Art Conservation Degree Program Information

Individuals interested in art conservation may obtain a bachelor's degree in art conservation, pre-art conservation or art with an emphasis in museum conservation. Graduate students may obtain an M.A. or a Master of Science (M.S.) in Art Conservation.

Essential Information

Prerequisites for entering most bachelor's degree programs is a high school diploma or GED and a portfolio of own art work. To obtain a master's degree, students need to have a bachelor's degree in a related field or acceptable coursework in art conservation.

Students in a bachelor's degree program in art conservation must complete general education courses as well as core classes related to art. Other courses teach them to care for diverse objects including photographs, tools, buildings and documents. Master's programs in art conservation teach students what causes art to deteriorate and gives them hands-on experience in conservation and restoration techniques. Programs may offer specialization in museum studies, textiles, furniture, paintings among other concentrations.

Bachelor's Degree in Art Conservation

Bachelor's programs in art conservation are interdisciplinary, integrating art history, studio art, foreign languages and chemistry. These programs train students in the handling and restoration techniques of man-made objects, photographs, documents, fabric, tools, buildings and other material culture. Students are sometimes required to double major or minor in a related discipline, such as anthropology or art history. The curriculum is based on art and sciences and includes hands-on learning. Drawing is a common topic along with the following:

  • Art history
  • Organic chemistry
  • Art conservation ethics
  • Museum conservation
  • Preservation
  • Archaeology

Master's Degree Programs in Art Conservation

In master's programs, art conservation students learn advanced preservation techniques and about specialties within the field. Graduate programs typically last between two and four years and culminate with an internship at a museum or art conservation firm. Students in master's programs learn to use conservation technology, the reasons behind deterioration and how to prevent it, material properties and research methods. Core topics may include:

  • Conservation science
  • Conservation history
  • Art connoisseurship
  • Preventive conservation and maintenance
  • Inorganic artistic materials
  • Conservation of paintings

Popular Career Options

According to the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), a graduate degree is typically necessary to become an art conservator (www.conservation-us.org). Graduates of an art conservation bachelor's program may qualify for entry-level positions in museums or other art settings. Possible occupations include:

  • Collections manager
  • Museum registrar
  • Museum technician

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 5% growth rate for museum technicians and conservators between 2014 and 2024, which is as fast as average compared to other professions (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the median annual wage for archivists, curators and museum workers was $46,710, reported the BLS. Museum technicians and conservators earned a median salary of $40,340.

Continuing Education Info

After obtaining a master's degree, students may purse a terminal Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Art Conservation Research. Ph.D. programs may appeal to students interested in art conservation research.

Both bachelor's and master's degree programs in art conservation include practical training and some may offer students an opportunity to specialize their learning. A bachelor's degree in art conservation can lead to entry level museum or collection management jobs, while a master's degree is usually required to obtain an art conservator's job.

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