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What is a Curator

Curators are in charge of a collection of exhibits in a museum or art gallery. Their job is to build up supplies, often in specialist areas. They continually develop and interpret objects, archives, and artworks through exhibitions, publications, events, and audio-visual presentations.

The specific nature of the role will depend on the size of the museum at which they work. At a small museum, the curator may also effectively manage the institution as a whole; at a large establishment, several curators specializing in different aspects manage collections and exhibitions. Self-employment and contract work are also common in many instances.

An undergraduate degree is usually essential for the majority of curatorial positions. Due to the healthy competition in this area, many curators also hold postgraduate degrees or diplomas and have previous experience. Curators might begin their career in a more junior role, such as assistant curator.

What Does a Curator Do

Archivists appraise, process, catalog, and preserve permanent records and historically valuable documents. Curators oversee collections of artwork and historic items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore objects and documents in museum collections and exhibits.

Learn more about what a Curator does

How To Become a Curator

Most archivist, curator, and conservator positions require a master’s degree related to the position’s field. Museum technicians must have a bachelor’s degree. People often gain experience through an internship or by volunteering in archives and museums.

Education

Archivists. Archivists typically need a master’s degree in history, library science, archival science, political science, or public administration. Although many colleges and universities have history, library science, or other similar programs, only a few institutions offer master’s degrees in archival studies. Students may gain valuable archiving experience through volunteer or internship opportunities.

Curators. Curators typically need a master’s degree in art history, history, archaeology, or museum studies. Students with internship experience may have an advantage in the competitive job market.

In small museums, curator positions may be available to applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Because they also may have administrative and managerial responsibilities, courses in business administration, public relations, marketing, and fundraising are recommended.

Museum technicians. Museum technicians, commonly known as registrars, typically need a bachelor’s degree. Because few schools offer a bachelor’s degree in museum studies, it is common for registrars to obtain an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as art history, history, or archaeology. Some jobs may require candidates to have a master’s degree in museum studies. Museums may prefer candidates with knowledge of the museum’s specialty, training in museum studies, or previous experience working in museums.

Conservators. Conservators typically need a master’s degree in conservation or in a closely related field. Graduate programs last 2 to 4 years, the latter years of which include internship training. Only a few graduate programs in museum conservation techniques are offered in the United States. To qualify for entry into these programs, a student must have a background in chemistry, archaeology, studio art, or art history. Completing a conservation internship as an undergraduate can enhance admission prospects.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

At this time, only a few employers require or prefer certification for archivists. However, archivists may choose to earn voluntary certification because it allows them to demonstrate expertise in a particular area.

The Academy of Certified Archivists offers the Certified Archivist credential. To earn certification, candidates must have a master’s degree, have professional archival experience, and pass an exam. They must renew their certification periodically by retaking the exam or fulfilling continuing education credits.

Other Experience

To gain marketable experience, candidates may have to work part time, as an intern or as a volunteer, during or after completing their education. Substantial experience in collection management, research, exhibit design, or restoration, as well as database management skills, is necessary for full-time positions.

Advancement

Continuing education is available through meetings, conferences, and workshops sponsored by archival, historical, and museum associations. Some large organizations, such as the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, offer in-house training.

Top museum positions are highly sought after and are competitive. Performing unique research and producing published work are important for advancement in large institutions. In addition, a doctoral degree may be needed for some advanced positions.

Museum workers employed in small institutions may have limited opportunities for promotion. They typically advance by transferring to a larger institution that has supervisory positions.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators need excellent analytical skills to determine the origin, history, and importance of many of the objects they work with.

Computer skills. Archivists and museum technicians should have good computer skills because they use and develop complex databases related to the materials they store and access. 

Customer-service skills. Archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators work with the general public on a regular basis. They must be courteous and friendly and be able to help users find materials.

Organizational skills. Archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators must be able to store and easily retrieve records and documents. They must also develop logical systems of storage for the public to use.

