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Occupational Profile

Conservator

Conservators plan, co-ordinate and participate in the preservation and conservation of cultural property (contemporary, historic, prehistoric and enthnographic objects, natural history specimens, archival materials and works of art) and study environmental influences on artifact preservation.

  • Avg. Salary $70,079.00
  • Avg. Wage $35.82
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

23%
23%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Conservator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Conservators
NOC code: 5112.1
DIRECTIVE

Interest in instructing to provide advice on display and storage of museum and gallery artifacts to ensure proper maintenance and preservation; and in supervising conservation and other museum technicians

innovative

Interest in precision working to conserve and restore antiquities and works of art using aesthetic sensibility, and manual and artistic skills; and in researching new conservation and restoration techniques

methodical

Interest in analyzing information to account for, acquire and receive archival material; and in checking detail, recording information and filing material

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Conservators work with a wide variety of objects such as:

  • clothing and textiles (for example, historic clothes, household linens, quilts)
  • furniture
  • musical instruments
  • ceramic and glass objects
  • metals (for example, antique cars, silverware)
  • natural history collections
  • ethnographic materials (for example, native hide garments)
  • archeological materials
  • motion picture film 
  • video and audio recordings
  • gravestones
  • architecture (for example, forts, grain elevators)
  • industrial artifacts
  • paintings
  • works of art on paper
  • sculpture
  • photographs
  • books and archival materials.

They usually specialize in particular types of objects but, in general, conservators:

  • advise curators and archivists regarding the condition of artifacts, archival materials and works of art, possible treatments and options for long term care
  • take preventive conservation measures such as ensuring that the storage environment is stable and protects objects from environmental hazards
  • advise curators, archivists, educators and designers concerning environmental needs and suitability of collections for exhibit, storage, loan or travel
  • perform analytical tests and technical examinations to determine suitable storage and conservation requirements and treatments
  • draft policies and administer procedures to prevent damage which can be caused by excess light, fluctuations in temperature and humidity, dust particles, air pollution, infestation or human interaction
  • conserve and restore artifacts, archival materials and works of art by using their scientific knowledge and aesthetic sensibility as well as analytical methods (for example, polarized light, microscopy, chemical analysis) and manual and artistic skills
  • maintain written, electronic and photographic records of the condition of artifacts, treatment options and any treatment carried out
  • monitor collection storage areas, galleries, reference rooms, libraries and laboratories for pests
  • conduct surveys of sites, facilities and collections 
  • direct and supervise the activities of conservation assistants, technicians and interns
  • prepare progress, technical and other reports
  • design and deliver training programs related to collections care and conservation to staff, volunteers and contractors
  • complete risk assessments for collections and prepare disaster plans 
  • research and evaluate new conservation and restoration techniques (for example, new cleaning methods for paintings or wood consolidation) and make them available to the museum community.
Working Conditions
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Conservators may use, examine and treat a wide variety of materials which can contain toxic chemicals. They must follow safety precautions to avoid injury or illness. Conservators may work with firearms in collections, on ladders or scaffolding and may be required to lift items that weigh up to 20 kilograms. Other occupational hazards include health problems related to repetitive hand movements and neck or back strain, and potential exposure to objects or areas that have been subject to mould or pest infestation.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Conservators need the following characteristics:

  • creativity and flexibility
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods and pay close attention to details 
  • manual dexterity
  • good perception about colours  
  • perceptual and problem-solving skills
  • strong communication skills
  • cultural sensitivity 
  • an active interest in art, science and history and respect for the objects in their care
  • a willingness to keep up to date with new conservation techniques
  • the ability to work as part of a team.

Conservators should enjoy doing precise work, finding solutions to problems and taking a methodical approach to their work.

Educational Requirements
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Conservators need a combination of skills and knowledge in general museum practice and operations, chemistry and other subject areas such as:

  • art history
  • anthropology
  • paleontology
  • materials science (for example, textile science)
  • studio art and design
  • photography
  • chemistry, biology or other sciences.

They also need creative and manual skills in fields such as painting, photography, sewing, cabinet making or silversmithing. Internship training in established conservation laboratories and studios is an asset. Conservators should be able to advocate for preservation programs within institutions and the broader heritage community.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

University of Victoria - Victoria

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Outside of Alberta, the following Canadian institutions offer post-secondary programs directly related to conservation work:

  • Algonquin College in Ottawa offers a three year museum studies program.
  • Queen's University in Kingston offers a two year master's degree program in Art Conservation with specializations in paintings, artifacts, paper objects and research.
  • Fleming College in Peterborough offers a four semester Collections Conservation and Management diploma program.
  • The University of Victoria Division of Continuing Studies offers a post-graduate Cultural Resource Management diploma with specializations in museum studies, heritage conservation and cultural management. Many courses are offered through distance education as well as on campus.

The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) in Ottawa offers one year paid post-graduate internships and unpaid curriculum internships. For information, see the Learning Opportunities section of the CCI website.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Conservators work for:

  • federal government departments
  • provincial government departments
  • museums, art galleries, universities, archives, libraries and historical societies
  • research organizations
  • heritage organizations and cultural centres 
  • other organizations whose mandate includes the preservation of cultural property.

Many conservators work on a contract basis. They may have several projects or part-time jobs at the same time. For example, they may do research and conservation work for a museum and consulting work for a historical society as well as teach or write articles.

Conservators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5112: Conservators and Curators. In Alberta, 77% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Conservators and curators
NOC code: 5112

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.50 $37.49 $30.90 $34.96
Overall $11.78 $49.15 $35.82 $39.25
Top $14.71 $49.15 $39.58 $45.82

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Public Administration
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

23%
23%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

15%
15%

2015 Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Visual Arts
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
  • Business, Administration, Finance and IT
    • Management and Marketing
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Communication Technology
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
  • Human Ecology, Fashion and Food Sciences
  • Sciences
  • Social Sciences, Law and Religious Studies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Alberta Museums Association website: www.museums.ab.ca

American Institute for Conservation website: www.conservation-us.org

Canadian Association for Conservation website www.cac-accr.ca 

Canadian Association of Professional Conservators website: www.capc-acrp.ca

Canadian Conservation Institute website: www.cci-icc.gc.ca

Cultural Human Resources Council website: www.culturalhrc.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Dec 11, 2012. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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