Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Summary

curators museum technicians and conservators image
Archivists, curators, and museum workers maintain and display art.
Quick Facts: Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers
2014 Median Pay $46,300 per year
$22.26 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 31,300
Job Outlook, 2014-24 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 2,100

What Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers Do

Archivists appraise, process, catalog, and preserve permanent records and historically valuable documents. Curators oversee collections of artwork and historic items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore objects and documents in museum collections and exhibits.

Work Environment

Archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators typically work in museums, historical sites, governments, colleges and universities, corporations, and other institutions that require their skills. Most work full time.

How to Become an Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker

Most archivist, curator, and conservator positions require a master’s degree related to the position’s field. Museum technicians must have a bachelor’s degree. People often gain experience through an internship or by volunteering in archives and museums.

Pay

The median annual wage for archivists, curators, and museum workers was $46,300 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The need to store information in archives and public interest in science, art, and history, will continue to spur demand for archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators. Applicants should expect very strong competition for jobs.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for archivists, curators, and museum workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of archivists, curators, and museum workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about archivists, curators, and museum workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers Do

Curators and museum technicians
Museum technicians often prepare materials for display.

Archivists appraise, process, catalog, and preserve permanent records and historically valuable documents. Curators oversee collections of artwork and historic items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore objects and documents in museum collections and exhibits.

Duties

Archivists typically do the following:

  • Authenticate and appraise historical documents and archival materials
  • Preserve and maintain documents and objects
  • Create and manage system to maintain and preserve electronic records
  • Organize and classify archival records to make them easy to search through
  • Safeguard records by creating film and digital copies
  • Direct workers who help arrange, exhibit, and maintain collections
  • Set and administer policy guidelines concerning public access to materials
  • Provide help to users
  • Find and acquire new materials for their archives  

Curators, museum technicians, and conservators typically do the following:

  • Acquire, store, and exhibit collections
  • Select the theme and design of exhibits
  • Design, organize, and conduct tours and workshops for the public
  • Attend meetings and civic events to promote their institution
  • Clean objects such as ancient tools, coins, and statues
  • Direct and supervise curatorial, technical, and student staff
  • Plan and conduct special research projects

Archivists preserve documents and records for their importance or historical significance. They coordinate educational and public outreach programs, such as tours, workshops, lectures, and classes. They also may work with researchers on topics and items relevant to their collections.

Some archivists specialize in an era of history so they can have a better understanding of the records from that period.

Archivists typically work with specific forms of records, such as manuscripts, electronic records, websites, photographs, maps, motion pictures, and sound recordings.

Curators, also known as museum directors, direct the acquisition, storage, and exhibition of collections, including negotiating and authorizing the purchase, sale, exchange, and loan of collections. They may authenticate, evaluate, and categorize the specimens in a collection.

Curators often oversee and help conduct their institution’s research projects and related educational programs. They may represent their institution in the media, at public events, at conventions, and at professional conferences.

Some curators who work in large institutions may specialize in a particular field, such as botany, art, or history. For example, a large natural history museum might employ separate curators for its collections of birds, fish, insects, and mammals.

Some curators focus primarily on taking care of their collections, others on researching items in their collections, and still others spend most of their time performing administrative tasks. In small institutions with only one or a few curators, one curator may be responsible for a number of tasks, from taking care of collections to directing the affairs of the museum.

Museum technicians, commonly known as registrars or collections specialists, concentrate on the care and safeguarding of the objects in museum collections and exhibitions. They oversee the logistics of acquisitions, insurance policies, risk management, and loaning of objects to and from the museum for exhibition or research. They keep detailed records of the conditions and locations of the objects that are on display, in storage, or being transported to another museum. They also maintain and store any documentation associated with the objects.

Museum technicians also may answer questions from the public and help curators and outside scholars use the museum’s collections.

Conservators handle, preserve, treat, and keep records of works of art, artifacts, and specimens—work that may require substantial historical, scientific, and archeological research. They document their findings and treat items to minimize deterioration or to restore them to their original state. Conservators usually specialize in a particular material or group of objects, such as documents and books, paintings, decorative arts, textiles, metals, or architectural material.

