How to Become a Museum Curator

Curators are responsible for the collection, preservation and display of objects of historic, cultural and artistic value for private and public museums, nature centers and historic sites. (Those who handle historical records for libraries are usually called archivists.) Museum curators analyze, catalog and create written descriptions of historical and artistic objects, research topics related to their collections and oversee educational programs about them. A museum curator may also be the museum director, or the curator may handle fundraising and promotion for the institution. If you would like to become a museum curator, here are the steps to go about it.


  1. Image titled Become a Museum Curator Step 1
    Develop an interest in a particular area of art, history or science. While curators at smaller museums are jacks-of-all-trades, most museum curators are experts in a particular area of the arts, sciences or history. Your particular area of interest may stem from childhood, or you may acquire it as you begin your formal studies.
    • If you have several related areas of interest, you may want to investigate several of them further. This will help you broaden your eventual job search to both smaller, local and larger, national museums.
  2. Image titled Become a Museum Curator Step 2
    Be detail-oriented. Coupled with the ability to serve as an expert or handle a wide range of duties is the ability to pay attention to small details. Being detail-oriented will serve you in handling such duties as figuring out the best way to preserve a waterlogged wooden artifact, tracking inventory and submitting an object to radioactive dating or X-ray analysis to find out where and when it was created.
  3. Image titled Become a Museum Curator Step 3
    Volunteer at a museum or similar institution. In addition to stimulating your interest in your planned area of expertise, you'll gain an inside understanding of how the kind of institution you want to work for works. You'll definitely want to intern at a museum while in college, but you may also want to look at opportunities to be a docent while still in high school to whet your interest and wet your feet.
  4. Image titled Become a Museum Curator Step 4
    Get your undergraduate degree. To become a museum curator, you'll most likely want to major in history or art history for your bachelor's degree. In addition to museum studies, you'll also want skills in chemistry and physics, design, business administration, human resources, marketing and public relations. You'll need to sharpen your writing skills for publication in scholarly journals, for writing texts or audio tracks to accompany public displays and to request grants to fund research projects. You may also want to learn one or more foreign languages.
  5. Image titled Become a Museum Curator Step 5
    Get your graduate degree. In addition to history or art history, areas you may wish to get your master's degree in include curatorship, restoration science and chemistry. With the right undergraduate background, an MBA is also a valid graduate degree when seeking to become a museum curator.
    • You may want to have more than one master's, each in a separate specialization, to increase your marketability as a museum curator.
  6. Image titled Become a Museum Curator Step 6
    Adopt a research project and publish it. Publication credits are important in getting recognition as an expert in your field, which in turn can lead to becoming a curator.
  7. Image titled Become a Museum Curator Step 7
    Be willing to work your way up. Just as many businesses promote from within, so do many museums. You may work your way up from cataloger or restorer to curatorial assistant to curator.
  8. Image titled Become a Museum Curator Step 8
    Consider getting your PhD. If you plan to become the curator of a national museum or deal in more science-related fields of study, your opportunities will be better if you get a PhD. For other museum curator positions, it isn't as necessary.


  • When preparing to study to be a museum curator, look at the reputation of the institution at which you plan to study. Some are better respected for their programs than others and may also have better contacts for internships and positions after graduation than others.


  • Many curator jobs, particularly work as conservators specializing in preserving artifacts, are becoming contract positions, either short term or for periods as long as 10 years. Some curators may leave the field to become college professors, art historians or critics. Others may become independent consultants, but only if they have made significant achievements in their field of expertise.
  • Thanks to federal funding cuts stymieing the expansion and completion of museums, becoming a museum curator is a highly competitive field with more qualified applicants than there are jobs to fill.

Article Info

Categories: Exhibited Arts