What Is a Curator?

Curators work in museums, nature centers, historical sites, gardens, or zoos maintaining collections, researching, and fundraising for the institution. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is necessary for this career field; however, many curator positions require a master's or a doctorate degree. Read this article to learn more about a curator. Schools offering Museum Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Curators maintain an institution's collection of records and artifacts. They oversee the arrangement of exhibits and the cataloging of items. They assist institutions with acquiring objects or seeking analysis. Curators are also responsible for public education. They may coordinate tours, lectures, classes, or other outreach projects. Today, many curators are involved in marketing, fundraising, grants, promotional materials, or professional journal articles.

Important Facts About This Occupation

On-the-job TrainingWork part-time as an intern or volunteer assistant curator
Professional Certification Certification is largely voluntary
Key SkillsAnalytical, good customer service practices, organizational skills, proficient with computers
Similar OccupationsArchivists and museum workers

Work Environment

Most curators specialize in a particular field that usually dictates where they work. A curator with an archeology specialization may find a job at a history museum handling fossils and historic artifacts. With a background in art, a curator might be hired at an art museum to help with exhibiting fine art. In addition, curators are employed at gardens to maintain living plants, or at zoos to organize an assortment of living and inanimate wildlife. Specific departments within larger institutions employ curators in more specialized areas, such as coins or manuscripts. The government, colleges, universities, and a number of other institutions employ curators to collect, preserve, and maintain important artifacts and records.


Most institutions prefer to hire curators with an advanced degree. Because there are a limited number of curator positions, those with a master's or doctorate degree will have an advantage in the job market. Most curators earn a degree in a concentration such as botany, art history, paleontology, or archeology. A degree in museum studies is also appropriate. Because of the competitive market for curators, many join a professional association like the Association of Art Museum Curators (www.artcurators.org), which provides job networking and other professional development opportunities.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Job openings for curators are expected to increase 14% between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is about average compared to all other career fields. The median salary among curators was $53,780 as of 2018.

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