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How to Become an Aquarium Curator in the US

If you are passionate about fish and other sea creatures, and would love to spend your life with them, you can become an aquarium curator. Keep reading to learn more about this profession.

What Do Aquarium Curators Do?

Their duties include:

  • Determining the species of sea creatures to keep in the aquarium – this involves analyzing the needs of the people who visit the aquarium
  • Examining the chemical characteristics of the water in the aquarium and determining whether it supports sea life
  • Figuring out the daily dietary and nutritional requirements of the animals in the aquarium
  • Ensuring the mechanical systems supporting sea life are working efficiently
  • Working to improve the viewing experience of the aquarium’s visitors
  • Identifying sick creatures and overseeing their treatment
  • Supervising aquarium workers.

Work Environment

Although aquarium curators have regular 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday schedules, they often work during the weekends. This is because many people typically visit the aquariums on Saturdays and Sundays.

These curators spend their workdays in the aquariums, where their offices are also located. They also occasionally hit the road to attend industry events, such as sea life expos.

Salary

Aquarium Curators earn as follows:

Occupation

Average Annual Wage

Aquarium curator

$45,000

Source: Indeed

Entry Requirements

To qualify for employment as an aquarium curator, you need to earn at least an associate degree in any of the following fields:

  • Marine science
  • Aquatic Biology
  • Aquarium Science

Regardless of the program you choose to pursue, it should offer courses in the health and ecology of marine wildlife, fishery genetics, and marine nutrition.

You can also begin as an aquarium technician, and work your way up as you gain more aquarium experience. However, choosing this route may limit your employment opportunities to small aquariums.

Important Qualities

To be an accomplished aquarium curator you need:

  • Strong analytical skills
  • Excellent creative problem-solving skills
  • Strong research skills
  • Good decision-making skills
  • Good skills in personnel management
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • A passion for sea creatures
  • Physical stamina and an aptitude for practical work – the job involves moving physical displays of sea creatures
  • Good observation skills
  • Good outdoor skills.

Career Advancement

After getting hired, it is important to undertake continuing education activities to boost your chances of moving a step ahead.

20 percent discount
20 percent discount

One of the best ways to advance is to pursue a master’s degree in zoo and aquarium leadership. Offered at George Mason University in Virginia and other few institutions across the country, the program broadens your knowledge of aquarium operations and prepares you for senior positions.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums offers membership opportunities, which you should grab to access additional professional development resources such as trade publications.

Job Opportunities

As a qualified aquarium curator, you can find jobs in:

  • National aquariums
  • Regional aquariums
  • Animal care organizations

After gaining several years of experience and earning an advanced degree, you stand a good chance of being hired as an aquarium director.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of all nonfarm animal care workers will grow by 15 percent from 2012 through 2022, faster than the 11 percent average for all occupations.

Although this means there will be enough opportunities in aquariums, you may need to start as an entry-level employee as you wait for a vacancy to occur in the curator’s position. Good luck!

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