Planning to: Be a Docent

If you are interested in the arts, culture and history of Singapore and are wish to share the knowledge, volunteering as a museum docent might be a good option for you to spend your retirement. The role of a docent is to bring life and story to museum artefacts and provide an engaging tour of the museum. Through being a docent, you also get a better understanding of the artefacts.

Here are the steps to becoming a docent in Singapore:

In Singapore, there are more than 50 museums catering to a variety of interests. Most of the major museums require docents to help with their tours. Each museum usually specialises in a topic hence choosing a museum that coincides with your interest is important.

For example, the Asian Civilisation Museum focuses more on Asian history and art while the Peranakan Museum is more niche, showcasing Peranakan culture exclusively. On top of this, there are opportunities to volunteer as a docent for animals at the zoo. With the amount of training required, most people can only train to be a docent of one organisation at a time. Hence, make your choice wisely.

To sign up to be a docent, you can do it through a docent organisation or directly to the place you wish to volunteer at.


There are two major docent organisations in Singapore: Friends of the Museums and Museum Volunteers. Both organisations provide tours for various heritage trails and museums in Singapore.

The main difference is that Friends of the Museums provides weekday guiding while Museum Volunteers provide weekend guiding. Friends of the Museums also has Japanese docent training while Museum Volunteers is an English-speaking organization.

To learn about volunteer openings for Friends of the Museums or Museum Volunteers, sign up to be a member and look out for their recruitment drives.


Places like the Singapore Zoo or the National Gallery Singapore require a direct application rather than through a volunteering organisation. Volunteer openings for most of these places are limited so dropping them an email is the best way to know more about the various opportunities.

If you would like to guide in another language than English, the National Heritage Board has a program for Mandarin docents for the museums under its management. You can also indicate to Museum Volunteers if you wish to volunteer with another language.

One of the requirements to become a docent is having knowledge of the artefacts and familiarizing yourself with the exhibits of the place you wish to volunteer at. Thus, you will be required to go for training courses to get yourself acquainted with the subject. Training is time-consuming and lasts a few months. You will also be required to pay a training fee which can range from $150-$550 depending on where you train at. This is to cover training materials, tokens for lecturers and other activities that may be required during training.

After going for the training, you can officially volunteer as a docent at the organisation. You will typically be required to commit to a regular volunteering schedule for at least a year.

Being a docent is a very rewarding way to spend your time in retirement. Not only do you gain a greater appreciation of Singaporean history and culture, it also allows you to socialise and share your knowledge. If you wish to know more about guiding in general, check out our article on how to be a tour guide in Singapore.

Source: Friends of the Museums, Museum Volunteers, City of Good, The Finder, Roots