What Does A Curator Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Stan T.Career, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Curators

Curators administer collections, such as artwork, collectibles, historic items, or scientific specimens of museums or other institutions. May conduct instructional, research, or public service activities of institution.

Salary
$61650
Becoming One
Very Hard
Education
Master's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Curators administer collections, such as artwork, collectibles, historic items, or scientific specimens of museums or other institutions. May conduct instructional, research, or public service activities of institution.

  • Plan and organize the acquisition, storage, and exhibition of collections and related materials, including the selection of exhibition themes and designs, and develop or install exhibit materials.
  • Develop and maintain an institution’s registration, cataloging, and basic record-keeping systems, using computer databases.
  • Plan and conduct special research projects in the area of interest or expertise.
  • Provide information from the institution’s holdings to other curators and to the public.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Curators train and supervise curatorial, fiscal, technical, research, and clerical staff, as well as volunteers or interns. They plan and organize the acquisition, storage, and exhibition of collections and related materials, including the selection of exhibition themes and designs, and develop or install exhibit materials.

  • Develop and maintain an institution’s registration, cataloging, and basic record-keeping systems, using computer databases.
  • Inspect premises to assess the need for repairs and to ensure that climate and pest control issues are addressed.
  • Provide information from the institution’s holdings to other curators and to the public.
  • Plan and conduct special research projects in the area of interest or expertise.
  • Study, examine, and test acquisitions to authenticate their origin, composition, history, and to assess their current value.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Curators also design, organize, or conduct tours, workshops, and instructional or educational sessions to acquaint individuals with an institution’s facilities and materials. They may also write and review grant proposals, journal articles, institutional reports, and publicity materials.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Curators provide information from the institution’s holdings to other curators and to the public. They might also negotiate and authorize purchase, sale, exchange, or loan of collections.

In addition, they plan and organize the acquisition, storage, and exhibition of collections and related materials, including the selection of exhibition themes and designs, and develop or install exhibit materials.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them develop and maintain an institution’s registration, cataloging, and basic record-keeping systems, using computer databases.

To some Curators, it is also their responsibility to study, examine, and test acquisitions to authenticate their origin, composition, history, and to assess their current value.

Freedom to make decisions

How much decision making freedom does this job offer?

No freedom
0%

Very little freedom
7%

Limited freedom
7%

Some freedom
17%

A lot of freedom
69%

Structured vs unstructured work

To what extent is this job structured for you versus allowing you to determine your own tasks, priorities, and goals?

No freedom
0%

Very little freedom
0%

Limited freedom
7%

Some freedom
19%

A lot of freedom
74%


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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Average

Is this job meaningful

High

68% said they were satisfied with their job and 60% said they found their job meaningful.


Mathilde Leduc
Royal Museum for Central Africa

I have an MA in History of Art, an MBA, and a Ph.D. in History. I currently work as a curator.

It’s a constant pleasure and a privilege to have a chance to work in the discipline I want to. I get to share my passion for the past and collections with others through exhibitions, books, essays, interviews, digital projects, etc. I never go through a dull moment and can’t wait to start my day.

Pros

  • Lots of opportunities to move from one project to the next, and to work in a team or individually as you prefer
  • You follow your passion and share it with others
  • You get to understand what happened in the past and get paid for it
  • You may have the chance to travel to do your job and research

Cons

  • Ph.D. is a must at a certain level or in certain institutions. Not everybody is into a long time at school. It also means you won’t get a salary for quite some time.
  • According to the US Bureau of labor statistics, the median salary for a curator is under $50000 a year and for a historian is approx. $60000 a year. Before embarking on the profession, better make sure you’re OK with that range of paychecks.
  • Extensive skills, knowledge, and experience are required all along the career path
  • It’s a very competitive profession, even more so considering the limited number of advertised positions compared to the number of historians looking for a job.

Pros

Suitable for people who like to start and carry out projects.

Suitable for people who want independence and like to work on their own and make decisions.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

Good salary (earns more than 50% of the careers out there).

Cons

Not suitable for people who like practical and hands-on work.

