Bureau of Labor Statistics

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

curators museum technicians and conservators image
Archivists, curators, and museum workers maintain and display art.
Quick Facts: Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers
2020 Median Pay $52,140 per year
$25.07 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, 2020 35,000
Job Outlook, 2020-30 19% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 6,600

Summary

What Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers Do

Archivists and curators oversee institutions’ collections, such as of historical items or of artwork. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore items in those collections.

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

Archivists, curators, and conservators typically need a master’s degree in a field related to their position. Museum technicians typically have a bachelor’s degree. Experience gained through an internship or by volunteering in archives or museums is helpful.

Pay

The median annual wage for archivists, curators, and museum workers was $52,140 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of archivists, curators, and museum workers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 4,900 openings for archivists, curators, and museum workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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

Curators, who also may be 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 items 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, and at professional conferences.

In large 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, and mammals.

In small institutions, one curator may be responsible for many tasks, from taking care of collections to directing the affairs of the museum.

Museum technicians, who may be known as preparators, registrars, or collections specialists, care for and safeguard objects in museum collections and exhibitions.

Preparators focus on readying items in museum collections for display or storage. For example, they might make frames and mats for artwork or fit mounts to support objects. They also help to create exhibits, such as by building exhibit cases, installing items, and ensuring proper lighting. And they transport items and prepare them for shipping.

Registrars and collections specialists 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.

These workers 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 artifacts, specimens, and works of art. 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, or textiles.

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 35,000 jobs in 2020. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up archivists, curators, and museum workers was distributed as follows:

Museum technicians and conservators 13,500
Curators 13,400
Archivists 8,100

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

Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions 34%
Government 24
Educational services; state, local, and private 18

Depending on the size of the institution and the position archivists, curators, and museum workers hold, these workers may spend time either at a desk or 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. For curators in small institutions, however, 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

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.

Archivists, curators, and conservators typically need a master’s degree in a field related to their position. Museum technicians typically have a bachelor’s degree. Experience gained through an internship or by volunteering in archives or museums is helpful.

Education

Archivists. Archivists typically need a master’s degree in history, library science, archival studies, political science, or public administration. 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. 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 typically need a bachelor’s degree in museum studies or a related field, such as archaeology, art history, or history. Some jobs require candidates to have a master’s degree in museum studies. In addition, museum employers may prefer candidates who have knowledge of the museum’s specialty or have experience working in museums.

Conservators. Conservators typically need a master’s degree in conservation or a related field. Graduate programs last 2 to 4 years, the latter part of which includes an internship. To qualify for entry into these programs, a student must have a background in archaeology, art history, chemistry, or studio art. Completing a conservation internship as an undergraduate may enhance an applicant’s prospects into a graduate program.

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 usually 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 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. 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 must explore minutiae to determine the origin, history, and importance of the objects they work with.

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

Detail oriented. Archivists and museum technicians must be able to focus on specifics because they use and develop complex databases related to the materials they store and access.

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.

Pay

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Archivists, curators, and museum technicians

$52,140

Librarians, curators, and archivists

$50,860

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for archivists, curators, and museum workers was $52,140 in May 2020. 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 $30,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,800.

Median annual wages for archivists, curators, and museum workers in May 2020 were as follows:

Curators $56,990
Archivists 56,760
Museum technicians and conservators 45,710

In May 2020, 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 $57,390
Government 52,780
Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions 48,190

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

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Archivists, curators, and museum technicians

19%

Total, all occupations

8%

Librarians, curators, and archivists

7%

 

Overall employment of archivists, curators, and museum workers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 4,900 openings for archivists, curators, and museum workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Much of the projected employment growth in these occupations is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020. Employment growth will vary by occupation.

Demand for archivists is expected to increase as public and private organizations have more information and records that need to be organized and made accessible. In particular, the growing use of electronic records may create jobs for archivists.

Continued public interest in museums and other cultural centers is expected to increase the demand for curators, museum technicians, and conservators. However, because these are small occupations, over the decade the fast growth is expected to result in only about 2,900 new jobs for curators and about 2,800 new jobs for museum technicians and conservators.

Archives and museums that receive federal funds may be affected by changes to the federal budget, which in turn might impact employment of archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators.

Employment projections data for archivists, curators, and museum workers, 2020-30

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

Occupational Title

Archivists, curators, and museum technicians

SOC Code25-4010
Employment, 202035,000
Projected Employment, 203041,600
Percent Change, 2020-3019
Numeric Change, 2020-306,600
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Archivists

SOC Code25-4011
Employment, 20208,100
Projected Employment, 20309,000
Percent Change, 2020-3011
Numeric Change, 2020-30900
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Curators

SOC Code25-4012
Employment, 202013,400
Projected Employment, 203016,300
Percent Change, 2020-3022
Numeric Change, 2020-302,900
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Museum technicians and conservators

SOC Code25-4013
Employment, 202013,500
Projected Employment, 203016,300
Percent Change, 2020-3021
Numeric Change, 2020-302,800
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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

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 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Anthropologists and archeologists Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans.

Master's degree $66,130
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.

See How to Become One $49,120
Historians Historians

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

Master's degree $63,100
Librarians Librarians and Library Media Specialists

Librarians and library media specialists help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use.

Master's degree $60,820

Contacts for More Info

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 information about government archivists, visit

Council of State Archivists

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

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 museum studies and related programs, visit

American Alliance of Museums

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

American Institute for Conservation

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

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm (visited September 28, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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