Erin Benz, M.A. '19, representing the Montclair History Center at the Fall Career Fair.
Erin Benz, M.A. '19, a recent graduate of the M.A. in Museum Professions program, one of three graduate programs offered within the College of Communication and the Arts, shares best practices that helped her ensure success after graduation. Benz, the museum coordinator and collections manager at the Montclair History Center, took the appropriate steps to ensure a permanent position at the center after completing her internship in collections. She believes that M.A. candidates that work proactively and know how to get the most out of their programs and experiential opportunities can maximize their potential for success following graduation.
During the University's Fall Career Fair, Benz found the Montclair History Center and began working as a collections intern and eventually as a volunteer. When a full-time position became available at the History Center and because of connections made during her internship, the Center's administrators knew Erin was the perfect candidate for museum coordinator and collections manager. Erin now works in many roles for the Center; she leads tours and school groups, creates programming, and manages their collection. Benz believes that her accomplishments are due to her education in the M.A. in Museum Professions program and steps she took during her graduate career to ensure success.
While at Seton Hall, Benz gained relevant field experience and built relationships to help her find a position after graduation. She knew it was important to gain experience inside and outside of the classroom, leading her to register for relevant coursework and complete internships in the field. These steps helped Benz in preparing for her career and making her better suited for her position.
Erin Benz presenting a shadow puppet show for Cub Scouts.
"The Registration I and II courses really helped me become a better museum professional that handles collections. Having this background and knowledge ensures that the collections are safer, which helps the museum become a better institution," Benz says. "Legal and ethical issues opened my eyes to the problems facing museums in the world today. Understanding the problems before facing them in the real world is extremely helpful at tackling problems and finding solutions faster."
As part of the M.A. in Museum Professions program, students undergo experiential learning in many ways, most notably through outside internships. "If it wasn't for the internship requirement of the program and the Fall Career Fair, I wouldn't be at a museum that I absolutely love going to every day," she says. The internship helped her realize that she loved working at a small institution that allows her to do a variety of work. Benz networked with professionals at the center and built a relationship with the institution, eventually leading to a full-time position. She encourages students to network with fellow students, professors, and museum professionals while completing their program. It is these relationships that sometimes provide employment opportunities after graduation, especially when students make this a priority. "You never know when a position might become available at a museum you previously worked, interned, or volunteered. Knowing the museum staff and the institution can give you a great advantage over other applicants," she says. Benz states that these networks have also assisted her with questions relating to her position, such as with writing loans or cleaning artifacts.
As a recent graduate of the program, Benz has many tips for students just entering the program or preparing to graduate. "So much of this profession is who you know. Simply making connections and keeping in touch with former employers and professors can make a huge difference in the future. Colleagues who understand the stress and challenges of finding an artifact on loan from an unknown person is a wonderful feeling. Start looking for jobs early on during your program. It's never too early to look, and you don't want to be waiting after you graduate waiting for employers to find you. Stay subscribed to listservs as that is where a lot of positions are advertised, especially from alumni or institutions that have a strong connection to the University. Lastly, don't procrastinate! Especially when you're working on your thesis. It is so important to make deadlines for yourself and keep on top of them. Don't make your life more stressful than it needs to be."
The M.A. in Museum Professions is designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers in museums or related cultural institutions. Students in the program select one of four professional tracks, including Education, Registration, Management and Exhibition Development.
The College currently offers three graduate-level programs, including Museum Professions, Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered.