conservation officer
Heritage, culture and libraries

Career outlook for conservator

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would save works of art and historic objects which are in danger of disintegrating so future generations can enjoy them.

You’d apply scientific and artistic techniques to preserve and restore the objects. You need to pay careful attention to the smallest details. You would also make sure the objects are stored and displayed in the right way.

You could work with a wide range of objects but would usually specialise in one area such as paintings, textiles, leather, furniture or ceramics.

You would:

  • Carefully examine objects to identify any damage and its cause
  • Preserve objects to stop deterioration and ensure they stay in good condition
  • Restore objects to make sure that original characteristics are not lost
  • Check that the storage and display conditions protect objects from damage by light, humidity, temperature or air pollution
  • Keep written and photographic records

You would learn to use a wide range of specialised scientific methods, materials and equipment.

Working conditions


You would work around 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. As a self-employed conservator, your hours would depend on the amount of work you have, and you may need to work to deadlines.


You would usually be based in a laboratory or workshop, although you may do some conservation work (such as stone masonry) on site. You may spend time in museums, art galleries and private houses, giving advice on collections.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Filtering
  • Attention to detail
  • Understanding
  • Verbal communication
  • Researching
  • Observation
  • Creative
  • Evaluating

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


Most employers look for a degree (SCQF level 9/10) or postgraduate qualification (SCQF level 11) in a conservation subject, and which demonstrate a strong interest in history, art and scientific approaches to preservation such as:
  • History
  • Art history 
  • Archaeology
  • Museum Studies
  • Science-based subjects such as Chemical and Material Science
You can enter Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) with National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications.
Entry to a degree (SCQF level 9/10) usually requires a minimum of four or five Highers or a relevant HNC/HND. Higher Chemistry or equivalent is required for entry onto some courses. Voluntary work experience is also sought after. You can find a list of relevant courses on the Institute of Conservation (ICON)
Postgraduate courses normally require at least a 2:1 honours degree for entry. Some will allow entry without a first degree if you have equivalent experience and skills.  Some courses require work-based experience.

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Social studies subjects such as history
  • Science subjects, in particular Chemistry
  • Art and design
  • Fashion
  • Textile technologies