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Curators, Museum Technicians, and Conservators Job Outlook

Overall employment of curators, museum technicians, and conservators is projected to grow 16 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of curators is projected to grow 25 percent, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of museum technicians and conservators is projected to grow 7 percent, slower than the average for all occupations. Public interest in science, art, history, and technology will continue to spur demand for curators, museum technicians, and conservators.

Because museum attendance is expected to rise over the coming decade, many museums should remain financially healthy and are expected to schedule additional building and renovation projects.

Job Prospects

Curator jobs are attractive to many people, and many applicants have the necessary training and knowledge. Combined with the relatively few job openings, candidates are likely to face very strong competition for jobs.

To gain marketable experience, candidates may have to work part time, as an intern, or even as a volunteer assistant curator or research associate after completing their formal education. Substantial work experience in collection management, research, exhibit design, or restoration, as well as database management skills, will be necessary for permanent status. Familiarity and skills related to mobile technology will be viewed favorably by hiring officials.

Museum technicians and conservators also can expect strong competition when applying for jobs. Competition is stiff for the limited number of openings in conservation graduate programs, and applicants need a technical background. Conservator program graduates with knowledge of a foreign language and a willingness to relocate should have better job opportunities.

Museums and other cultural institutions can have funding cut during recessions or periods of budget tightening, reducing demand for these workers. Although the number of curators who move to other occupations is relatively low, the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation will create some job openings. However, workers in these occupations tend to work beyond the typical retirement age of workers in other occupations.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition