Arts & crafts

Conservator

Conservators preserve and restore historical objects, artworks and buildings.

Annual Salary

£24,000 to £60,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

39 to 41 variable

You could work: as a contractor / self-employed; managing your own hours

What's it all about?

Day to day tasks

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • preserving objects to stop deterioration
  • checking the condition of objects
  • restoring items
  • making sure that conditions are right for display and storage
  • keeping written and photographic records
  • working in a team with other conservators
  • giving presentations to visitors, including school groups
  • setting up exhibitions and arranging safe transportation
  • giving advice on collections or buildings

Working environment

You may need to wear safety clothing and use safety equipment.

You could work in a workshop, in a creative studio or in a laboratory.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
University

You could do a degree or postgraduate qualification in conservation. The course you do will depend on which area of conservation you want to work in. Examples are:

  • fine art
  • buildings and heritage
  • archaeology
  • documents

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information
Apprenticeship

You can start out by doing a cultural heritage conservation technician higher apprenticeship, then take further training to qualify.

You could also apply for a cultural heritage conservator degree apprenticeship if you have the right experience and qualifications.

Entry requirements

To do this apprenticeship, you'll need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
For more information
Work

You may be able to move into certain kinds of conservation work if you've got relevant qualifications and experience. For example, building conservation may be suitable if you're a qualified stonemason, plasterer or roofer.

If you want to specialise in conservation of crafts, like stained glass, decorative stonework or metalwork, you're more likely to build up your skills and experience through a work-based route.

Volunteering and work experience

You'll find that internships are a useful way to get practical experience after studying.

You'll also have an advantage when looking for courses and jobs if you have some relevant work experience. For example with a museum collection or historic site.

More information

Further information

You can find out more about careers in conservation from The Institute of Conservation.

You can also find out more about working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

You could move into a management job, although this will usually mean stepping away from 'hands on' practical conservation work.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • knowledge of English language
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • analytical thinking skills
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things
  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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