How Do I Become An Art Museum Curator?

Gina L | August 30, 2009

If you absolutely love art and know every artist by the sight of his or her work, then a career as an art historian professional could definitely be your calling. Art historians can use their knowledge of art as an art museum curator. Art curators use their art history knowledge to help preserve artwork and bring the history of the piece to life by determining its history and if any societal events affected and/or brought on its creation.

How do I become an art museum curator?

An art museum curator is first an art historian. To prepare for a position as an art museum curator, students should enroll at a college or university with a degree program in art history. After a bachelor’s degree is achieved, typically a graduate degree is required for art museum curator positions. You can take it a step further and go for an additional master’s in either museum studies or art history to make yourself even more desirable to employers when seeking an art museum curator position.

Many colleges and universities throughout the country offer degree programs in art history and museum studies. Some of these programs are highly acclaimed in the academic and museum world. You may also be able to find graduate programs in curatorial studies/curatorial practices, which is perfect preparation for a career as an art curator.

Taking an internship or curatorial assistant position is a wonderful way to gain practical work experience in the field and gets you closer to the position you desire. Many art curators have worked as interns or assistants and moved up the curatorial employment ladder. You can find these entry level positions at local large and small museums, and galleries across the U.S.

What will I learn when studying to be an art museum curator?
Future art museum curators can find a variety of degree programs that will prepare them for careers as art curators. Students can pursue undergraduate degrees in museum studies, art history, and art history and curatorial studies. Many of these programs can also be taken as graduate programs and PhD programs. As an art history major, students will learn about various types of art and artworks, the history behind the creations, and the critical skills needed to analyze and understand them. At the advanced level, many aspects of art are covered including the location the artwork is from and how it addresses social or political issues of the time through art. Courses could include American art, impressionism, contemporary art, art of the early middle ages, Romanesque art, Greek and Roman architecture, artists throughout history, various types of sculpture from around the world, realism, arts in Spain, cubism, surrealism, and modern architecture. These are only examples of the courses taken, but this area of study provides a comprehensive understanding and education in art history.

A master’s degree in museum studies includes courses that help students gain skills in museum administration and education, managing collections, historic preservation, and other needed skills for a career in a museum. Courses may include museology, professional development, collection management, museum administration, museum law, marketing and development, design and management, and preservation, just to name a few.

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