How Much Does a Museum Curator Make?


Museum curators collect, store and exhibit museum items. A curator often plays a dual role of curator and museum director, and must ensure that anything the museum acquires is authentic. Curators may also be involved in activities such as fund raising, public relations, grant proposals and civic events, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


  • As of 2009, the average hourly wage for museum curators was $25.16, and the average annual salary was $52,330, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Curators in the 10th percentile earned up to $27,000 each year, while the middle 50 percent, between the 25th and 75th percentiles, earned from $35,300 to $65,080 per year. The median annual salary was $47,930, but the top earners, those in the 90th percentile, made $83,900 a year or more.

Salary by Location

  • Though the District of Columbia is not strictly a state, the Bureau of Labor Statistics counts it among the states for statistical purposes, and the district paid more than any state for this occupation, with museum curator salaries there averaging $77,410 a year. In California, the second highest-paying state, annual average salaries were significantly less, at $60,890. Maryland was third on the list of highest-paying states, where salaries averaged slightly less than California, at $59,160. Rounding out the list were New York and Illinois, where salaries averaged $57,960 and $57,290, respectively. Vermont held the highest level of employment per capita for this occupation, but salaries were a bit below the national numbers; 80 curators in the state made an average of $48,230 a year. The highest-paying metropolitan area in the nation was Bethesda-Frederick-Gaithersburg, Maryland, where the average of curator salaries was $91,450 a year.

Salary by Industry

  • In 2009, the federal executive branch was the highest-paying industry sector for this occupation, paying curators $80,270 each year on average. In the grantmaking and giving services sector, the second highest-paying industry, average salaries were considerably less, at $66,100 a year. Curators working for elementary and secondary schools averaged $61,320 in salary a year, third on the list of highest-paying industries, while those working for colleges, universities and professional schools averaged $58,020 per year, for fourth place. Rounding out the list was the information services industry sector, where yearly salaries averaged $57,430. Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions employed the highest number of museum curators, where 5,790 curators averaged $48,640 in salary a year.

Employment Outlook

  • In 2008, there were about 11,700 curators working in the United States. The bureau expects this number to rise by 2,700, to 14,400, by the year 2018. This is a 23 percent increase, which is "much faster than average" when compared to other occupations.

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