Zoos and aquariums hire animal curators to manage their animal collections. An animal curator's job responsibilities range from acquiring new animals and supervising the keepers that handle day-to-day animal feeding and care, to scheduling veterinary visits and assisting in designing exhibits. Curators' duties are broader than those of keepers, although curators do assist keepers in the handling of animals from time to time.
An animal curator is typically hired to specialise in a specific type of animal (e.g., mammals or birds). He keeps records on each animal in the collection that he manages and decides when the animals should mate. Developing breeding programs is part of the conservation work that many curators are responsible for. A curator may also be involved with developing educational programs for school groups and making presentations to visitors at the zoo or aquarium where he works.
A curator commonly puts her extensive animal knowledge to work by visiting wild-animal habitats, according to the Occupational Outlook Quarterly (OOQ), which is published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Observing animals in their native habitats gives a curator an opportunity to learn more about the species that she manages and, in some cases, can assist in her conservation efforts.
The OOQ notes that a curator needs excellent verbal and written communication skills---his job requires constant contact with the keepers he supervises, as well as veterinarians and curators at other zoos and aquariums. Additionally, a curator often writes guidelines for animal care. A curator also uses physical skill for such tasks as assisting keepers in moving animals to new exhibits.
A majority of curators start their animal careers as keepers, according to the Occupational Outlook Quarterly's report on jobs in zoos and aquariums. A keeper can move into a curator position by demonstrating leadership skills, as well as knowledge in the particular species she would like to manage. At the college level, a curator majors in biology or wildlife management; many keepers earn a master's degree to be promoted to curator.
Salaries for animal curators vary depending on the size of the hiring facility, as well as the work experience of the individual curator. SimplyHired.com estimates the average salary for a curator at £29,250 per year.