What Is a Curator?

Curators work in museums, nature centers, historical sites, gardens, or zoos maintaining collections, researching, and fundraising for the institution. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is necessary for this career field; however, many curator positions require a master's or a doctorate degree. Read this article to learn more about what a curator is. Schools offering History degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Curators maintain an institution's collection of records and artifacts. They oversee the arrangement of exhibits and the cataloging of items. They assist institutions acquiring objects for collection or seeking analysis. Curators are also responsible for public education. They may coordinate tours, lectures, classes, or other outreach projects. Today, many curators are involved in marketing, fundraising, grants, promotional materials, or professional journal articles.

Work Environments

Most curators specialize in a particular field that usually dictates where they work. A curator with an archeology specialization may work at a history museum handling collections of fossils and historic artifacts. With a specialization in art, a curator may work at an art museum handling collections of fine art. Curators are employed at gardens to maintain collections of living plants or at zoos maintaining collections of living and inanimate wildlife.

Specific departments within larger institutions employ curators in more specialized areas, such as coins or manuscripts. The government, colleges, universities, and a number of other institutions employ curators to collect, preserve, and maintain important artifacts and records.


Most institutions prefer to hire curators with an advanced degree. Because there are a limited number of curator positions, those with a master's or doctorate degree will have an advantage in the job market. Most curators earn a degree in a specialized area, such as botany, art history, paleontology, or archeology. A degree in museum studies is also appropriate.

Because of the competitive market for curators, many start out as interns, in part-time positions, or working in a research department. Joining a professional association, such as the Association of Art Museum Curators (www.artcurators.org) may provide job networking and other professional development opportunities.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Job openings for curators are expected to increase 13% between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is about average compared to all other career fields. The median salary among curators was $50,550 as of 2013.

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