Some conservators use x rays, chemical testing, microscopes, special lights, and other laboratory equipment and techniques to examine objects, determine their condition, and decide on the best way to preserve them. They also may participate in outreach programs, research topics in their specialty, and write articles for scholarly journals.

Work Environment

Curators and museum technicians
Some archivists coordinate educational and public outreach programs.

Archivists, curators, and museum workers held about 31,300 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most archivists, curators, and museum workers were as follows:

Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions 37%
Government 23
Educational services; state, local, and private 18

Because most curators work at museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, nature centers, and historical sites, their working conditions vary. Depending on the size of the institution and the position, they may work at a desk or spend their time working with the public, providing reference assistance and educational services. Museum workers who restore and set up exhibits or work with bulky, heavy record containers may have to lift objects, climb ladders and scaffolding, and stretch to reach items.

Work Schedules

Most archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators work full time.

Archivists in government agencies and corporations generally work during regular business hours. Curators in large institutions may travel extensively to evaluate potential additions to the collection, organize exhibits, and conduct research. However, for curators in small institutions, travel may be rare. Museum technicians may need to work evenings and weekends, when institutions are open to the public.

How to Become an Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker

Curators and museum technicians
People often gain experience through an internship or volunteering in archives or museums.

Most archivist, curator, and conservator positions require a master’s degree related to the position’s field. Museum technicians must have a bachelor’s degree. People often gain experience through an internship or by volunteering in archives and museums.

Education

Archivists. Archivists typically need a master’s degree in history, library science, archival science, political science, or public administration. Although many colleges and universities have history, library science, or other similar programs, only a few institutions offer master’s degrees in archival studies. Students may gain valuable archiving experience through volunteer or internship opportunities.

Curators. Curators typically need a master’s degree in art history, history, archaeology, or museum studies. Students with internship experience may have an advantage in the competitive job market.

In small museums, curator positions may be available to applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Because they also may have administrative and managerial responsibilities, courses in business administration, public relations, marketing, and fundraising are recommended.

Museum technicians. Museum technicians, commonly known as registrars, typically need a bachelor’s degree. Because few schools offer a bachelor’s degree in museum studies, it is common for registrars to obtain an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as art history, history, or archaeology. Some jobs may require candidates to have a master’s degree in museum studies. Museums may prefer candidates with knowledge of the museum’s specialty, training in museum studies, or previous experience working in museums.

Conservators. Conservators typically need a master’s degree in conservation or in a closely related field. Graduate programs last 2 to 4 years, the latter years of which include internship training. Only a few graduate programs in museum conservation techniques are offered in the United States. To qualify for entry into these programs, a student must have a background in chemistry, archaeology, studio art, or art history. Completing a conservation internship as an undergraduate can enhance admission prospects.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

At this time, only a few employers require or prefer certification for archivists. However, archivists may choose to earn voluntary certification because it allows them to demonstrate expertise in a particular area.

The Academy of Certified Archivists offers the Certified Archivist credential. To earn certification, candidates must have a master’s degree, have professional archival experience, and pass an exam. They must renew their certification periodically by retaking the exam or fulfilling continuing education credits.

Other Experience

To gain marketable experience, candidates may have to work part time, as an intern or as a volunteer, during or after completing their education. Substantial experience in collection management, research, exhibit design, or restoration, as well as database management skills, is necessary for full-time positions.

Advancement

Continuing education is available through meetings, conferences, and workshops sponsored by archival, historical, and museum associations. Some large organizations, such as the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, offer in-house training.

Top museum positions are highly sought after and are competitive. Performing unique research and producing published work are important for advancement in large institutions. In addition, a doctoral degree may be needed for some advanced positions.

Museum workers employed in small institutions may have limited opportunities for promotion. They typically advance by transferring to a larger institution that has supervisory positions.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators need excellent analytical skills to determine the origin, history, and importance of many of the objects they work with.

