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Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Continuing education is available through meetings, conferences, and workshops sponsored by archival, historical, and museum associations. Some larger organizations, such as the National Archives in Washington, D.C., offer such training in-house.

Many archives, including one-person shops, are very small and have limited opportunities for promotion. Archivists typically advance by transferring to a larger unit that has supervisory positions. A doctorate in history, library science, or a related field may be needed for some advanced positions, such as director of a State archive.

In large museums, curators may advance through several levels of responsibility, eventually becoming the museum director. Curators in smaller museums often advance to larger ones. Individual research and publications are important for advancement in larger institutions.

Technician positions often serve as a steppingstone for individuals interested in archival and curatorial work. Except in small museums, a master's degree is needed for advancement.

Employment
Archivists, curators, and museum technicians held about 29,100 jobs in 2008. About 39 percent were employed in museums, historical sites, and similar institutions and 18 percent worked for public and private educational services. Around 30 percent of archivists, curators, and museum technicians worked in Federal, State, and local government, excluding educational institutions. Most Federal archivists work for the National Archives and Records Administration; others manage military archives in the U.S. Department of Defense. Most Federal Government curators work at the Smithsonian Institution, in the military museums of the U.S. Department of Defense, and in archaeological and other museums and historic sites managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. All State governments have archival or historical record sections employing archivists. State and local governments also have numerous historical museums, parks, libraries, and zoos employing curators.

Some large corporations that have archives or record centers employ archivists to manage the growing volume of records created or maintained as required by law or necessary to the firmís operations. Religious and fraternal organizations, professional associations, conservation organizations, major private collectors, and research firms also employ archivists and curators.

Conservators may work under contract to treat particular items, rather than as regular employees of a museum or other institution. These conservators may work on their own as private contractors, or they may work as an employee of a conservation laboratory or regional conservation center that contracts their services to museums. Most Federal conservators work for the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, and National Archives and Records Administration.

Job Outlook
Much faster than average employment growth is projected. Keen competition is expected for most jobs as archivists, curators, and museum technicians because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings.

Job Growth
Employment of archivists, curators, and museum technicians is expected to increase 20 percent over the 2008-18 decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Jobs for archivists are expected to increase as public and private organizations require organization of and access to increasing volumes of records and information. Public interest in science, art, history, and technology will continue, creating opportunities for curators, conservators, and museum technicians. Museum attendance is expected to continue to be good. Many museums remain financially healthy and will schedule building and renovation projects as money is available.

Demand for archivists who specialize in electronic records and records management will grow more rapidly than the demand for archivists who specialize in older media formats.

Keen competition is expected for most jobs as archivists, curators, and museum technicians because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings. Graduates with highly specialized training, such as master's degrees in both library science and history, with a concentration in archives or records management and extensive computer skills, should have the best opportunities for jobs as archivists. Opportunities for those who manage electronic records are expected to be better than for those who specialize in older media formats.

Curator jobs, in particular, are attractive to many people, and many applicants have the necessary training and knowledge of the subject. But because there are relatively few openings, 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.

Conservators also can expect competition 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 will have better job opportunities.

Museums and other cultural institutions can be subject to cuts in funding during recessions or periods of budget tightening, reducing demand for these workers. Although the number of archivists and 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.

Earnings
Median annual wages of archivists in May 2008 were $45,020. The middle 50 percent earned between $34,050 and $60,150. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,790. Median annual wages of curators in May 2008 were $47,220. The middle 50 percent earned between $34,910 and $63,940. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,290. Median annual wages of museum technicians and conservators in May 2008 were $36,660. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,030 and $49,170. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,320, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,060.

In March 2009, the average annual salary for archivists in the Federal Government was $83,758; for museum curators, $90,205; for museum specialists and technicians, $62,520; and for archives technicians, $43,662.

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