How to Become a Curator

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Museums are essential structures that house a variety of unique and historical objects. Curators are highly skilled museum professionals that obtain, organize, and manage museum collections.


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What does a curator do?

Curators are responsible for the management and care of a variety of museum collections such as those with a strong historical or cultural meaning. They often work with paintings, textiles, structures, and artifacts. They work to acquire new objects and create appealing exhibits within the museum. They conduct a great deal of research to create effective exhibits. They also ensure new objects are stored and preserved properly. Curators are involved in research projects, educational programs, public outreach programs, and fundraising efforts. They often negotiate loans of objects with other museums. Most curators specialize in a specific area such as history, art, or archaeology.

What kind of training does a curator need?

Curators typically need at least a master degree in art history, museum studies, or other related field. Some curators that work in science or natural history museums have a doctorate degree. Others gain two master degrees in museum studies and a specialty area to remain competitive in the field. Prospective curators typically complete courses in art, history, chemistry, business administration, public relations, museum studies, and museum practices. Many curators complete internships or volunteer experience while pursuing their education to gain practical experience in the field. Many curators begin their careers as assistant or associate curators and advance to curator positions as they gain the essential skills and experience. Most curators complete continuing education and participate in conferences, workshops, and seminars throughout their careers to keep their skills up to date and stay abreast with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a curator?

Employment of curators is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2008 to 2018 (1).

Job prospects are expected to be good with strong competition. Curators with specialized training, advanced skills, and sufficient work experience will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will stem from the need to replace curators that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do curators make?

As of January 2010, curators with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $30,387 and $40,343. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average annual salaries between $39,564 and $57,675 (2).

A career as a curator is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in the management of a variety of museum collections. Curators must have a solid understanding of museum studies and the care of a variety of valuable historical items. Manual dexterity, flexibility, determination, and critical thinking are necessary characteristics. Curators must be able to design and create a variety of exhibits and provide the necessary care for objects. They must also have excellent planning and negotiation skills when working with other museums to borrow objects.

Joshua T Osborne

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