Museum or art gallery curators manage collections of historical, archaeological, artistic and scientific items. This includes identifying, interpreting and caring for all exhibits. They are also responsible for the day-to-day management of the museum or gallery and its staff.
You could be:
selecting, borrowing and buying items or negotiating loan items
designing and arranging displays and special exhibitions in an interesting way
arranging to restore and conserve objects
cataloguing collection items and ensuring records are maintained
managing the museum or gallery budget
organising publicity and fundraising
giving talks and lectures to groups including school parties
carrying out research on items and reporting or publishing the results
supervising and training museum or gallery staff and volunteer groups.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Salaries for assistant museum or art gallery curators are around £20,000 to £25,000 a year. Curators' salaries can be up to £30,000 a year. Senior curators and principals can earn up to around £48,000 a year, depending on level of responsibility.
Museums and galleries vary greatly in size and type.
You would usually work a 37-hour week with additional evening and weekend shifts.
If you work in a large museum, you may only have the responsibility of looking after one collection.
In smaller museums you may combine administration with some of the tasks listed above.
You normally work in a warm, well-lit environment unless you work in an outdoor museum, perhaps with an industrial or farming theme, where you will sometimes have to be out in all weathers.
In large cities you may be able to work in museums or galleries which specialise in subjects such as natural history or modern art. You would need to have specialist knowledge.
Entry is very competitive. You will need a good Honours degree (SCQF Level 10) in a suitable subject, and relevant work experience.
Work experience is usually gained through volunteering or internships, work experience placements of varying length while you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student.
Entry requirements may vary depending on the type of museum or gallery work you are interested in.
Relevant degree subjects include anthropology, archaeology, art history, history, natural history or cultural studies of a particular country. There are a number of degree courses in museum, gallery or heritage studies available in England and Wales.
Entry requirements for a degree are usually between 4-5 Highers. Specific subjects may be required for particular courses.
Many employers prefer you to have a postgraduate qualification (SCQF Level 11) in museum and gallery studies. A wide range of postgraduate qualifications are available.
In Scotland, the University of St Andrews offers postgraduate qualifications in Museum and Heritage Studies.
The Universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow offer postgraduate qualifications in Museum Studies.
Most entrants work first as assistant curators or keepers, often on a short term contract to begin with.
You would receive on the job training from senior staff or management covering for example, the collection's history, health and safety policy and security systems.
For museum staff with appropriate qualifications, the Museums Association (MA) offers a programme of continuing professional development, leading to the Associateship of the Museums Association (AMA), which takes between 2-3 years to complete. Details are on the MA website.
With experience and further skills, you may be able to move around in either the public or private sector.
The promotion structure in national museums is from assistant curator to curator and in large museums or galleries to department head and director or principal.
Local authority museums do not all have a set promotion structure. You may be able to move from assistant curator to education officer, curator and possibly to museums officer.
If you start in a small museum you may be able to move on to a larger one with better promotion prospects.
You may be able to move into an academic post as a curator looking after a university's collections.
It helps if you are willing to move around the country.
According to the Museums Galleries Scotland website, there are over 400 museums and galleries in Scotland. They vary in size from the National Museum of Scotland, with many employees, to small local museums and galleries.
Many museums and galleries offer curatorial internships, work experience placements and voluntary work placements for undergraduate and graduate students. Placements vary in length and may be full time or part time. International internships are also possible.
The Creative and Cultural Skills website has a careers section called Creative Choices which covers careers information, jobs and opportunities in the heritage and culture sector.
The following recruitment websites may be useful when looking for employment.
Historic Environment Scotland is the new lead public body for the country's historic environment. It brings together Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monumnents of Scotland.