Security/Invigilator

 13 March 2013

Security staff and invigilators ensure that heritage venues and their contents are kept safe.

Security staff and invigilators ensure that heritage venues and their contents are kept safe.
Security staff and invigilators ensure that heritage venues and their contents are kept safe.

What do security staff/invigilators do?

Heritage sites are full of unique objects. Some are valuable pieces of art, others may be everyday objects or papers. However, most are irreplaceable if they are lost, stolen or damaged.

In some cases, the heritage site buildings themselves maybe historic and therefore valuable. Such pieces of our heritage need to be looked after carefully and kept securely.

For both jobs, it will be an advantage to have worked in a customer-facing role.

Security staff and invigilators ensure that heritage venues and their contents are kept safe. They also ensure that the visitors themselves have a safe and enjoyable visit.

What is the job like?

Invigilators and security staff:

  • patrol the rooms, galleries or site
  • help direct visitors
  • ensure that visitors keep to the rules (such as no photography, not touching exhibits)
  • may do some tidying of rooms or galleries (replacing leaflets, for example).

In some venues invigilators/security staff take on some of the duties of retail or admission and bookings staff.

Are there differences between security staff and invigilators?

Although in many places the duties may be similar, for security staff there is more emphasis on health and safety and the security of the building and its contents.

Security staff duties:

  • unlocking when the venue opens
  • searching bags at entrances
  • challenging visitors who do not stick to the rules
  • ensuring the safety and privacy of ‘staff only’ areas
  • managing queuing for popular sites or exhibitions
  • dealing with emergency situations
  • patrolling the outside of the building or site
  • being extra vigilant when particularly valuable items are displayed.

Invigilators, on the other hand, are more likely to be involved in the artworks or heritage of the site. They play a role in helping visitors get as much as possible from their visit.

Invigilator duties:

  • welcoming visitors
  • answering questions on the building or contents
  • encouraging visitors to interact or touch exhibits where this is allowed
  • interpreting or discussing the buildings or contents with visitors
  • helping with events at the site
  • directing visitors around the building or art installations.

In some cases, invigilators help with packing and unpacking exhibits.

Some invigilators are volunteers (they may be gaining experience for a career in heritage or the arts). In some cases, invigilators work on a short term contract. This may be seasonal (for example, if the site only opens in the summer) or linked to a particular event or exhibition.

What else should I know about the job?

Security staff and invigilators may be on their feet for most of the day. They may do some walking. The work maybe indoors or out, depending on the type of heritage venue (some may involve both).

Hours are linked to the opening hours of the venue. They can include evenings, weekends and bank holidays. Security staff may work shifts, including nights.

Security staff usually wear a uniform, provided by the employer. Invigilators may have a dress code. They may wear a uniform so they are readily seen by visitors.

Some heritage venues may not be near public transport links, so you may need your own transport.

How do I become an invigilator?

Both invigilators and security staff need good customer care skills. You need good communication skills, and to to be able to remain calm under pressure and deal with unexpected.

For both jobs, it will be an advantage to have worked in a customer-facing role.

Heritage sites may expect invigilators to have an existing interest in and knowledge of arts and heritage.

Apprenticeships in customer service within the heritage sector may cover this area of work.

Invigilators may go on to pursue a career in heritage. Working as a voluntary invigilator will give you valuable experience to apply for a paid job.

Security staff can become team leaders or managers of a team of security staff.

Training and qualifications

Although there are no set entry requirements, many invigilators have qualifications, such as a degree, in an art- or heritage-related subject. For example, history of art, arts management, heritage management, conservation or archaeology. The UCAS website shows all the courses available in these fields.

Security staff usually need an SIA (Security Industry Authority) licence. Employers often also look for recent experience of security work or related experience in the armed forces or emergency services.

What will I earn?

Invigilators are often volunteers. They may get travel expenses. Where they are paid, it is usually around the minimum wage. Invigilators working part-time or on short-term contracts may have other jobs elsewhere.

Security staff may start around £15,000. With experience, salaries can rise to £22,000.


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