Aquarium Curator Job Description, Career as a Aquarium Curator, Salary, Employment
Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job
Training/Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree
Median Salary: $43,620 per year
Job Prospects: Fair
An aquarium curator works to maintain all exhibits of fish and other sea life within an aquarium setting, caring for the creatures and plants and also ensuring the tanks are clean and any mechanical systems are functioning properly. Aquarium curators acquire new specimens to keep the displays and exhibits new, not just for the public to enjoy but to model real oceans, lakes, and rivers. As they acquire new fish, these curators are an integral part of planning for and executing a safe transportation and delivery process. They are experts in their field, and therefore are responsible for the fish arriving in good shape.
Aquarium curators create displays and exhibits that are aesthetically pleasing as well as good for the creatures and plants that live within them. They are involved in the construction process and are integral in deciding what must be included within each display so that the animals receive the best care possible through a proper environment.
Because they are experts in aquatics, aquarium curators must perform research on a regular basis, staying current with appropriate ways to care for fish and plants, as well as learning about new and interesting sea creatures that they want to bring into their aquarium. They are responsible for inventory of the fish and overseeing the feeding process. Aquarium curators are the point of contact for anything related to the fish that live within the aquarium, as well as the displays and exhibits.
It is expected that an aquarium curator has a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, though they may very well have a higher education than that. A bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum requirement, and though it is not always mandated, it is preferred that the degree be in biology or a related science. Any coursework or background within this type of science, or with fish directly, can be quite helpful. Not all aquariums require it, but having scuba certification can be of great help to an aquarium curator because they are often required to work within the actual displays and exhibits. Though there is not usually an ongoing training requirement for aquarium curators, these scientists find it helpful to attend workshops or other events within the industry to keep them current.
How to Get Hired
Initially the best way to get hired as an aquarium curator is to work within this type of environment. Many aquarium curators gain experience within this environment in a technician or other type of support role and then work their way up. Having some sort of aquatics background, both in education and in working experience, can be tremendously helpful in getting hired.
As aquarium curators work within this role, they may move from one environment to another. They may work within a smaller aquarium and then apply that experience to a position with more responsibility elsewhere. They may work toward a position with greater responsibility, such as a director position, though many curators wish to stay in this role throughout their career.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development
Curating an entire aquarium is a rather competitive position. The few job openings that do exist for aquarium curators are often due to a previous curator. Gaining experience first in a different role within the worlds of sea plants and animals and scientific research can increase the likelihood of eventually gaining a position as an aquarium curator.
The typical working environment for an aquarium curator involves a mix between an office and the displays and exhibits that they manage. These members of an aquarium staff may spend part of their day in the water, working with the displays and the fish directly, and they may spend part of their day in their office, performing research or meeting with other members of the aquarium staff. Curators are in a managerial role, but they also get their hands dirty alongside their staff. Aquarium curators typically work long hours and weekends because they handle all aspects related to the facility, fish, and displays. This can be a stressful environment because there are often deadlines and a push to keep the facility perfect for the public. Because the aquarium curator often has the final say on many matters related to the aquarium, they may be involved in a wide array of responsibilities throughout their day.
Salary and Benefits
The typical salary for an aquarium curator is around $43,620, but many factors, including type and size of aquarium, can affect this. Salary may be as low as $32,790 and as high as $58,280 and above. Generally, aquarium curators work on staff as part of a team, so they are eligible for standard benefits. They can expect to receive medical coverage and paid vacation, sick days, and holidays, as well as some sort of a retirement account. Because theirs is a competitive field, aquarium curators may find only part-time work. If that’s the case, these curator may earn less in an hourly rate and may be responsible for their own benefits.
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