Become a Conservator

North American Programs in Conservation

Institution Location Program Degree Length
Buffalo State College Buffalo, NY Degree M.S., Art Conservation 3 years
Columbia University New York, NY Degree M.S., Historic Preservation 2 years
Fleming College  Peterborough, ON Degree Certificate in Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management  2 years
Getty Foundation  Los Angeles, CA  Internship   1 year 
NYU/IFA  New York, NY Degree M.S. in the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and an MA in the History of Art and Archaeology 4 years 
Queens University  Kingston, ON Degree M.A., Art Conservation 2 years 
Smithsonian/Museum Conservation Institute  Washington, DC  Intership   1 year 
Straus Center/Harvard University Art Museums Cambridge, MA  Internship   1 year
UCLA/Getty Los Angeles Degree M.A., Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials
3 years
University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
Degree M.A./M.S. in Related Course of Study and/or Graduate Certificate in Heritage Conservation 1-3 years
University of Pennsylvania  Philadelphia, PA Degree M.S. in Historic Preservation w/Advanced Certificate in Architectural Conservation 2.5 years 
University of Texas Austin, TX Degree M.S. in Historic Preservation 2 years 
Winterthur/University of Delaware Winterthur, DE  Degree  B.A*/M.S. in Art Conservation
PhD in Conservation Research & Historic Preservation
4*/3 years 


Undergraduate Coursework
Prerequisites for admission to graduate conservation programs include undergraduate coursework in science, the humanities (art history, anthropology, and archaeology), and studio art. Some schools consider previous working experience and gained expertise in conservation practice. Specific admission requirements differ and potential candidates are encouraged to contact the programs directly for details on prerequisites, application procedures, and program curriculum. With careful planning, an undergraduate curriculum can be tailored to satisfy the academic requirements of these graduate programs.

One full year each of general and organic chemistry with laboratory work is typically required. These courses should usually be freshman and sophomore level requirements for chemistry and biology majors. Supplemental studies recommended, but not always required, often include biology, biochemistry, geology, materials science, physics, and mathematics.

Broad based coursework in art history, anthropology, and archaeology must cover various cultural traditions and historical periods. At least four to six courses are typically required. Sample subjects include:

African art
American art
Ancient civilizations
Art and crafts of Native South Americans
Art in the East and the West
Baroque art
Early Renaissance art
Greek and Roman art
History of architecture
History of textile design

Indian art
Introduction to art history
Introduction to ethnic arts
Introduction to prehistoric archaeology
Medieval art
19th-century art
Oceanic art
Technology and culture
20th-Century Art
Studio Art

Formal course work in drawing, painting, photography, and three-dimensional design (including, but not limited to, ceramics, metalworking, sculpture, and textile art) may be required. Upon application to a graduate conservation program, candidates are expected to present a portfolio demonstrating manual dexterity, knowledge of techniques, and an understanding and affinity for art materials.

Reading proficiency in one or two foreign languages may be required.

Additional Coursework
Courses in museum studies, drafting, and library science may also be recommended.

Professional Experience
In addition to coursework, candidates to graduate programs are strongly encouraged to have had some conservation experience. Internships, volunteer, apprenticeship, or paid work in regional, institutional, or private conservation laboratories is appropriate. Involvement in supervised collection care projects such as collection assessments, rehousing, and exhibition design, as well as examination and treatment of individual artifacts is encouraged. Above all, applicants are expected to be thoroughly acquainted with conservation as a career option and to have a fundamental knowledge of conservation philosophy, ethics, and basic working procedures.

Many programs also require a personal interview in which candidates are usually asked to present a portfolio of art and conservation project work that demonstrates manual dexterity and familiarity with techniques and materials.

A limited number of Ph.D. programs have also been established for advanced study in conservation to prepare conservators with an interest in pursuing research in conservation or fields related to conservation.

Further Training Program Resources

Guide to Academic Programs in Preservation Education
This guide, compiled by the National Council for Preservation Education, is provided as a reference source to assist prospective students in identifying various historic preservation education degree programs in the United States. Further information may be obtained by contacting the particular institutions directly.

Directory of Archival Education
This directory, compiled by the Society of American Archivists, provides the most complete information about the many and diverse archival training programs available.