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
2016 Median Pay $47,230 per year
$22.71 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, 2016 31,000
Job Outlook, 2016-26 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 4,200

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 work in museums, historical sites, governments, colleges and universities, corporations, and other institutions. Most work full time.

How to Become an Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker

Archivist, curator, and conservator positions typically require a master’s degree related to the position’s field. Museum technicians typically have a bachelor’s degree. Prior experience gained through an internship or by volunteering in archives or museums is helpful in getting a position as an archivist, curator, museum technician, or conservator.

Pay

The median annual wage for archivists, curators, and museum workers was $47,230 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. The need to store information in archives and public interest in science, art, and history, may 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 About this section

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 a 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 to help arrange, exhibit, and maintain collections
  • Set and administer policy guidelines concerning public access to materials
  • 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 important or historically significant documents and records. 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 a particular era of history so that they can have a better understanding of the records from that era.

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

Curators, also known as museum directors, lead the acquisition, storage, and exhibition of collections. They negotiate and authorize the purchase, sale, exchange, and loan of collections. They also may research, authenticate, evaluate, and categorize the specimens in a collection.

Curators often perform administrative tasks and help manage 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.

In larger institutions, some curators 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.

In smaller 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 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. They may perform substantial historical, scientific, and archeological research. They document their findings and treat items in order to minimize deterioration or 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 About this section

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

Archivists, curators, and museum workers held about 31,000 jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up archivists, curators, and museum workers was distributed as follows:

Curators 12,400
Museum technicians and conservators 11,800
Archivists 6,800

The largest employers of archivists, curators, and museum workers were as follows:

Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions 41%
Government 25
Educational services; state, local, and private 19

Depending on the size of the institution and the position they hold, 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 if their institutions are open to the public during those times.

How to Become an Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker About this section

Curators and museum technicians
Prior experience through an internship or by volunteering in archives and museums is helpful in getting a position as an archivist, curator, museum technician, or conservator.

Archivist, curator, and conservator positions typically require a master’s degree related to the position’s field. Museum technicians typically have a bachelor’s degree. Prior experience through an internship or by volunteering in archives and museums is helpful in getting a position as an archivist or a curator, museum technician, or conservator.

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 curators 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. Few schools offer a bachelor’s degree in museum studies, so 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 an internship. 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 one’s prospects for admission.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although most employers do not require certification, some 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, friendly, and able to help users find materials.

Organizational skills. Archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators 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 About this section

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Median annual wages, May 2016

Archivists, curators, and museum workers

$47,230

Librarians, curators, and archivists

$46,610

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for archivists, curators, and museum workers was $47,230 in May 2016. 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 $26,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $85,220.

Median annual wages for archivists, curators, and museum workers in May 2016 were as follows:

Curators $53,360
Archivists 50,500
Museum technicians and conservators 40,040

In May 2016, 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 $52,710
Government 48,720
Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions 43,510

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 if their institutions are open to the public during those times.

Job Outlook About this section

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Archivists, curators, and museum workers

13%

Librarians, curators, and archivists

10%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of archivists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than 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 an increase in demand for archivists who specialize in electronic records and records management.

Employment of curators is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Continued public interest in museums and other cultural centers should lead to increased demand for curators and for the collections they manage.

Employment of museum technicians and conservators is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than 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 that receive federal funds can be affected by changes to the federal budget. When funding is cut, there may be a reduction in the demand for these workers. However, budget surpluses may lead to more job openings.

Job Prospects

Candidates seeking archivist, curator, museum technician, or conservator jobs should expect very strong competition because of 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, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Archivists, curators, and museum workers

31,000 35,100 13 4,200

Archivists

25-4011 6,800 7,800 14 1,000 employment projections excel document xlsx

Curators

25-4012 12,400 14,100 14 1,700 employment projections excel document xlsx

Museum technicians and conservators

25-4013 11,800 13,300 12 1,500 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 About this section

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 Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
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 $63,190
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 $48,780
Historians

Historians

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

Master's degree $55,110
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, academic, and medical libraries.

Master's degree $57,680

Contacts for More Information About this section

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

CareerOneStop

For a career video on archivists, visit

Archivists

O*NET

Archivists

Curators

Museum Technicians and Conservators

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm (visited November 01, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.