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Curator: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Curators require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and salary expectations to see if this is the right career for you.

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Curators typically hold master's degrees and can work in a variety of institutions maintaining or preserving a collection of artifacts. Here you can learn about the responsibilities of a curator, as well as the job outlook and salary information for this field.

Essential Information

Curators are in charge of collections within institutions such as museums, government facilities and universities. The collections they work with can include many types of objects, including historical artifacts, sports memorabilia and art. Their job often requires them to record and direct the acquisition of materials, and they also might supervise staff.

A master's degree in a specialty subject or museum studies is the usual requirement for a curator, although some small museums will hire someone with a bachelor's degree. Many curators hold doctoral degrees, especially those who work in natural history and science museums.

Required Education Master's degree is usually required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% for archivists, curators and museum workers*
Mean Salary (2015) $56,990 for curators*

Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description of a Curator

Curators work in various institutions in order to preserve important items, documents or whole collections. These items might include historical transcripts, artwork, photography and other important paraphernalia.

Education Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master's degree is often the minimum educational requirement for curators (www.bls.gov). Aspiring curators might choose to earn a degree in a specialty subject, such as history, archaeology or art, or in museum studies. Additionally, they might benefit from courses in the humanities, such as writing and communications.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • American History
  • Ancient Studies
  • Asian History
  • Classical Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies
  • Cultural Resource Management
  • European History
  • Historic Preservation
  • History of Science and Technology
  • Holocaust Studies
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • Museum Studies
  • Public History and Archival Administration

Curator Job Duties

Depending on the workplace, a curator can have duties ranging from the preservation of significant cultural items to the care of animals. The most common duty for a curator is organizing artifacts or items so they can be displayed in collections or stored for safe-keeping. Curators might negotiate the price and acquisition of collections, as well as loan materials to other institutions. They also might manage a staff of technicians, researchers and clerical workers so that items are properly cataloged or registered. This management may involve training as well.

In addition to acquiring items, curators might write grant proposals to receive funding for their institutions, or they might provide copy for academic journals. They often will be involved in promoting their institutions to the public, which can include advertising collections or galleries, conducting tours and organizing workshops. Some curators also provide customer service to the public and academics in the field.

Salary Information for Curators

The BLS stated that the mean annual salary for curators was $56,990 in May 2015. Salaries were highest for curators working in financial investment institutions, who earned a mean wage of $82,640 per year. This was followed by curators who worked for the federal executive branch of the government; they made a mean salary of $80,740 annually.

Curators can work in museums, galleries, libraries, universities or government facilities, with a variety of collections ranging from artwork to animals. Most curators hold a master's degree in a specialty subject and possess strong communication and writing skills. Job opportunities in this field are expected to increase by 7% for all curators, archivists and museum workers through the year 2024.

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