Assistant Curator: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an assistant curator. Learn about job duties, education requirements, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Museum Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Assistant Curator Do?

Assistant curators help maintain collections, do research and provide education to the public in a variety of settings, including museums, galleries and zoos. They provide support to the main curator, offering input and carrying out tasks in order to ensure that an exhibition runs smoothly. Assistant curators need to have a professional level of knowledge about the collection they are working with, excellent organizational skills and a background in archiving, if relevant to their field. They may also be responsible for preparing press releases and representing their institution within the media.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; master's degree for advancement
Education Field of Study Museum studies
Key Responsibilities Help maintain collections, develop exhibits, keep records, provide public education
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% (for all curators)*
Average Salary (2015) $44,880 (for museum technicians and conservators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is an Assistant Curator?

As an assistant curator, or museum technician, you are a hands-on aide to the curator in a museum, an aquarium or a zoo. Curators are generally responsible for maintaining the collections, arranging exhibits and recording acquisitions. You will assist with educational programs and research projects while working closely with the public and the volunteers arranging tours and workshops. As an assistant curator in a small museum or community site, your duties could be spread across several departments, while larger museums tend to hire assistants who specialize in specific areas.

What Education Do I Need?

An undergraduate interdisciplinary degree with a minor in museum studies provides you with a liberal arts background and prepares you for many aspects of museum affairs. You can move on to a master's degree program in museum studies to focus on specific areas of exhibit design, curatorship and administration, or you could specialize in an area such as art, paleontology, history or zoology, at either the master's or doctoral level.

Master's degree programs exist in library science and information management. Computer-based courses focus on cataloging, collection development and archival studies to prepare you to work in collections, acquisitions or archival management. Library science and museum studies programs offer graduate-level certificate programs for professional development, and museum studies certificate programs are also available for undergraduates and those who hold a bachelor's degree.

What Will I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), salaries for museum technicians vary both geographically and by site classification. As of 2015, the average annual wage for those working in museums or historical sites was $41,520, while those working for the federal government earned $53,180. Geographically, as of 2015, the highest-paying metropolitan area was Washington DC, with an annual average salary of $65,980. Overall, in 2015, museum technicians and conservators (including assistant curators) earned an average of $44,880. The BLS also states that jobs for curators are projected to grow 7% between 2014 and 2024, which is about average for all U.S. occupations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Most assistant curators will likely have aspirations of becoming head curators, but there are other options within the field that may be appealing as well. If you have an education in preservation, art history or a similar field, you may also want to consider becoming a conservator. These professionals preserve and maintain artifacts, art pieces and objects of historical interest, minimizing damage and restoring them to their original state. If you have studied history at the undergraduate or graduate level, you may also be interested in becoming a history teacher. Depending on your level of knowledge, you could teach history secondary or postsecondary level.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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