Computer skills. Archivists and museum technicians should have good computer skills because they use and develop complex databases related to the materials they store and access. 

Customer-service skills. Archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators work with the general public on a regular basis. They must be courteous and friendly and be able to help users find materials.

Organizational skills. Archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators must be able to store and easily retrieve records and documents. They must also develop logical systems of storage for the public to use.

Technical skills. Many historical objects need to be analyzed and preserved. Conservators must use the appropriate chemicals and techniques to preserve different objects, such as documents, paintings, fabrics, and pottery.

Pay

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Median annual wages, May 2014

Archivists, curators, and museum workers

$46,300

Librarians, curators, and archivists

$45,430

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for archivists, curators, and museum workers was $46,300 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,760.

Median annual wages for archivists, curators, and museum workers in May 2014 were as follows:

Curators $51,280
Archivists 49,120
Museum technicians and conservators 39,940

In May 2014, the median annual wages for archivists, curators, and museum workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private $50,210
Government 48,200
Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions 43,310

Most archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators work full time.

Archivists in government agencies and corporations generally work during regular business hours. Curators in large institutions may travel extensively to evaluate potential additions to the collection, organize exhibits, and conduct research. However, for curators in small institutions, travel may be rare. Museum technicians may need to work evenings and weekends, when institutions are open to the public.

Job Outlook

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Archivists, curators, and museum workers

7%

Total, all occupations

7%

Librarians, curators, and archivists

4%

 

Employment of archivists, curators, and museum workers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of archivists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for archivists is expected to increase as public and private organizations require increasing volumes of records and information to be organized and made accessible. The growing use of electronic records may cause demand for archivists who specialize in electronic records and records management.

Employment of curators is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Museums receive millions of visitors every year. Continued public interest in these cultural centers will lead to demand for curators and for the collections they manage.

Employment of museum technicians and conservators is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Public interest in science, art, history, and technology is expected to spur some demand for museum technicians and conservators.

Archives and museums can be subject to cuts in funding during recessions and periods of budget tightening, reducing demand for these workers.

Job Prospects

Candidates seeking archivist, curator, museum technician, or conservator jobs should expect very strong competition due to the high number of qualified applicants per job opening. Graduates with highly specialized training, a master’s degree, and internship or volunteer experience should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for archivists, curators, and museum workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Archivists, curators, and museum technicians

25-4010 31,300 33,400 7 2,100 [XLSX]

Archivists

25-4011 6,900 7,400 7 500 [XLSX]

Curators

25-4012 13,100 14,100 8 1,000 [XLSX]

Museum technicians and conservators

25-4013 11,300 11,900 5 600 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of archivists, curators, and museum workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Anthropologists and archeologists

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans. They examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.

Master's degree $59,280
Craft and fine artists

Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition. Craft artists create handmade objects, such as pottery, glassware, textiles, and other objects that are designed to be functional. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original works of art for their aesthetic value, rather than for a functional one.

See How to Become One $44,400
Historians

Historians

Historians research, analyze, interpret, and present the past by studying historical documents and sources.

Master's degree $55,870
Librarians

Librarians

Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use. Their job duties may change based on the type of library they work in, such as public, school, and medical libraries.

Master's degree $56,170

Contacts for More Information

For information about archivists and about schools offering courses in archival studies, visit

Society of American Archivists

For more information about archivists and archivist certification, visit

Academy of Certified Archivists

For more information about training opportunities, conferences, and workshops for museum workers, visit

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

For information about government archivists, visit

Council of State Archivists

For information about museum technicians, registrars, or collections specialists, visit

Association of Registrars and Collections Specialists

For more information about museum careers, including schools offering courses in museum studies for curators and museum technicians, visit

American Alliance of Museums

For more information about careers and education programs in conservation and preservation for conservators, visit

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works

For information about job openings as curators, museum technicians, and conservators with the federal government, visit

USAJobs

O*NET

Archivists

Curators

Museum Technicians and Conservators

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm (visited February 13, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015