Conservators and Conservation Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Good conservation work comes from a well-balanced formulation of art and science. To prepare for a career in conservation, concentrate on doing well in all academic subjects, including courses in chemistry, natural science, history, foreign languages, and the arts.

Postsecondary Training

In the past, many conservation professionals received their training solely through apprenticeships with esteemed conservators. The same is not true today; you will need a bachelor's degree to find work as a technician, and in all but the smallest institutions you will need a master's degree to advance to conservator. Because graduate programs are highly selective, you should plan your academic path with care.

At the undergraduate level, take course work in the sciences, including inorganic and organic chemistry, materials science, the humanities (art history, archaeology, and anthropology), a foreign language, and studio art, and participate in at least one conservation-related internship. If you do not go to a university that has an undergraduate program in art conservation, you should consult the graduate programs in art conservation about the courses necessary to take in college so that you are properly prepared.

Some graduate programs will consider work experience and gained expertise in conservation practice as comparable to course work when screening applicants. In addition, most graduate programs recognize a student's participation in apprenticeship or internship positions while also completing course work as indicative of the applicant's commitment to the career. Graduate programs typically last three or four years, with the final year being an internship year. This final year involves working full time in a chosen conservation specialty under the guidance of an experienced conservator. The American Institute for Conservation offers links to educational programs at its Web site,

Other Education or Training

Due to rapid changes in each conservation specialty, practicing conservators must stay up to date with advances in technology and methodology. They do so by reading publications, attending professional meetings, and enrolling in short-term workshops or courses. The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation offers seminars, courses, and study tours throughout the country and online. Recent offerings included "Establishing a Conservation Practice," "Managing Projects: The Underrated Conservation Skill," and "Records and Information Management." The Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property also provides continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) offers the professional associate and fellow designations to conservation professionals. Applicants must meet membership, education, training, experience, and other requirements. According to the AIC, certification is "often now a requirement for obtaining certain contracts with some agencies and institutions."

There are no licensing requirements for conservators and conservation technicians.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Students should obtain as much experience in the field of conservation as possible by participating in internships and part-time jobs at museums, historical societies, private conservation laboratories, and other employers of conservation professionals.

Conservation can be physically demanding. Conservators and conservation technicians need to be able to concentrate on specific physical and mental tasks for long periods of time. Endurance, manual dexterity, and patience are often needed to complete projects successfully. Work on one piece of art could take months or even years; because of the fragile nature of the materials, conservation work should never be rushed. Finally, an important personal quality to have for this line of work is a respect and love for art. Conservators and conservation technicians should appreciate the value in all art forms (regardless of personal bias) and treat all pieces that they work on with the utmost care.