What Does an Associate Curator Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a faceless associate curator showing off 4 pillars. Text reads:

Image by Bailey Mariner © The Balance 2019

An associate curator assists the art curator in overseeing collections of artwork and historic items for an institution such as a museum, government facility, or university. Collections may include historical artifacts, sports memorabilia, and art housed in a specific department such as renaissance painting or medieval arts.

The associate curator performs routine museum and cultural work that includes preserving, storing and exhibiting items, and gives tours and lectures to the public.

Associate Curator Duties & Responsibilities

The responsibilities of an associate curator vary according to the education, training, and experience. Duties may include:

  • Performing scholarly research and cataloging artwork and artifacts
  • Helping to develop the museum’s collection
  • Giving tours and lectures to visiting groups and traveling to schools and other facilities to give presentations
  • Overseeing the general care of art and historical objects and artifacts
  • Developing graphic designs and display materials for museum exhibits and presentations
  • Maintaining and operating all audiovisual equipment
  • Supervising museum volunteers

An associate curator leads the scholarly research and has curatorial responsibility of the department's objects and artwork, and organizes related public programs, presentations, and lectures.

Working with other curators in the museum's various departments, an associate curator conceptualizes and carries out special researched exhibitions and installations of the museum's collection to appeal to the museum's general and diverse audience.

Besides cataloging records for the museum's online collections database, an associate curator assists in fundraising by contacting sponsors and works on building up the department's acquisitions through extensive research and knowledge of the art market.

Associate Curator Salary

According to Payscale.com, associate curators earn the following:

  • Median Annual Salary: $53,148 ($25.55/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $71,247 ($34.25/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $35,034 ($16.84/hour)

Source: Payscale.com, 2019

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a classification for archivists, curators, and museum workers. Under that category, associate curators earn the following:

  • Median Annual Salary: $48,400 ($23.27/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $86,480 ($41.58/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary:$27,190 ($13.07/hour)

Education, Training, & Certification

Aspiring associate curators should have the following education and experience:

  • Academia: Curators typically need a master’s degree in art history, history, archaeology, or museum studies. However, small museums may only require that curators have a bachelor's degree. Coursework may include studies in artistic styles, time periods, architecture, photography, painting and sculpture. Courses in business administration, public relations, marketing, and fundraising are also recommended. Graduate coursework includes history, theory and curatorial techniques, as well as research and a dissertation. In addition, a curator should have a working knowledge of another language in relation to their area of specialization.
  • Experience: An associate curator needs to have several years of curatorial experience in an institution before being considered for a position in a large art museum. Students with internship experience may have an advantage in the competitive job market.

Associate Curator Skills & Competencies

An associate curator is an expert and a scholar, and is a skilled lecturer, researcher, and writer. As an expert, an associate curator must have the following skills:

  • Market expertise: Knowledge of the current art market to work on the museum's acquisitions
  • Written and verbal communication: The ability to effectively communicate with colleagues and others, which may involve giving presentations, tours, and lectures to the public
  • Strong interpersonal skills: The ability to work with scholars, historians, artists, curators, colleagues, art patrons, and the public
  • Multilingual: Knowledge of more than one language
  • Computer proficiency: Advanced skills in Microsoft Office, as well as in design and graphics software
  • Audio/visual expertise: The ability to work with all audio/visual equipment needed for events such as presentations and lectures
  • Analytical expertise: The ability to plan and conduct special research projects

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for curators is expected to continue to increase 14% through 2026. A demand for this position is due to continued public interest in museums and other cultural centers and their collections. In addition, competition for this position is high due to the number of highly qualified applicants.

Work Environment

An associate curator is an art specialist who works in an art museum in a specific art department such as renaissance painting, medieval arts, or decorative arts. They may work at a desk or spend time giving tours and lectures to the public.

Work Schedule

Curators primarily work full-time. Some travel may be required to evaluate collection items, organize exhibits, and conduct research.

How to Get the Job

APPLY

Look at resources such as Indeed and Glassdoor. Museum Jobs lists available positions at museums. These job sites may also provide resources for resume and cover letter writing, as well as interviewing techniques.

Inquire about employment opportunities at local museums. Many art museums post job listings for associate curators of specific art departments. Qualified applicants are typically asked to email their cover letters and resumes to the museum's Human Resources Department.

FIND A VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY

Research organizations affiliated with your profession. The Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) has a listing of museums and organizations that offer internships and fellowships for qualifying applicants. Independent Curators International (ICI) also offers internships and jobs. These organizations also hold events, which provide networking opportunities that can lead to a position.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in an associate curator position may also want to consider the following careers:

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017