How to Become a Historic Conservationist

Historic conservationists (also known as historic preservationists) are professionals who determine historical landmarks, buildings, or items. They are responsible for the restoration and long term care of these items or structures.



Historic conservators work for organizations and foundations to discover historical items in the community. These artifacts worth preserving may be historical or artistic in nature.

Master's Degree
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

In order to become a professional historic conservator, you will need to be able to assess historical items and buildings, understand the materials and method of construction, and then discover what may be causing any destruction to them.

Historic conversationalists will want to restore each artifact or location to its original functioning or aesthetic state. This may require applying certain scientific methods, research and treatment to the specific historical items the conservator is working on. A conservator will also need to be able to advise how items or locations may be safely exhibited, transported, and preserved.

Education and Requirements

In order to become a professional conservator, you will need specialized training and education. You will also need to become familiar with ethical codes like the AIC Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice.

Typically, a historic conservationist will need a degree from a graduate or doctoral program meshing scientific preservation technique courses with art history, anthropology, architecture, or archaeology. Each student will have to understand his own path and fiind a graduate program which specializes in that.

Experience in the field will also be required. Many graduate level programs will encourage students to get hands-on field experience during the course of the program. Acceptable experience may be in corporate or private labs. Many graduates found fellowships to also be helpful in their education and career path to conservation.

Because of advancements in technology and rapid growth in the scientific understanding of materials, professionals will need to keep learning and stay up-to-date with the current trends and practices of the industry.

Attending meetings, seminars and lectures will be important to the serious professional. Reading publications and taking workshops will also be important to their career in conservation.

Job Outlook and Salary

Museum curators were reported to make an average salary of $42,310 per year, according to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The current job market is expected to grow 16 percent from 2010 to 2020.

The continued support and interest in historical objects and sites will keep the industry growing at the same rate of other careers. The applicant pool may be strong, though, so those planning a career in historic preservation or conservation will need to stay active and become well educated to stand out.

Tips to Becoming a Historic Conservationist:

1. Begin your education

Your education is going to be very important down the road, so choosing the right courses and major will be very important. Look for a mentor who can guide you through this process, but regardless of the specifics—get started. The longer you wait to get started the longer it will take for you to be where you want to end up.

2. Attention to detail

It is going to be important in your career that you are detailed and meticulous, so start now. The more you practice careful observation, the more you will be able to function in a manner appropriate for a historic conservation career.

3. Research your role

You will need to know everything about the field you plan to work in. Choose a specific area of history or art that you are particularly interested in and want to stick with. You are going to learn a great deal about the field you choose, so make sure you choose well and consider being educated in more than one to keep your job options wide open.


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