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Curators Career Overview

Administer affairs of museum and conduct research programs. Direct instructional, research, and public service activities of institution.

Salary for Curators

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 25th
Percentile
75th
Percentile
Mean
U.S. $34,910
($16.78)
$63,940
($30.74)
$51,540
($24.78)
Annual figures are on top. Hourly figures are below in parentheses.
N/A = Information not available


Majors for this Career


Career Outlook for Curators

Much faster than average employment growth is projected. Keen competition is expected for most jobs as archivists, curators, and museum technicians because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings.

Employment change. Employment of archivists, curators, and museum technicians is expected to increase 20 percent over the 2008-18 decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Jobs for archivists are expected to increase as public and private organizations require organization of and access to increasing volumes of records and information. Public interest in science, art, history, and technology will continue, creating opportunities for curators, conservators, and museum technicians. Museum attendance is expected to continue to be good. Many museums remain financially healthy and will schedule building and renovation projects as money is available.

Demand for archivists who specialize in electronic records and records management will grow more rapidly than the demand for archivists who specialize in older media formats.

Job prospects. Keen competition is expected for most jobs as archivists, curators, and museum technicians because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings. Graduates with highly specialized training, such as master's degrees in both library science and history, with a concentration in archives or records management and extensive computer skills, should have the best opportunities for jobs as archivists. Opportunities for those who manage electronic records are expected to be better than for those who specialize in older media formats.

Curator jobs, in particular, are attractive to many people, and many applicants have the necessary training and knowledge of the subject. But because there are relatively few openings, candidates may have to work part time, as an intern, or even as a volunteer assistant curator or research associate after completing their formal education. Substantial work experience in collection management, research, exhibit design, or restoration, as well as database management skills, will be necessary for permanent status.

Conservators also can expect competition for jobs. Competition is stiff for the limited number of openings in conservation graduate programs, and applicants need a technical background. Conservator program graduates with knowledge of a foreign language and a willingness to relocate will have better job opportunities.

Museums and other cultural institutions can be subject to cuts in funding during recessions or periods of budget tightening, reducing demand for these workers. Although the number of archivists and curators who move to other occupations is relatively low, the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation will create some job openings. However, workers in these occupations tend to work beyond the typical retirement age of workers in other occupations.


Employment Overview

Archivists, curators, and museum technicians held about 29,100 jobs in 2008. About 39 percent were employed in museums, historical sites, and similar institutions and 18 percent worked for public and private educational services. Around 30 percent of archivists, curators, and museum technicians worked in Federal, State, and local government, excluding educational institutions. Most Federal archivists work for the National Archives and Records Administration; others manage military archives in the U.S. Department of Defense. Most Federal Government curators work at the Smithsonian Institution, in the military museums of the U.S. Department of Defense, and in archaeological and other museums and historic sites managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. All State governments have archival or historical record sections employing archivists. State and local governments also have numerous historical museums, parks, libraries, and zoos employing curators.

Some large corporations that have archives or record centers employ archivists to manage the growing volume of records created or maintained as required by law or necessary to the firm's operations. Religious and fraternal organizations, professional associations, conservation organizations, major private collectors, and research firms also employ archivists and curators.

Conservators may work under contract to treat particular items, rather than as regular employees of a museum or other institution. These conservators may work on their own as private contractors, or they may work as an employee of a conservation laboratory or regional conservation center that contracts their services to museums. Most Federal conservators work for the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, and National Archives and Records Administration.


Job Zone Description

Job Zone 5 - Extensive preparation

Overall Experience
Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of medical school and up to an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to do their job.

Education
At a minimum, a bachelor's degree is required for these occupations. However, many also require a graduate school degree such as a Master's, Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).

Job Training
Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations require that you already have the necessary skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Examples
Lawyers, instrumental musicians, physicists, counseling psychologists, and surgeons.

These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising or managing the activities of others. Very advanced communication and organization skills are required.

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Related Occupations

1.

Archeologists

2.

Archivists

3.

Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education

4.

Historians

5.

Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education

6.

Museum Technicians and Conservators

7.

Park Naturalists

8.

Urban and Regional Planners


Additional Resources for Curators Job Seekers

For information on archivists and on schools offering courses in archival studies, contact:

For general information about careers as a curator and schools offering courses in museum studies, contact:

  • American Association of Museums, 1575 Eye St. NW., Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005. Internet: http://www.aam-us.org

For information about careers and education programs in conservation and preservation, contact:

  • American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1156 15th St. NW., Suite 320, Washington, DC 20005-1714. Internet: http://www.conservation-us.org

For information about archivists and archivist certification, contact:

For information about government archivists, contact:

  • National Association of Government Archivists and Records Administrators, 1450 Western Ave. Suite 101, Albany, NY 12203. Internet: http://www.nagara.org

Information on obtaining positions as archivists, curators, and museum technicians with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724-1850 or TDD (978) 461-8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result.

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