Museum Directors and Curators


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Museum directors and curators need diverse educational backgrounds to perform well in their jobs. At the high school level, you should take courses in English, literature, creative writing, history, art, the sciences, speech, business, and foreign language. These courses will give you the general background knowledge needed to understand both the educational and administrative functions of museums. Math and computer skills are also essential. Museum directors and curators are responsible for preparing budgets and seeking funds from corporations and federal agencies.

Postsecondary Training

Museum directors and curators must have at least a bachelor's degree. Some colleges and universities offer undergraduate degrees in museology, or the study of museums. Most museums require their directorial staff and chief curators to have at least a master's degree, but preferably a doctorate (especially at large museums). Directors and curators usually work in museums that specialize in art, history, or science. These individuals often have degrees in fields related to the museum's specialty. Others may have degrees in museum studies (known as museology). Directors often have advanced degrees in business management, public relations, or marketing. All curators must have a good working knowledge of the art, objects, and cultures represented in their collections.

Other Education or Training

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) offers continuing education opportunities via webinars and educational sessions at its Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo. Past sessions included "Required Elements of an Institutional Plan," "Step-by-Step Collections Acquisition," "Fundraising in Challenging Economic Times," "Strategic Thinking and Planning," "Museum Business Planning: Balancing Mission and Market," "Project Management Basics," and "Interpretive Planning Basics: Planning for Visitor Experiences." Contact the AAM for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for museum directors and curators.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

The positions of museum director and museum curator are not entry-level jobs. Most people enter these careers after obtaining at least three to five years experience in lower-level positions in finance, business, the curatorial sciences, or in other museum departments.

Excellent written and oral communication skills are essential. Directors have a primary responsibility to supervise museum staff members, relay information to museum board members, and acquire funding for all museum programming. Museum directors must have extraordinary people skills and feel at ease when soliciting funds. Curators must have excellent research skills. They must be able to meet deadlines, write scholarly articles, and give presentations while managing their traditional museum duties. Museum directors and curators should be well organized and flexible.

Occasionally museums have specific requirements, such as foreign language fluency for an art or anthropology museum or practical computer skills for a science or natural history museum. These skills are ordinarily acquired as part of the background study within the student's area of concentration and do not pose special problems.