Career Profile: Museum Curator

curatorIf you’re the hands on sort who enjoys history, art, culture, and related subjects, a career as a museum curator might be just the thing to get your professional juices flowing. Curators work at numerous public and private museums, nature centers, and historic sites identifying, preserving, displaying, and telling the stories of artifacts under their care. Museum curators are also responsible for overseeing and promoting educational programs about collections under their direction. A museum curator might also be the museum director, in which case they are responsible for the fundraising and management of collections in an institution.

Path of Study

Most museum curators begin their careers with an interest in a particular area of history, art, or science. As their careers expand, they become jacks of all trades, sometimes with particular interests in a field. They take this interest into their educational studies as a path to reaching their career goals.

If there is one characteristic of museum curators that is true of just about all of them is that they know their stuff. They know their subjects intimately, which means backwards and forwards. They are often former educators and researchers, oftentimes with published books and numerous papers about a subject to their credit.

Museums curators are also detail oriented when it comes to their subject. They don’t have an overview knowledge of their topic. They know it thoroughly. This allows them to tell the story of their collections because they possess an expert-level background in their specialty.


Unfortunately, there are many immensely qualified people who compete for every museum curator job that opens. It is for this reason that the greater the amount of dedication and interest that you can demonstrate, the better your chances of scoring a position. As a result of this, a great leveler of the playing field is volunteering at your local museum. Volunteering at such an institution not only gives you a greater background in your subject, but it also teach you the ins and outs of how the job is done.

Get an Education

Simply put, the better the education you have, the better the chances you will give yourself of being in a position to get a job. It is also important to understand that although it is possible to get a good education, much of your future will depend on the people you studied under, so make sure that the institution you study at is well known for its researchers in your field. On the path to becoming a museum curator, who you know is almost as important as what you know.

Write. Write. Write.

To a great extent, museum curators all know each other, and they get to know each other largely by what they read in the publications in their field. As a result, being published in your field is a tremendous asset in career advancement.

Work. Work. Work.

Another important part of understanding that you are one of many looking to enter a crowded and small field is your willingness to work. When you can prove that you not only have the knowledge to become a museum curator but also have the willingness to prove yourself, then you will advance to where you want to go.

Further Reading: How to get ahead in US museums