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Career Profile: Museum Curator

Why Is Museum Work a Job of Tomorrow?
U.S. museums attract 2.3 million visitors every day, which adds up to about 865 million museum visits every year, according to the American Association of Museums. There are museums for practically every interest, including those for natural science, war history, art, health and technology. With so many visitors and so many varying types of museums, it not surprising that curators, who maintain permanent collections and acquire new ones, will be in demand. Employment opportunities for museum curators are expected to increase 23 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Museum curators make an average salary of about $46,300 annually.

What Does a Museum Curator Do?
Museum curators are the main forces behind the collection that a museum houses. They are in charge of most of the aspects of the items that go on display at the museum. Curators preside over the acquisitions of items to display. They may work with collectors or other museums and negotiate the terms of borrowing or loaning a collection as a temporary exhibit. For example, museums borrow collections from one another to keep their attractions fresh and different. Curators are responsible for working with their colleagues at other museums to decide how long an institution can keep certain exhibits. Curators also manage the storage and display details of the exhibits. Some artifacts must be displayed with great care, such as old papers like the U.S. Constitution, to prevent further breakdown of the fragile materials. Curators work with researchers to determine how to best display the relics, and when they are not on exhibit, curators must develop a safe way to store the materials. Many curators also work in authentication to ensure that all of the materials displayed are genuine.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Museum Curator?
Museum curators must have at least a master's degree in the specific area of the museum's specialty, such as art history for an art museum or paleontology for a natural science museum. A master's degree takes two to three years to earn after first obtaining a four-year bachelor's. For some curator positions, museums prefer to hire those who have worked in archives or another similar position at the museum before, and others require that applicants complete a professional internship. The specific requirements for museum curators vary among establishments.