It is very hard to get into this career. Extensive skills, knowledge, and experience are required for this career.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$61650 per year

Average hourly wage

$30 per hour

Entry-level Curators with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $33,370 to $43,420 per year or $16 to $21 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $96,820 $47
Senior (Top 25%) $76,330 $37
Median $56,990 $27
Junior (Bottom 25%) $43,420 $21
No experience (Bottom 10%) $33,370 $16

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Curators based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Federal Executive Branch $88090 $42.35
Grantmaking and Giving Services $81310 $39.09
Social Advocacy Organizations $79370 $38.16
Other Information Services $77650 $37.33
Employment Services $71120 $34.19
Amusement Parks and Arcades $69850 $33.58
Junior Colleges $67590 $32.50
Management of Companies and Enterprises $67090 $32.25
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $65310 $31.40
Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions $58840 $28.29

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Curators work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Curators including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions 5680 $58840 $28.29
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 1850 $65310 $31.40
Local Government 1340 $58420 $28.09
State Government 850 $55830 $26.84
Other Information Services 610 $77650 $37.33
Federal Executive Branch 350 $88090 $42.35
Grantmaking and Giving Services 80 $81310 $39.09
Junior Colleges 70 $67590 $32.50
Other Schools and Instruction 60 $47540 $22.86
Promoters of Performing Arts, Sports, and Similar Events 50 $54880 $26.39

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
21%

40 hours
22%

More than 40 hours
57%

Working schedule

82%

18%

0%

Work with group or team

How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?

Not important at all
3%

Fairly important
4%

Important
14%

Very important
22%

Extremely important
58%

Deal with external customers

How important is it to work with customers in this job?

Not important at all
6%

Fairly important
5%

Important
15%

Very important
21%

Extremely important
53%

Manage or lead others

How important is it to coordinate or lead others in completing work activities in this job?

Not important at all
2%

Fairly important
8%

Important
36%

Very important
14%

Extremely important
40%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
7%

Every day
85%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
16%

Every day
76%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
5%

Every day
81%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
5%

Once a year
17%

Once a month
63%

Once a week
10%

Every day
5%

Frequency of conflict situations

How often are there conflict situations in this job?

Never
11%

Once a year
38%

Once a month
29%

Once a week
17%

Every day
5%

Dealing with angry people

How often do you have to deal with angry, unpleasant, or discourteous individuals in this job?

Never
13%

Once a year
55%

Once a month
22%

Once a week
5%

Every day
4%

Dealing with physically aggressive people

How often do you have to deal with physically aggressive people in this job?

Never
95%

Once a year
5%

Once a month
0%

Once a week
0%

Every day
0%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
11%

Slightly competitive
11%

Moderately competitive
23%

Highly competitive
35%

Extremely competitive
20%

Repetition in this job

How important is repeating the same type of task over and over in this job?

Not important at all
35%

Fairly important
17%

Important
20%

Very Important
18%

Extremely Important
10%

Impact of decisions on co-workers or company results

What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the reputation or financial resources of your employer?

No impact
2%

Minor impact
5%

Moderate impact
30%

Important impact
37%

Very important impact
26%

Frequency of decision making

How frequently do you have to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the reputation of the company?

Never
4%

Once a year
16%

Once a month
23%

Once a week
32%

Every day
26%

Responsibility for others’ health and safety

How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?

No responsibility
15%

Limited responsibility
13%

Moderate responsibility
46%

High responsibility
21%

Very high responsibility
5%

Responsibility for outcomes and results

How much responsibility is there for the work outcomes and results of other workers?

No responsibility
8%

Limited responsibility
5%

Moderate responsibility
24%

High responsibility
34%

Very high responsibility
29%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
5%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
6%

Once a week or more
19%

Every day
69%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
35%

Once a year or more
25%

Once a month or more
12%

Once a week or more
26%

Every day
2%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
46%

Once a year or more
22%

Once a month or more
15%

Once a week or more
17%

Every day
0%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
60%

Once a year or more
28%

Once a month or more
6%

Once a week or more
6%

Every day
0%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Very Hard
You will need an extensive amount of skill, knowledge, and experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require graduate school and more than five years of experience. These careers usually involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Similar careers include Pharmacists, Lawyers, Astronomers, Neurologists, and Veterinarians.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
3%

Associate’s Degree or similar
1%

Bachelor’s Degree
6%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
8%

Master’s Degree
44%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
35%

Post-Doctoral Training
2%

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
3%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
1%

6 months to 1 year
0%

1 to 2 years
8%

2 to 4 years
7%

4 to 6 years
32%

6 to 8 years
31%

8 to 10 years
9%

Over 10 years
8%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
7%

1 month
23%

1 to 3 months
10%

3 to 6 months
3%

6 months to 1 year
42%

1 to 2 years
7%

2 to 4 years
4%

4 to 10 years
3%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Leader

People with this personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.

The Builder
33%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
57%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
57%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
48%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
90%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
81%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like starting up and carrying out projects. They like leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk-taking and often deal with business.

They also like following set procedures and routines. They like working with data and details more than with ideas.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
81%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
76%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
71%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
57%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
48%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
86%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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