Museum Director: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Museum directors require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and necessary skills to see if this is the right career for you.

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Museum directors are in charge of securing and overseeing a museum's collections, as well as other organizational efforts, such as fundraising and research. A Master's degree is generally required for this career. This article will explain the duties, requirements and outlook for a career as a museum director.

Essential Information

Museum directors, also known as curators, oversee the procurement and storage of a museum's collection of art, artifacts and archives. Curators direct museum exhibitions and are often involved in securing art and artifacts, through negotiation and purchase. A master's degree is the standard requirement for a career as a museum director.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements Administrative and research skills may be required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% for all curators
Mean Salary (2015)* $56,990 for museum curators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Description

A museum director may specialize in a particular subject, such as paleontology, history or art. This specialty may lead to a curator position at a museum featuring artifacts of a similar type. In addition to overseeing the museum's collection, the curator may also supervise the exchange or loan of artifacts in the collection, occasionally traveling with an exhibition. A museum director may be called on to authenticate and classify the museum's newest acquisitions. Other activities involve institutional research and the direction of educational programs related to the museum and exhibits.


Museum directors are often responsible for raising funds to cover the cost of museum and collection maintenance. Fundraising activities might include museum promotion, charity event management and securing grants. Administration, research and collection maintenance are general, day-to-day museum director duties.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many museums require curators to hold a master's degree in an area of the museum's specialty or a general curator's degree, also at graduate level. Some aspiring curators choose to pursue two master's or doctoral degrees, one in museum studies and another in a specialized subject. An undergraduate degree in library science or history can be helpful, and many curators start work and on-the-job training after earning a bachelor's degree.

Some schools offer a graduate-level museum curator degree or certificate program. Classes in these programs highlight some of a curator's required skills. Students working on a graduate degree in museum studies may take classes in museum management, finances and museum marketing. They might also learn artifact preservation and conservation techniques. Other classes teach students about museum design and offer methods to enhance the experience of museum visitors.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

Per the BLS, museum curators made a mean annual salary of $56,990, which equals about $27.40 an hour, in May 2015. The median income was slightly lower, with curators in general making $51,520 per year, or $24.77 an hour. Annual salaries for the ninetieth percentile were $91,710, or $44.09 an hour. The lowest-earning 10% of curators earned $28,440 or less annually, which is about $13.67 an hour. In 2014, the BLS predicted 7% employment growth for curators through 2024.

Museum directors, also called curators, supervise all aspects of a museum's collection, including loans, authentication, and educational programs. They are also responsible for overseeing administrative tasks and fundraising for a museum, and require a Master's degree, sometimes specializing in specific areas. Average job growth, at 7%, is predicted for museum directors through the year 2024.

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