From the Field

Salary Survey

July 3, 2017

AAMD has released its 2017 Salary Survey, which includes responses from 219 museums in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and covers more than 50 different staff positions, from the director’s office to leadership and support positions in curatorial, education, advancement, communications, and security departments. The full report is available here.

Beginning with the 2017 Salary Survey, AAMD is making the full report available for free as a service to the museum field and museum professionals. Developed in partnership with Stax Inc., a data driven consulting and advisory firm, the survey report looks at salaries and benefits data covering the period from 2011-2016, and includes geographic- and population-based benchmarking.

The data shows that museums remain strong and stable workplaces: in 2016, the average median salary increased 3%, while in the preceding year it grew at a rate of 2.7%, exceeding the rate of growth for the U.S. as a whole. At the same time, responses indicate the importance of staff as institutional assets, with nearly two-thirds (64%) of responding museums stating that they spent between 41%–60% of their operating budget on payroll-related expenses—up from 57% in 2015.


Key takeaways from the report include a number of data points about salaries:

• Between 2011-2016, Chief Operating Officers (COOs) experienced salary growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5%— about double the average rate across other museum positions.

     o This may reflect the increasing complexity of museum operations, which demands more skills and experience in the COO role.

     o COOs also tend to be employed by larger museums: 60% of COOs are employed by museums with an operating budget in excess of $10 million.

• Between 2011-2016, curatorial staff saw the second fastest growth in salaries, with average median incomes growing at a rate of over 4.6%.

     o The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) listed curators as highly in-demand professionals during the past 8-9 years, which may account for the strength of these positions in commanding salary increases.

     o However, the BLS also estimates the number of curators to grow by 8% in the period between 2014-2024.

• Positions related to information services or online content management also experienced growth in average salaries—likely reflecting the ongoing work by museums to build their social media and web presence and seek new opportunities to use digital tools to cultivate audiences.

     o For example, those in the job of Director of New Media experienced a 3.1% increase (Year-over-Year) in salary, on average, between 2015 and 2016.

• Between 2015-2016, museum directors experienced a 1.6% growth in median salaries—below the 3% average of all staff positions in the survey.

     o Over the five-year period 2011-2016, directors salaries grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.2%

The report also analyzed benefits provided by museums, revealing that:

• For non-director level employees, there was a considerable rise in Paid Time Off (PTO): them percentage of employees with tenure of less than 1 year being offered 2 weeks of PTO increased from 26% in 2012 to 63% in 2015.

     o This trend likely reflects a recognition that Millennials and younger employees highly value time off, making this an important benefit and necessary to remain competitive in hiring.

• 48% of museums offered non-director level executive staff reimbursements for acquiring or maintaining professional licenses—while only 42% of museums offered such benefits to director level staff.

• Meanwhile, directors are more likely to receive vehicle or housing allowances— indicative of the fact that higher level positions are often filled at the national level, requiring competitive benefits to encourage director-level staff to relocate.