Archivists, curators, and museum workers held about 35,900 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up archivists, curators, and museum workers was distributed as follows:
|Museum technicians and conservators||14,400|
The largest employers of archivists, curators, and museum workers were as follows:
|Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions||42%|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||17|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Archivists or curators typically have an interest in the Thinking, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a archivist or curator, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Archivists or Curators should also possess the following specific qualities:
Analytical skills. Archivists, curators, registrars, and conservators need excellent analytical skills to determine the origin, history, and importance of many of the objects they work with.
Computer skills. Archivists 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, and registrars work with the general public on a regular basis. They must be courteous and friendly and be able to help users find materials.
Organizational skills. Archivists, curators, registrars, and conservators must be able to store and easily retrieve records and documents. They also must 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 the different objects they deal with. Examples of these objects are documents, paintings, fabrics, and pottery.
The median annual wage for archivists, curators, and museum workers was $49,850 in May 2019. 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 $28,330, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,760.
Median annual wages for archivists, curators, and museum workers in May 2019 were as follows:
|Museum technicians and conservators||44,430|
In May 2019, 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||$55,460|
|Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions||46,550|
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.
Employment of archivists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for archivists is expected to increase, as public and private organizations require that more volumes of records and information 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 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, 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 9 percent from 2018 to 2028, 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.
About 4,400 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 exit the labor force, such as to retire, and from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations.
Candidates seeking archivist, curator, museum technician, or conservator jobs should expect competition because of the high number of qualified applicants per job opening. Jobseekers with highly specialized training, a master’s degree, and internship or volunteer experience should have the best job prospects.
For information about archivists and about schools offering courses in archival studies, visit
For more information about archivists and archivist certification, visit
For information about government archivists, visit
For information about museum technicians, registrars, or collections specialists, visit
For more information about museum careers, including schools offering museum studies and related programs, visit
For more information about careers and education programs in conservation and preservation for conservators, visit
For information about job openings as curators, museum technicians, and conservators with the federal government, visit
For a career video on archivists, visit