Museum Conservator

Conservators manage, preserve, treat, and document works of art, artifacts, and specimens—work that may require substantial historical, scientific, and archaeological research. Conservators document their findings and treat items to minimize their deterioration or to restore them to their original state.


Sample of Reported Job Titles

Conservator, Objects Conservator, Paintings Conservator, Conservation Technician, Exhibit Technician, Paper Conservator, Collections Manager, Preparator, Museum Registrar, Art Preparator



Museum Conservators manage, treat and document museum objects such as paintings, books, pottery, furniture and clothing. They examine objects through the use of such equipment as x-rays, microscopes, special lights and chemicals. They can then determine the best ways to preserve them. Any methods they implement must be reversible because future technology may implement better conservation methods.

In addition to their conservation work, conservators participate in outreach programs, research topics in their specialty, and write articles for scholarly journals. They may be employed by a museum or other institution that has objects needing conservation, or they may be self-employed and have several clients.

Conservators will see their employment opportunities grow by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS, which is half the increase predicted for all occupations in all employers. Fueling the demand is the rising public interest in art, history, science and technology. Museum attendance is expected to rise to manifest that interest.


Educational Requirements

When hiring conservators, employers look for a master’s degree in conservation or in a closely related field, together with substantial experience. Only a few graduate programs in museum conservation techniques are offered in the United States. Competition for entry to these programs is keen. To qualify, a student must have a background in chemistry, archaeology, studio art, and art history, as well as work experience. For some programs, knowledge of a foreign language also is helpful. Completing a conservation apprenticeship or internship as an undergraduate can enhance admission prospects. Graduate programs last 2 to 4 years, the latter years of which include internship training.


Salary Range 2011

Museum conservators averaged $42,450 per year, or $20.41 hourly, as of May 2011, states the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $68,710, or $33.04, while the lowest-paid 10 percent received under $24,780, or $11.91.


Want to know more?

Become a Conservationist-American Institute for Conservation

Bureau of Labor Statistics-Conservationist

O*NET-Museum Technicians & Conservators

Art Conservation Organizations List

Chemistry & the Art Detective Webinar


Get Connected

Belonging to professional organizations & LinkedIn groups can provide you with networking, informational interviewing, & job shadowing opportunities, as well as assist you with finding internships and jobs.

American Institute for Conservation

American Alliance of Museums

List of Museum Related Organizations

Collections Preservation & Care LinkedIn Group

Collections Management LinkedIn Group

Museums Association LinkedIn Group

List of Professional Organizations

The Career Connector for Purdue College of Science Students & Alumni  


Get Experience

American Institute for Conservation

Gaining Experience with Museums Insights

Research & Internship Listings


Find a Job

American Alliance of Museums

American Institute for Conservation

Job Search Sites Related to Your Major

Information about how to get a job as a curator or museum technician with the federal government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the federal government’s official employment information system.


Information retrieved from,,

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