Learn About Becoming a Curator

To become a curator at a national museum, a PhD is required, as is about five years of field experience. The market is competitive, and academic standards are very high. Useful graduate degrees include restoration science, curatorship, art history, history, chemistry, and business administration.

How do you get to be a museum curator?

What does a curator do?

A curator is a specialist tasked with acquiring objects for the organization they work for, including artwork, cultural artifacts, and other priceless collectibles for displays and exhibits. Additionally, they frequently have control over how these items are handled and cared for so that visitors can enjoy them. Other tasks a curator may perform include:

What is a curator?

An institution’s collections, which may include historical artifacts and works of literature, are managed by curators. They might be employed by historical monuments, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, or museums.

Curator training requirements

All curators must have a graduate degree, preferably an art history master’s or doctorate. The majority of additional training for curators is obtained through on-the-job training, but internships can make aspiring curators stand out as a more experienced candidate during the hiring process.

Curatorial internships assist students in gaining practical experience that expands on the knowledge and abilities they acquired in the classroom. By gathering information about the works, interns help curators and museum directors with the creation of exhibitions and displays. As directed by their supervisor, they may also assist with the creation and cleanup of installations, produce materials for publications and programs, and perform other duties for ongoing and one-time exhibitions.

Advanced internships are also available for Ph. D. recipients and students currently enrolled in a Ph. D. program. In-depth training is provided during these internships, and the duties typically fall more in line with those of a curatorial assistant.

Average salary for curators

Curators normally work full-time in museums or art galleries. Curators’ salaries vary depending on their geographic location, the size and financial health of the organization they work for, their prior work experience, and their level of education. Pay rates may also be impacted by their position and level of responsibility.

Skills required to be a curator

For their career to succeed, curators need a variety of technical and soft skills. The most important skills for a curator include:


A curator’s primary duties include maintaining records of the artwork that is loaned to the museum and the organization’s own collections, organizing elaborate events and lectures, and coordinating exhibits that rotate every few months. To successfully manage several of these complex projects at once, one must be extremely organized. They manage finances, paperwork, and staff needs, among other administrative tasks.

Analytical thinking

Since curators are in charge of verifying the authenticity of works of art and cultural artifacts, they must possess a keen eye for detail as well as the ability to analyze a piece of work and use their knowledge of art history to determine its authenticity and time period. They must assess the materials, age, and other details of each acquired work of art in order to determine its style and the artist who created it.


Curators need to have a high level of creativity to design displays and exhibits, as well as the ability to make presentations and assist with the creation of marketing materials.

Technological proficiency

Computer skills are required because curators frequently need to conduct research and project management systems are typically used to keep track of gallery and museum inventory. Additionally, they are typically in charge of updating a company’s website with details about a new exhibit or a special piece of artwork that has just arrived at the museum. Some curators assist in creating marketing materials, so they need to be proficient with programs like Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop.


Negotiating the purchase price of works or the terms of loans for circulating pieces takes up a significant portion of a curator’s job. They must purchase historically and culturally important art within the constraints of their organization’s budget.

Business skills

Additionally, business savvy is required of curators, who must be able to effectively manage staff, write grant proposals to acquire art collections, and use marketing strategies that will draw in visitors and maintain or boost revenue.

Knowledge of preservation techniques

Because they frequently handle delicate works of art and historical objects, curators must possess a thorough understanding of the methods used to preserve various types of materials, including chemical processes and proper handling techniques.

Communication skills

Curators must be proficient communicators with museum administration, artists exhibiting their work, and museum visitors. They may give speeches at exhibit openings, lectures, or lead tours for their organization, so they must speak clearly and authoritatively in these situations.

How to become a curator

Here are the suggested actions to take if you want to start a career as a curator:

1. Obtain a bachelors degree

To become a curator, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree. The particular degree you receive will depend on the sector you want to work in. For instance, a degree in art history or fine arts is necessary if you want to work as a curator at an art museum. A history degree is necessary if you want to work at a history museum.

2. Pursue a masters degree

If you want to become a curator with administrative responsibilities, getting a masters degree is ideal. For all curators, the majority of employers demanded at least a master’s degree. Your bachelor’s degree will be strengthened by a master’s degree, which will also give you more practical experience, like the ability to schedule exhibitions for galleries.

3. Consider a doctoral degree

Some organizations, such as those with administrative positions at national museums like the Smithsonian, demand that curators hold doctoral degrees. You can build on your prior education with a variety of degrees, including those in history, chemistry, business administration, restoration science, and curatorship, to become a well-rounded museum administrator.

4. Gain experience

Once you have graduated, you should look for chances to broaden your skill set and acquire the practical experience that employers value in curator candidates. Look for positions in administration or management that would be a good fit for a curator position, such as those in the fields of art, history, or science. Another option is to volunteer at a museum to gain practical experience in your chosen field.

5. Apply for internships

The best way to gain experience in the field you want to work in is through internships. Look online at the museum’s or other local organization’s website to see if there are any job openings. Keep an eye on those organizations on social media as well, as they may post when opportunities arise.

Consult with professional organizations in your field because many of them offer their members the opportunity to connect aspiring curators with internship opportunities.

Tips for becoming a curator

Here are some pointers to keep in mind as you look for work as a curator:

Join a professional organization

Become a member of a professional association in the industry you want to work in, like the Organization of American Historians or the Association of Art Museum Curators.

Customize your resume for jobs

Examine the job description carefully for each position you’re applying for, then tailor your resume to highlight the pertinent qualifications the employer is seeking.

Prepare carefully for interviews

Do some research on the museum, its programs, and events before the interview. Find important experiences that fit what they are looking for in a candidate. Review curator interview questions so you’re ready to respond to some of the more typical ones.


What qualifications do I need to be a curator?

You’ll need:
  • knowledge of the fine arts.
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail.
  • an interest and knowledge of history.
  • business management skills.
  • knowledge of how to teach and engage learners.
  • leadership skills.
  • the ability to use your initiative.
  • the ability to work well with others.

Do curators make a lot of money?

Museum curators in the US earn salaries ranging from $14,860 to $396,665, with a median wage of $71,351. Museum curators earn an average salary of $71,354 to $178,951, with the top 86% earning $396,665.

Is curator a good job?

Even though the hours may be long and varied and the pay may occasionally be low, curators frequently express that they are very satisfied with their jobs. People in this position work on issues they are passionate about and are aware that what they do has a significant impact on their communities and society.

What should I major in if I want to be a museum curator?

According to the BLS, a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a related field, such as art history, history, archaeology, or museum studies, is necessary for the majority of curator positions.

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