Curator Career Overview

What you need to know


Curators oversee collections of artwork and historic items and may conduct public service activities for an institution.

What does a curator do?

Depending on the size of the institution and the position they hold, they may work at a desk or spend time working with the public, providing reference assistance and educational services.

Some of the things a curator might do:

  • Acquire, store, and exhibit collections
  • Select the theme and design of exhibits
  • Design, organize, and conduct tours and workshops for the public
  • Attend meetings and civic events to promote their institution
  • Clean objects such as ancient tools, coins, and statues
  • Direct and supervise curatorial, technical, and student staff
  • Plan and conduct special research projects
What skills are needed?
  • Analytical skills: Curators need excellent analytical skills to determine the origin, history, and importance of many of the objects they work with.
  • Customer-service skills: Curators work with the general public on a regular basis. They must be courteous, friendly, and able to help users find materials.
  • Organizational skills: Curators store and easily retrieve records and documents. They must also develop logical systems of storage for the public to use.

Watch this video to learn more from our curator role models:

What is the pay?

The average pay for curators in the United States ranges from $30,450 to $96,500 as of May 2021.

The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

Employment of curators is projected to grow 19 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Continued public interest in museums and other cultural centers should also lead to increased demand for curators and for the collections they manage.

What education is required to become a curator?

Curators typically need a master’s degree in art history, history, archaeology, or museum studies. Students with internship experience may have an advantage in the competitive job market.

In small museums, curator positions may be available to applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Because curators have administrative and managerial responsibilities, courses in business administration, public relations, marketing, and fundraising are recommended.

Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Art History and Curation.

Watch this video to learn more from our curator role models: