you would likely be very involved in the day-to-day running of the centre. In larger organizations, you may specialize in one area, for example marketing, public relations or education.


If you were to be employed by a non-profit organization, you would also be in charge of organizing fundraising events and attracting financial supporters. You would also be expected to conduct grant research and apply for any relevant grants (or oversee grant-related work).



Typical Duties of the Job

Although your duties would vary from job to job, you could expect to perform duties similar to those described below, no matter where you work:


• Direct the hiring and training of personnel, and devise their schedules and assignments

• Plan, organize and oversee the logistics related to events, facilities and personnel

• Secure funding for venues or specific events

• Negotiate sponsorship and funding

• Plan and manage budgets

• Book performances and events

• Arrange domestic and international tours

• Contribute writing to publications, which accompany arts-related events and activities

• Develop new projects and initiatives in consultation with arts professionals and key stakeholders, such as local government officials and communities



Skills Needed to Succeed

In order to qualify for a role as an arts administrator, and succeed when you get there, you’ll need a certain set of skills, including:


• Excellent organizational and time management skills

• Good communication, teamworking and interpersonal skills

• Knowledge of, and an interest in, the arts

• The ability to work independently, meet deadlines and manage a number of projects at the same time and with accuracy

• Knowledge of political and economic issues affecting the arts sector

• Experience developing budgets

• Experience managing programs within budgets

• Proficiency with various office software, such as Microsoft Excel





Is this Profession Right for You?

If the following describes you, then you might be very well suited for this profession:


• You enjoy setting and working toward goals

• You have a passion for business and the arts

• You have an interest in the arts in general, or a particular branch such as theatre, dance or sculpture

• You enjoy teamwork and communication

• You want the public to have access to high quality arts programs

• You are not afraid to be accountable for the results of your group



Who Employs Arts Administrators?

Organizations that employ arts administrators might include not-for-profit organizations or government agencies. They might also work for corporations or foundations that support the arts.


So, as an arts administrator you could potentially be working for the following types of organizations (not a comprehensive list):


• Art galleries

• Community-based arts organizations

• Dance companies

• Federal, regional or local arts boards

• Museums

• Music festivals or concert venues

• Opera houses

• Theatres



Average Salary Level in This Field

The salary level you could earn as an arts administrator can vary, depending on the following factors:


• Your level of experience

• Your level of education

• The type of industry in which you work

• The region or area in which you work

• The scope of your job duties


Unfortunately there is no salary information available from reliable sources for this specific occupation. However, you can get a good idea of what you could earn by looking at the salary level of workers in closely related occupations:


Arts Administrator Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Curators* occupational group is $56,690 per year. 



Work Environment

Hours of Work: Your working hours may be irregular, and would likely include (at least on occasion) evenings, late nights and weekends. This would of course, depend on the event or activity you are working on.


Work Setting: Your work would be based out of an office, but you would also travel to events and performances, or to meet with artists, performers and other arts organizations.



Current Job Openings

Our job board below has "Arts Administrator" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Career Advancement Possibilities

Jobs and promotion within arts administration are highly sought after and competition is strong. However, if you display competence and a good work ethic, you will be in an excellent position to advance your career (which may involve relocating). Some common ways to progress in arts administration include:


• Advance to roles of greater responsibility and pay

• Become a general manager, director or chief executive of an arts organization

• Work as a freelancer or consultant in arts administration

• Contribute to the development of arts policies for a range of establishments

• Become an arts agent or promoter

• Become a specialist in an area such as marketing, HR, public relations, event planning, or communications


Alternatively, you can choose to move out of the field, and use your administrative experience to make the transition into public, private or voluntary sector posts, wherein there may be greater career development and promotion opportunities.



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or be in the same sector of industry, as arts administrator:


• Administrative Director

• Art Gallery Curator

• Assistant Curator

• Dance Company Director

• Fundraiser

• Gallery Director

• Museum Director




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what arts administrators do for a living, and how you can become one:


Wages & Salaries in Alberta:Administrative Officers.” (n.d.). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Curators.” (March 29, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Job Profile: Arts Administrator.” AGCAS editors (March, 2018). Prospects website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Explore Careers:Arts Administrator.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming an Arts Administrator

The "Relevant Fields of Study” section below shows academic fields that pertain to this occupation. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on the following pages:


Art History Scholarships

Business Administration Scholarships

Classical Studies Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful for becoming an arts administrator. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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