Technical skills. Many historical objects need to be analyzed and preserved. Conservators must use the appropriate chemicals and techniques to preserve different objects, such as documents, paintings, fabrics, and pottery.

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Average Salary
$56,180
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
9%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
358
Job Openings
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Curator Career Paths

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Average Salary for a Curator

Curators in America make an average salary of $56,180 per year or $27 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $130,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $24,000 per year.
Average Salary
$56,180
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5 Curator Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Curator Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Curator resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Curator Resume Examples And Templates

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. Philip Morris International Jobs (3)
  2. Yale University Jobs (3)
  3. Galerie Jobs (3)
  4. Weston Jobs (5)
  5. University of Southern California Jobs (3)

Choose From 10+ Customizable Curator Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Curator templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Curator resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Curator Demographics

Curator Gender Distribution

Male
Male
40%
Female
Female
60%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among Curators, 59.6% of them are women, while 40.4% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among Curators is White, which makes up 80.0% of all Curators.

  • The most common foreign language among Curators is Spanish at 35.0%.

Job Openings

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Curator Education

Curator Majors

31.2 %
8.0 %

Curator Degrees

Bachelors

70.5 %

Masters

17.1 %

Associate

5.9 %

Top Colleges for Curators

1. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582

2. Georgetown University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,104
Enrollment
7,089

3. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Private

In-State Tuition
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

4. Brown University

Providence, RI • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,466
Enrollment
6,752

5. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,740
Enrollment
5,567

6. Tufts University

Medford, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,382
Enrollment
5,597

7. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,381
Enrollment
34,564

8. University of Maryland - College Park

College Park, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
$10,595
Enrollment
30,184

9. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

10. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,948
Enrollment
17,238
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Online Courses For Curator That You May Like

The Ziegler Academy: Art Management & Exhibition Design
udemy
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A complete guide to Art Gallery Management and Exhibition Design...

Teaching Critical Thinking through Art with the National Gallery of Art
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Based on the National Gallery of Art’s popular Art Around the Corner professional development program for teachers in Washington, D.C., this five-unit online course provides everything you need to begin creating a culture of critical thinking and collaboration for any classroom, subject, or level. You do not need an art background or museum access to successfully integrate the course materials into your teaching. Your willingness to experiment with new teaching practices is all that is required...

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Master Customer Service using this practical customer care course...

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Top Skills For a Curator

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 8.9% of Curators listed Facebook on their resume, but soft skills such as Analytical skills and Customer-service skills are important as well.

  • Facebook, 8.9%
  • Local Artists, 7.1%
  • Historical Research, 6.7%
  • Exhibit Design, 6.6%
  • Photography, 5.9%
  • Other Skills, 64.8%

Best States For a Curator

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Curator. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, Oregon, California, and Connecticut. Curators make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $86,074. Whereas in Oregon and California, they would average $81,885 and $80,897, respectively. While Curators would only make an average of $75,094 in Connecticut, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Connecticut

Total Curator Jobs:
3
Highest 10% Earn:
$154,000
Location Quotient:
1.89
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. California

Total Curator Jobs:
20
Highest 10% Earn:
$158,000
Location Quotient:
1.43
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Oregon

Total Curator Jobs:
2
Highest 10% Earn:
$158,000
Location Quotient:
1.01
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Curators

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Top Curator Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ Curators and discovered their number of Curator opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that The Metropolitan Museum of Art was the best, especially with an average salary of $75,436. The Museum of Modern Art follows up with an average salary of $71,006, and then comes Rainforest Cafe with an average of $25,593. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a Curator. The employers include The Walt Disney Company, Community First Medical Center, and Ascension Health

Most Common Employers For Curator

RankCompanyZippia ScoreAverage Curator SalaryAverage Salary
1
1.California College of the Arts
$166,147
2$103,938
3
3.Corning Museum of Glass
$88,243
4
4.Schafer
$87,278
5$86,061
6
6.KURE
$85,747

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