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Careers & training

Conservation of our cultural heritage is a fascinating and rewarding career, linking arts, science, history and craft

A conservator requires a wide range of knowledge, understanding and practical skills - all of which continue to develop over the course of a conservator's career. A conservation career calls for in-depth knowledge of a particular specialism, such as fine art, ceramics or even industrial machinery or artefacts of natural history. Conservators can work alone and with other professionals such as curators, technicians, engineers and educators. They can be freelance, part of a studio or part of a heritage organisation.

In recent years, the scope of conservators' work has widened and conservators now expect to be involved with exhibitions, conservation science, preventive conservation, project management and advocacy work. 

Icon’s Professional Standards set out the accepted principles of conservation.

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A strong basis for a career in conservation includes enthusiasm for history, art or science; a good general education including chemistry; and manual dexterity. It also helps to have some evidence of commitment to the profession, such as related work or voluntary experience or membership of Icon.

Salary

Icon recommends that the minimum salary for entry-level conservators should be £24,648. Download our salary guidelines.

Entry into conservation

There are a variety of entry routes into the profession. Many choose to study for academic qualifications. Icon also runs an internship programme to help new professionals start or supplement their experience. We also support conservators throughout their career with advice on career development.

Becoming accredited demonstrates to employers and peers that a conservator is a fully qualified and capable professional. The process of achieving the Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers (PACR) is the PACR Pathway. Only Icon members can become accredited. Find out more about accreditation

Photo: Matt Wreford