Museum Curator

A museum curator oversees the maintenance and preservation of historical and culturally significant artifacts, antiquities and artworks. They specialize in acquiring, researching and exhibiting important works for museums of various sizes and subject matters; from mid-size city and county art institutions, to national museums with large-scale natural history exhibits.

Museum curators work primarily with objects like sculptures, paintings and textiles, or biological specimens such as bones and fossils. To help accomplish their career objectives, museum curators draw from numerous disciplines, including: the natural arts and sciences, history, business management, computer science and cultural studies. Museum curators find work at museums, zoos, biological gardens, cultural and historic centers, and other institutions with collections requiring managerial oversight.

Museum Curator Degrees

Generally, museums look for curators to have undergraduate degrees relevant to the institution’s subject matter; for example, art museums require curators with art history degrees, while natural history museums need professionals with biology or anthropology degrees.

Due to the competitive nature of the career field, most museum curators must meet additional specific criteria, including:

  • Earning graduate or doctoral degrees in museum studies (museology), as well as an appropriate discipline (e.g., archeology, botany, zoology, history).
  • Additional courses in business management, marketing, fundraising or public relations.
  • Internships and extensive hands-on experience at a museum, often beginning in an entry-level position.

Museum curators may also participate in continuing education courses offered by professional organizations or sometimes directly through their employers. Prospective curators seeking positions at large well-established institutions may also be required to conduct research and publish related findings in professional publications.

Museum Curator Job Description

Museum curators supervise the maintenance, exhibition, acquisition and preservation of objects of cultural or historical importance. As part of their wide-reaching responsibilities, they frequently collaborate with technicians and other personnel.

Often holding the title of museum director, museum curators supervise research related to collection acquisition and authentication. They may also help establish policies on fundraising, budgets and museum personnel.

Museum curators work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Indoor or outdoor museums
  • Botanical gardens
  • Cultural or historical sites
  • Zoos or preservation areas

Most museum curators have a professional area of specialty, such as history, natural science, anthropology or art. The extent of their knowledge base may vary depending on their particular work environment and responsibilities. Due to the importance of computers in data storage and research, curators need to remain current on industry-related software, hardware and technology.

Museum Curator Salary

The number of job openings for museum curators is predicted to grow at a significantly faster than average rate. Demand is expected to be particularly strong for professionals with extensive hands-on experience and advanced degrees in specialized disciplines, museum studies or business management.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, museum curators tend to earn an average annual salary of between $34,910 and $63,940. Professionals working for the Federal Government earn around $90,205 per year.

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