Museum curator examining archival materials.
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History Careers at a Glance: Exploring Museum Curator and Museum Director Jobs and Salaries


History

Museum directors and museum curators serve critical roles in preserving and promoting history and culture across the ages. For history graduates, a museum curator or museum director job is a possible exciting career path.

Museum curators are responsible for collecting, archiving, and presenting historical works in public or private collections. They typically manage a large staff that helps prepare exhibits for public viewing and orchestrate publicity events.

Museum director jobs are slightly different with responsibilities for planning and arranging museum collection displays. The position requires more interaction with financiers and academic board members to promote collections and generate interest to justify their continued exhibition.

Individuals with an interest in historical events are ideal candidates to take the journey in becoming museum directors or museum curators. People exploring studies in this discipline can look forward to experiencing the history surrounding an artifact or event and contributing to the general body of knowledge in the field.

Becoming a Museum Director or Museum Curator

Museum curators manage the entire process associated with museum collections from acquisition and preservation to display. They also may authenticate artifacts, determining their age and origin. Higher-level museum positions, like museum directors, require in-depth public relations, management, and administration knowledge.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that individuals who intend to pursue either museum director or museum curator jobs need the relevant educational background and significant hands-on experience in the field.  The competencies relevant to museum curator jobs include:

  • Interpreting visual artifacts, explaining cultural significances, and preserving articles for public enjoyment.
  • Managing staff and delegating tasks to prepare collections for public display.

Education Requirements

According to the BLS, museum director and museum curator positions require at a minimum a bachelor and a master degree in a related field. By pursuing graduate-level courses concentrated in public history, students gain valuable technical skills to preserve artifacts and understand the ethical responsibilities in the field. Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in History online program offers a broad base of study that prepares students to take full advantage of the knowledge gained in the field of museum collections management.

Gaining Experience

Education isn’t enough to prepare for a museum curator job and, eventually, a museum director position. To gain experience, students can work as assistant curators while pursuing a graduate degree, allowing them to learn alongside professionals in the field. Ideally, assistant curators observe and garner information about cataloging and research. Additionally, grant writing training provides invaluable for positions later in the career path.

Becoming an associate curator provides another opportunity for gaining valuable experience. The responsibilities of this position may involve drafting loan agreements for temporary exhibitions and, for those involved in research projects, studying and assessing artifacts.

Gaining work experience in all museum functions, from collections and fundraising to event organization, helps professionals earn a competitive advantage for obtaining a museum director position.

Museum curator and director positions may require working non-traditional hours or traveling for research. Publication in academic journals advances a professional’s career toward becoming a museum curator or director.

Expected Salary of a Museum Curator or Museum Director

The BLS reports that the average annual salary for museum curators was $53,780 in 2018, with the highest 10% earnings at more than $86,480. The BLS projects growth in the field between 14% and 7%, respectively from 2016 and 2026.

According to PayScale, the average annual salary for museum directors is $48,209 as of 2019 with the upper 10% of earners getting as much as $99,000.

Why Choose a Career in Museum Curation?

Museum curator and director jobs are ideal for those who enjoy history and taking a close look at the past to gain a unique perspective of how humans shaped the world over time. Job satisfaction in the field is high, with many curators advancing to manage international private or public collections. Area of specialization in education and experience typically determines the type of museum curator or director job that best suits an individual.

Tracks to a Museum Career

Norwich’s online MA in History online program supports students wanting to advance into museum director or museum curator positions by providing greater awareness of differing historical viewpoints while developing and refining research, writing, analysis, and presentation skills. The program offers three tracks — American History, Public History, and World History — enabling students to tailor studies to their interests and goals.

Norwich itself is an important part of American history. Established in 1819, the University is a nationally recognized institution of higher education, the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), and the first private military college in the country.


Recommended Readings
5 Benefits of a History Degree
8 Compelling Careers in History
How to Become a Researcher

Sources
Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers, SummaryWorkers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers, Pay, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Master of Arts in History, Norwich University
Average Museum Director Salary, PayScale
Curator, The Princeton Review