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At a Glance

  • Study and exhibit artifacts
  • Handle objects (i.e., sculptures and fossils)
  • Often work with the public
  • Have a master's degree or higher
  • Work for museums, schools, or the government

Career summary

Curators protect items of historic, cultural, and artistic value. They study, catalog, preserve, and display documents and artifacts.

#from 2144 social scientists, no info brought over

# check 3/18/19 lh

Curators manage collections at:

Curators search for and buy artifacts to add to collections. The items may be historical documents, art, or animal specimens. These items are preserved so that researchers and others may learn from them.

Curators plan and oversee the maintenance of collections. They examine items for damage. They research items in their collections to learn more about them. Curators try to determine the origin, history, and value of items. They read articles and talk to researchers who are familiar with similar items. When they find particularly important objects, curators may write articles about them. They may buy new items and borrow items from other collections.

A major part of being a curator is creating displays. They select which items should be displayed to tell a story or make a point.

Curators develop organizational systems for their collections called catalogs. They develop ways to store collections that are not being displayed.

They also make sure their collections are safe and secure. They inspect displays and facilities. They monitor lighting and humidity so that environmental conditions do not damage items. They acquire insurance for some collections.

Curators may promote their collections by leading tours or teaching workshops. They also schedule special events. Fundraising events often occur when a new display is opened.

Related careers

This career is part of the Education and Training cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to curators.

Common work activities

Curators perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, curators:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Curators frequently:

It is important for curators to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for curators to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Curators need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a curator, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Curators usually need a master's degree in the same area as the museum's specialty. Areas of focus include history, art, and archeology. Curators often have a second master's degree in museum science. You should also take courses in business administration, marketing, and fundraising.

Work experience

Many curators work in museums while they complete a degree program. This can give you great hands-on experience. Volunteer work or an internship at a museum or art gallery can also give you good experience. Work as a technician or research assistant is good preparation.

On-the-job training

New curators often receive training at their job. They learn the unique methods used at that site as well as about the collection. Training may last up to six months.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer to hire people who have a master's or doctoral (PhD) degree. They also prefer to hire people who have museum experience. They look for those who have worked as an intern, volunteer, or part-time worker in a museum.

Most museums require a master's degree in the museum's specialty. For instance, art museums prefer applicants with at least a Master of Art or Master of Fine Arts. Many employers, such as natural history museums, require a PhD. Employers also prefer applicants who have taken courses in business administration, marketing, and public relations.

Costs to workers

Workers must pay for association dues, reference books and journals, and college classes or seminars to keep up with changes in the field.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Curators (SOC 25-4012)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $17.82 $23.02 $29.63 $38.43 $48.89
Monthly $3,088 $3,989 $5,135 $6,660 $8,473
Yearly $37,060 $47,880 $61,640 $79,930 $101,680
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $21.66 $26.97 $33.88 $43.41 $55.01
Monthly $3,754 $4,674 $5,871 $7,523 $9,533
Yearly $45,051 $56,101 $70,475 $90,304 $114,426
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $13.56 $14.99 $23.91 $26.84 $32.71
Monthly $2,350 $2,598 $4,144 $4,651 $5,669
Yearly $28,209 $31,167 $49,732 $55,823 $68,046
    Vancouver Hourly $17.62 $21.12 $26.64 $38.56 $48.77
Monthly $3,054 $3,660 $4,617 $6,682 $8,452
Yearly $36,653 $43,932 $55,404 $80,195 $101,451
United States Hourly $13.95 $19.03 $25.86 $35.02 $45.35
Monthly $2,418 $3,298 $4,482 $6,069 $7,859
Yearly $29,010 $39,580 $53,780 $72,830 $94,330

Wages vary by employer. Curators who work for the federal government or for large, well-funded museums have the highest wages.

Curators who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Curators (SOC 25-4012)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 222 22.5% 16.1% 35
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 15 20.0% 14.6% 2
    King County 120 27.5% 19.6% 19
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 11 27.3% 13.8% 1
    Pierce County 24 16.7% 15.2% 3
    Spokane County 15 6.7% 13.9% 2
United States 13,700 9.5% 5.2% 1,700

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will grow. As the public's interest in science, art, history, and technology increases, so should the need for curators. There will also be a need to replace workers who leave the occupation. This occupation is sensitive to the economy. This is because museums and cultural institutions often receive less funding during these periods.

Competition for jobs is expected to be keen, because qualified applicants outnumber job openings.

Other resources

African Studies Association (external link)
Allied Artists of America (external link)
American Alliance of Museums (external link)
2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1005
Arlington, VA 22202
American Anthropological Association (external link)
2300 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 1301
Arlington, VA 22201
American Folklore Society (external link)
American Historical Association (external link)
777 6th St NW, 11th floor
Washington, DC 20001
American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (external link)
727 15th St NW
Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005
National Endowment for the Arts (external link)
400 - 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20506
Smithsonian Institution Career Center (external link)
Textile Society of America (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters