Conservators and conservation technicians represent a small sector of the workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are approximately 14,400 conservators and museum technicians employed in the United States.
Museums, libraries, historical societies, private conservation laboratories, and government agencies hire conservators and conservation technicians. Institutions with small operating budgets sometimes hire part-time specialists to perform conservation work. This is especially common when curators need extra help in preparing items for display. Antique dealers may also seek the expertise of an experienced conservator for merchandise restoration, identification, and appraisal purposes.
Most often students entering the field of art conservation have completed high school and undergraduate studies, and many are contemplating graduate programs. At this point a student is ready to seek a position (often unpaid) as an apprentice or intern with either a private conservation company or a museum to gain a practical feel for the work. Training opportunities are scarce and in high demand. Prospective students must convince potential trainers of their dedication to the highly demanding craft of conservation. The combination of academic or formal training along with hands-on experience and an internship or short apprenticeship is the ideal foundation for entering the career.
An experienced conservator wishing to move into another realm of the field may become a private consultant, an appraiser of art or artifacts, a conservation educator, a curator, or a museum registrar.
Join the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) to take advantage of continuing education classes and seminars, its mentorship programs, networking opportunities, publications, and grants and scholarships.
The AIC offers an Emerging Conservation Professionals Network, which provides a mentorship program for students and young professionals, an e-mail list, and webinars. Visit https://www.culturalheritage.org/membership/groups-and-networks/emerging-conservation-professionals-network for more information.
View job openings at the AIC's online Career Center, https://www.culturalheritage.org/resources/career.
Read the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (https://www.culturalheritage.org/publications/journal-(jaic) to learn more about the field of conservation.
Attend the AIC's annual meeting to network, participate in classes and seminars, and learn about potential employers.