Career Choice: Museum Curators

Career Choice: Museum Curators
  • Type: Career Type
  • Opening Intro -

    The museum director manages a museum and its daily operations.

    This professional, who is also a curator, is the face of the museum in its contact with the public.


In her role as a curator, the museum director acquires, stores, and exhibits collections, including those that are on loan to the museum. The museum director may conduct research, offer instruction and advance the museum’s visibility by promoting the museum to business, government and private interests. The museum director earns a salary that is based on the museum’s size, funding, and location and on the director’s experience.

Average Salaries

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categories museum directors with archivists, curators and museum technicians, recognizing that curators are often museum directors, especially at smaller institutions. As of May 2010, the bureau stated that the mean annual wage of these professionals was $53,160. Those in 10th percentile earned $27,640 per year and those in the 25th percentile averaged $35,890 annually. The median salary for this occupation was $48,450. Those in the 75th percentile earned $66,170 per year and those in the 90th percentile earned $86,450 or more per year. Those curators acting in the capacity of museum director most likely made the top end of the pay scale.

Pay By Industry

More than half of all people in this profession are employed directly by museums. Most of the remaining museums are owned by federal, state and local governments or colleges, universities and professional schools. The museum director and employees in these latter categories are paid by their government or educational overseers. Wages for those employed by museums averages $50,380 per year as of 2010 according to the bureau. Colleges and other educational institutions pay $57,510 per year on average. Government managed museums pay $53,340 on the state level and $50,240 on the local level, on average. Top pay is offered by federal government managed museums with pay averaging $79,440 per year.

Pay by Geography

The District of Columbia is home to several federally-managed museums, most notably those managed by the Smithsonian Museums. Pay rates are also higher in Washington, D.C., than they are in any state, with museum directors and other employees averaging $75,740 per year. California and New York offer the highest pay among states, averaging $62,400 and $61,840 per year respectively. The next highest paying state is Nevada at $60,320 followed by Maryland at $60,210 per year on average.

Job Outlook

The future appears bright for museum directors, including curators, with the bureau estimating a 23 percent growth rate from 2008 to 2018. However, competition is expected to be keen as the number of qualified applicants continues to outnumber job opportunities. Those with highly specialized training, a master’s degree in their specialty, and experience should torshave an easier time finding work. According to the bureau, “In large museums, curators may advance through several levels of responsibility, eventually becoming the museum director.” Foreign language skills, strong business acumen, and the ability to work well with others are attributes that can help museum directors succeed.


O-Net Online; Summary Report for: 25-4012.00 – Curators

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment Statistics; 25-4012 Curators

University of Rochester: Museum Job Descriptions

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Last update on 2020-03-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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Categories: Career Planning