Smithsonian

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Smithsonian Reviews in Washington, DC

Updated 6 November 2014
Updated 6 November 2014
97 Reviews
3.8
97 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough
Wayne Clough
42 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • It is quite an interesting place to work with behind the scenes understanding of what happens in the largest museum complex in the world (in 3 reviews)

  • Great benefits after two years of employment and committed people (in 4 reviews)


Cons
  • Not much of a chance for full time position (in 5 reviews)

  • Unpaid position- no benefits other than the experience itself (in 4 reviews)

More Highlights

56 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

Sort: Popular Rating Date
  1.  

    Excellent Federal position

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC (US)
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC (US)

    I worked at Smithsonian as an intern (more than an year)

    Pros

    Incredible project work, decent resources available, good employee socialization and recognition experiences. Plenty of opportunities to collaborate across departments and teams. The mission of the entire organization is strong and embedded in almost everything being done. Lots of chances to explore partner organizations in the area due to strong and long standing relationships that are very reciprocal.

    Cons

    Slow moving entity, it takes a long time to get to completion and many of the steps seem related to ingrained process versus project need. I sensed that some (not all) people were clock in/clock out types with little passion for the work being done but that's the curse of government work. To become proficient in the systems and work, one may need to work here for a few years, this applies to leadership as well - in other words, new leaders or supervisors may spend a lot of time acclimating to the new roles at the cost of providing leadership in the moment.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Processes could be streamlined.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    Great Team; So-So position

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Administrative in Washington, DC (US)
    Former Employee - Administrative in Washington, DC (US)

    I worked at Smithsonian full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    Manager was pleasant, helpful. Department, located in Natural history museum, consisted of intelligent, friendly scientists. Great coworkers; close to Metro station.

    Cons

    Not much room for advancement if working in administrative field.
    During summer months its hard to find a quick place to eat lunch due to the summer crowds.

    No opinion of CEO
  3.  

    15 years middle manager

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Technical in Washington, DC (US)
    Current Employee - Technical in Washington, DC (US)

    I have been working at Smithsonian full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    Amazing opportunities to work on global projects and collaborate with internationally celebrated artists and scholars.
    Good benefits and some great colleagues.

    Cons

    senior management disconnect from reality. Serious organizational flaws. Senior level bureaucrats get promoted to positions they cannot perform. Lousy pay

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5.  

    Great experience!

    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC (US)
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC (US)

    I worked at Smithsonian part-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Very collegial work environment with extremely smart people. Work-life balance is fantastic. The agency values learning and diversity. Benefits are also good.

    Cons

    Takes a long time for things to change, though I think this is true of most government agencies. Pay is not as good as private companies, but still much better than most government agencies.

  6.  

    Fantastic but certain museums need better leadership

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Scholarly Studies Fellow in Washington, DC (US)
    Current Employee - Scholarly Studies Fellow in Washington, DC (US)

    I have been working at Smithsonian as an intern (more than an year)

    Pros

    Excellent resources, and some of the most knowledgeable and sharp scholars that exist.

    Cons

    A little too much red-tape and overkill with policies and procedures; I know it is intended to accurately spend donor and constituent money, but it ends up wasting enough full time employee time that it isn't worth it. Expedite processes!

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Leadership, time management, and conflict resolution training should be a priority for those in charge of people. ("people" includes fellows and interns too!) Lack thereof reduces morale (Not in my position, but in the full-timers that I know)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  7.  

    Graduate Level Internship

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Curatorial Intern in Washington, DC (US)
    Former Employee - Curatorial Intern in Washington, DC (US)

    I worked at Smithsonian as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    Generally nice people to work with. Curators can often come with egos. Good collection, but not the best.

    Cons

    Often have to deal with bureaucracy. Change moves slow. Technological aptitude is a not very high as many employees have been there for a long time and don't learn new tech. Moral can be low due to low wages, poor advancement.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    If you primarily focus on expanding/growing the art collection, the employees will be left behind and leave for different opportunities.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
  8.  

    A little boring and a lot of old male academics...

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anthropology Department in Washington, DC (US)
    Current Employee - Anthropology Department in Washington, DC (US)

    I have been working at Smithsonian as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    I was great to be able to go on tours of the collections and be around tons of intellectual powerhouses. Some of these people literally wrote the book on the discipline.

    Cons

    Being cooped up in an office on the top floors of the Natural History museum could get very isolating. It was also difficult to be around so many tenured members that were very much stuck in their ways of doing things. The average age of the department was over 60 and male which made it a very masculine, conservative environment to work in. Also, all the internships are unpaid.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    It might have been nice for the interns to have more abilities to connect with other departments (or really for all the departments to work together more).

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9.  

    My experience interning at the natural history museum was good, extremely relaxed, and I had a lot of independence

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Smithsonian in Washington, DC (US)
    Former Employee - Smithsonian in Washington, DC (US)

    I worked at Smithsonian as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    Excellent managers, cutting-edge research, very relaxed workplace, people who tend to be good at what they do (at least in the research department) with a lot of creative staff. A lot of museum perks - roaming around, free imax tickets.

    Cons

    Pay is pretty low, there isn't much guidance - at least where I was working, but that can be good too. The office we were in was pretty terrible, and the internal network (in terms of data storage and access) is pretty difficult to deal with and very disorganized.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  10.  

    Security is dangerously incompetent.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Museum Police Officer in Washington, DC (US)
    Current Employee - Museum Police Officer in Washington, DC (US)

    I have been working at Smithsonian full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    I suppose that it taking an act of god to get fired could be a pro. Maybe.

    Cons

    Years of poor hiring standards have resulted in Smithsonian's security division, "Office of Protection Services", being stuffed from the top down with people whose only work experience seems to be Smithsonian security. Most of the security managers are more concerned with keeping the staff happy than they are with actually ensuring the safety and security of the building. The organization is full of people being allowed to carry guns who have no business ever being allowed to touch one. There's no promotion potential unless you went to high school with someone in management.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    There's no saving OPS. Burn it down and start from scratch.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  11.  

    Contracting

    Former Employee - Contractor in Washington, DC (US)
    Former Employee - Contractor in Washington, DC (US)

    I worked at Smithsonian as a contractor (less than an year)

    Pros

    The Smithsonian offered many opportunities for individuals to expand their horizons. Great program for interns, wonderful to be surrounded by such great minds.

    Cons

    Difficult to commute to the Mall during the summer, low pay, no oversight, must sign up as a business if you do any contract work for them.

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