Looking for a Museum Career? Here’s How Much Money You Can Expect to Make, According to a New Survey

The Association of Art Museum Directors released the results of its annual salary survey for 2019.

The atrium of the new Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Photo by Peter Molick. Image courtesy MFAH.

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) has shared the results of its annual report surveying the salaries of curators, conservators, registrars, and other museum professionals across North America. It’s the organization’s first report on the topic since a public Google spreadsheet of anonymous museum workers’ wages circulated through the art world, stirring a debate over the stratification of pay at non-profit institutions.  

The latest findings, made public today, reflect the 2019 fiscal year, providing a pre-lockdown snapshot of a period of “low unemployment, low interest rates, and yet also one of economic uncertainty and concern over the stagnation of wages,” according to AAMD’s announcement. It remains to be seen how lockdown—which, for many museums, came with significant budget and pay cuts as well as staff reductions—will affect wages.

On average, directors earned $317,500 per year, according to this year’s report. Both chief operating officers and deputy directors brought in $184,200, while chief curators ranked third, with an average salary of $150,200. On the low end, security officers earned roughly $35,700 and visitor services associates took in $32,600.

The most salary growth reported by museums was in the HR, IT, education, and facilities management divisions, while pay raises for finance, security, and fundraising lagged behind the national averages.

One hundred eighty-seven of the 220 museums surveyed this year—or 85 percent—submitted answers, making for a response rate markedly lower than that of previous years. (Response rates in each of the last three years have topped at least 92 percent, but many institutions were unable to gather data in time this year due to the shutdown.)     

AAMD inaugurated its salary survey in 1918 and has collected yearly data since 1991. Striving to promote transparency across the industry, the organization made public the results of its survey for the first time in 2017. The organization partnered with Stax Inc., a consulting and analytics firm, to collect the data.  

Below are mean salary figures for all the job titles in the AAMD report, sorted from highest to lowest. (When titles are broken up into As and Bs, such as with “Finance A” and “Finance B,” the As are the position within a department with more responsibility.)

  • Museum Directors: $317,500
  • Deputy Director: $184,200
  • Chief Operating Officer: $184,200
  • Chief Curator / Director of Curatorial Affairs / Curator A: $150,200
  • Director of Development / Development A: $146,600
  • Director of Finance/Finance A: $139,100
  • Director of External Affairs: $133,900
  • Director of Information Systems / Chief Information Officer: $123,800
  • Chief Conservator / Conservator A: $123,800
  • Human Resources Director: $112,500
  • Director, Planned Giving / Institutional Giving: $107,600
  • Senior Curator / Curator of Special Collections Area / Curator B: $105,300
  • Curator of Exhibitions / Curator C: $99,700
  • Senior Conservator / Conservator B: $94,600
  • Marketing Director: $91,300
  • Director of Education / Curator of Education / Education A: $91,300
  • Systems Manager / Technology Director / Director of New Media:  $91,200
  • Director of Finance / Finance B: $87,000
  • Facilities Director / Building Manager / Operations Manager: $86,700
  • Engineering Manager: $85,900
  • Editor / Director of Publications: $82,800
  • Head Librarian / Librarian A: $78,700
  • Grant Manager / Institutional Giving Manager / Development B: $77,400
  • Chief of Security: $74,500
  • Web Manager: $72,800
  • Associate Curator / Curator D: $72,700
  • Exhibition Designer: $72,400
  • Public Relations Officer: $72,200
  • Registrar A: $70,000
  • Associate Conservator / Conservator C: $67,900
  • Museum Store Manager: $67,200
  • Special Events Manager:  $66,000
  • Chief Preparator / Preparator A: $64,400
  • Photographer: $62,700
  • Assistant To Director:  $61,300
  • Associate Librarian / Librarian B: $61,300
  • Graphic Designer: $61,200
  • Associate Educator / Educator B: $61,100
  • Development Associate / Development C: $60,400
  • Associate Registrar / Registrar B: $57,500
  • Assistant Curator / Curator E: $57,200
  • New Media Manager: $56,700
  • Volunteer Coordinator: $51,100
  • Associate Librarian / Librarian C: $50,500
  • Associate Preparator / Preparator B: $48,600
  • Assistant Registrar / Registrar C: $48,300 
  • Assistant Educator / Educator C: $47,100
  • Curator Assistant: $46,200
  • Membership Assistant: $45,700
  • Education Assistant:  $40,300
  • Museum Security Officer / Museum Security Guard: $35,700
  • Visitor Services Associate: $32,600

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