How to Become a Museum Curator

How to Become a Museum Curator: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a museum curator, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a museum curator:


• You have a keen interest in history, artifacts and education

• You are highly organized and are able to direct the work of others

• You enjoy taking a methodical approach to work activities

• You are decisive, accountable and results-oriented

• You are interested in pursuing graduate-level education

• You could see yourself managing collections of objects of scientific, historical and general interest


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a museum curator. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, educational requirements, salary expectations, a list of employer types and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Museum Curator

The educational requirements for becoming a museum curator vary by the size and type of the employer, and by region. Generally speaking, the larger the institution, the more education you will need in order to qualify as that institution’s curator. Your education will also likely need to be specialized in an area related to the function of the museum.


Smaller institutions, for example, may hire applicants for assistant curator jobs or even curator jobs who only have a bachelor’s degree, whereas many medium-sized and larger institutions prefer to hire museum curator candidates who have a master’s or doctoral degree in a field such as museum studies, history, archeology, fine arts, art history, anthropology, botany, zoology or geology.


Success Tip: Seeking guidance from an existing museum curator before you enroll in school is a great way to gain information regarding the specific educational and work experience requirements of becoming a curator. Who knows, they may even like your initiative and offer you a job at the museum, which would be invaluable career experience. 




Museum Curator Job Description

Museum curators are responsible for acquiring, documenting, studying, interpreting and providing access to collections of artifacts, natural history specimens, or pieces of cultural heritage.


In smaller museums, historic sites or galleries, curators may be responsible for the overall management of the facility, whereas in larger institutions, curators may only be responsible for specific collections. They may also be responsible for conducting public service activities for an institution.



Museum Curator Job Duties

• Identify collections that will be of interest to the community

• Develop and implement policies related to collections

• Ensure that work activities are compliant with local, national and international regulations and legislation

• Prepare and submit grant applications

• Oversee the creation of promotional materials related to exhibitions and the institution’s permanent collections

• Recruit, hire, train, supervise and support staff, volunteers and summer students

• Plan, conduct or supervise an acquisitions program in which objects and their stories are selected or collected



Skills Needed to Become a Museum Curator

In order to become effective in a career as a museum curator, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:


• Knowledge of function and organization of museums

• Proficient with related software

• Accuracy when cataloging items

• Knowledge of documenting and labeling artifacts

• Excellent research skills

• Able to plan a budget a work within it

• A creative flair for displays, exhibitions and events

• Able to develop and foster strong relationships with local, regional and national bodies

• Able to recruit, train and supervise staff

• Knowledge in field related to function of museum



Characteristics of Successful Museum Curators

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a museum curator, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties as a museum curator is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.


• A keen interest in history, including your area of specialty

• Decisive, accountable and results-oriented

• Able to direct the work of others

• Respect for and the ability to work with diverse populations

• Enjoy taking a methodical and detailed approach to work activities



Experience Needed to Become a Museum Curator

The experience needed to become a museum curator depends on your level of education, as well as the specific opportunities that are available. Many curators begin their careers with an educational foundation in a relevant field, followed by gaining work experience in a role similar to museum curator, although with less responsibility.


Such roles may include departmental collections manager, education manager or assistant curator. Generally speaking, the more education you have, the less work experience you will need (and vice versa) to qualify for a job as a museum curator.





Who Creates Jobs for Museum Curators?

The following types of organizations employ museum curators on a full-time, seasonal, permanent or contractual basis:


• Historical sites

• National museums funded by the government

• Regional and local museums funded by local authorities

• College and university museums

• Independent and specialist museums



Museum Curator Salary Level

The salary level of museum curators can vary depending on a multitude of factors, including but not limited to the following:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience

• The size and type of their employer

• The region in which they work


Museum Curator Salary Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Conservators and Curators occupational group earn an average wage of $37.07 per hour.


Museum Curator Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadian workers in the Conservators and Curators occupational group is $50,482 per year.


Museum Curator Salary United States: According to the Untied States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers occupational group is $44,410 per year. 



Careers Similar to Museum Curator

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Museum Curator, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Art Gallery Curator

Exhibit Designer

Historical Site Administrator

Visual Merchandiser

Museum Researcher




Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a museum curator.



Occupations in Alberta:Curator.” (December 19, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 4, 2020.

Education, Training & Library:Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 4, 2020.

Explore Careers:Museum Curator.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved January 4, 2020.



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Scholarships for Becoming a Museum Curator

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a museum curator can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Museum Curator: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a museum curator. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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