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Archivist and Curator Jobs

Museum Jobs and Employment


Archivists Jobs | Curator Careers | Museum Jobs



Archivists appraise, edit, and maintain records and historically documents. They oversee collections of artwork and historic items, and may conduct public service activities for institutions. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore objects in museum collections and exhibits.

Archivist, Curator, and Museum Technician Jobs Duties

  • Authenticate and appraise historical docs and archival items
  • Preserve and maintain various documents and objects
  • Create computer databases including archives
  • Organize archival records to make them searchable
  • Safeguard museum records by creating film and digital copies
  • Supervise workers who arrange, exhibit, and maintain various collections
  • Administer policies and guidelines concerning public access to documents / materials
  • Acquire and locate new materials for archives  

Curators, museum technicians, and conservators may work on these items:

  • Acquire, store, showcase and exhibit valuable collections
  • Select the theme and design style of exhibits
  • Organize and conduct tours and workshops
  • Attend civic events or meetings to promote the institution
  • Cleaning objects like ancient tools, coins, artwork, and statues
  • Direct and supervise staff
  • Conduct special research projects

Archivists preserve documents and records for their historical significance. Archivists coordinate educational and public outreach programs, tours, workshops, lectures, speeches, and classes. They may research topics relevant to specific collections.

Some specialize in a specific area of history, so they can more accurately understand which records should become part of the archives.  Archivists work with specific forms of records, like manuscripts, electronic records, web sites, photographs, maps, films, and sound recordings.

Archivist Technicians help archivists organize, maintain, and give access to historical document materials.

Curators manage zoos, museums, aquariums, botanical gardens, nature areas, and historical sites. The museum director often is a curator as well.

Curators direct the acquisition, storage, and exhibition of various collections.  They may negotiate and authorize the purchase, sale, exchange, and loan of collections. They also authenticate, evaluate, and categorize the specimens or pieces of a collection.

These positions can oversee and help conduct the institution’s research items / projects including related educational programs. An increasing part of a curator’s job duties involve fundraising and marketing, which may include writing / reviewing grant proposals, journal articles, and publicity items. Some curators attend meetings, conventions, civic and other events.

Most curators specialize in a particular field, such as art or history. Those who work in large institutions can be highly specialized. A large natural history museum, for ex:, might employ curators for its collections of birds, fish, bugs, and mammals.

Some focus on taking care of their specific collections, on researching items in collections, and spend most of their time performing admin type tasks. In small institutions with few curators, they may be responsible for a number of duties, from taking care of collections to directing museum affairs.

Museum technicians or registrars, help curators by preparing and caring for museum items. Registrars also answer questions from the public & help curators and other scholars use the collection.

Conservators supervise, preserve, treat, and maintain records of works of art, artifacts, and specimens—work that may require substantial historical, scientific, and archaeological research. They document findings & treat items to minimize deterioration. Conservators can specialize in a particular material or group of objects, such as docs or books, paintings, decorative arts, textiles, metals, or architectural material. They may use x rays, chemical testing, microscopes, and other lab equipment and techniques to look at objects, determine condition, and decide on the best ways to preserve them.

Conservators may participate in outreach programs, research specialty topics, and write articles for scholar journals. They may be employed by a museum or institution that has objects needing conservation.

Curator and Museum Job Openings

Work Environment for Archivists, Curators, and Museum Employment

Some large artwork can be awkward to mount and adjust and may need customized materials to display.

Archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators held about 29,300 jobs in the year 2012. Industries that employed the most jobs included:

  • Museums and historical sites 38%
  • Government 26%
  • Educational services; state, local, and private sector  18%

Archivists work in museums, colleges, universities, government, and other institutions that require expert preservation of important records.

Working conditions may vary for most curators since they work at museums, zoos, aquariums and more. Some spend their time working in the public, providing assistance and education services.

Those who restore and set up exhibits may need to climb ladders, scaffolding, and stretch to reach certain items.

Work Schedules

Archivists in government and corporations generally work full time.  Curators who work in large institutions may travel to evaluate possible additions to a collection, organize exhibits, and conduct collection research.

Most archivist, curator, and conservator jobs require a masters degree. People may gain experience by working / volunteering in archives and museums. A bachelor’s degree is necessary for museum technicians.

Education for Curators and Archivists

Archivists - Most employers prefer archivists to have a graduate degree in history, library science, archival science, or records management. Many colleges offer courses or practical training in archival techniques in history, library science, and other programs.

Curators - Many museums require curators to have a masters degree in an appropriate discipline of the museum’s specialty—art, history, or archaeology and sometimes in museum studies. Other employers prefer that curators have a doctoral degree, particularly for positions in natural history and science museums.

Museum Technicians - (Registrars) usually need a bachelors degree related to the museums specialty, museum studies, or previous experience working in museums, particularly in designing exhibits. Relatively few schools grant a bachelor’s degree in museum studies; more common are undergraduate minors and tracks of study that are part of an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as art history, history, or archaeology.

Conservators - Employers look for a masters degree in conservation or in a closely related field, together with experience. Only a few graduate programs in museum conservation techniques are offered in the USA. Competition for entry to these programs is strong. To qualify, a student should have backgrounds in chemistry, archaeology, studio art, and art history, and work experience.

Licenses and Certifications

The Academy of Certified Archivists offers certification for archivists. Archivists with at least a masters degree and one year of archival experience can obtain the Certified Archivist credential by passing an exam. You must renew certification periodically by retaking the exam or taking continuing education credits.


To gain experience, candidates could have to work part-time, as an intern, or even as a volunteer curator. Experience in collection management, research, exhibit design, as well as database management skills, is typically necessary for full-time employment.

Career Advancement

Continuing education is typically available through meetings, conferences, and workshops by archival, historical, and museum associations. Some large organizations offer in house training.

Important Qualities

  • Analytical skills
  • Computer skills 
  • Customer service
  • Organizational skills
  • Technical skills

Average Salary for Archivists and Curators

The median annual earnings for archivists, curators, and museum workers was $44,410 in 2012. The lowest 10 % earned less than $25,570, and the top 10 % earned more than $80,070.

In May 2012, median annual earnings for archivists, curators, and museum workers were:

  • $49,590 for curators
  • $47,340 for archivists
  • $38,220 for museum technicians and conservators

In May 2012, the median annual salary for archivists, curators, and museum workers in the top industries:

  • Government $54,460
  • Educational services; state, local, and private 47,760
  • Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions 37,760
  • Citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers, on the Internet at