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Conservator

Conservators plan, coordinate, and participate in the preservation and conservation of natural and cultural heritage. This may include contemporary, historic and prehistoric objects, Indigenous materials, natural history specimens, archival materials, and works of art. They also study and manage environmental influences on artifact preservation.

  • Avg. Salary $72,557.00
  • Avg. Wage $38.52
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Conservators (5112.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Conservators and Curators (F012) 
  • 2011 NOC: Conservators and curators (5112) 
  • 2016 NOC: Conservators and curators (5112) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

19%
19%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Conservator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Conservators
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 Mar 17, 2021

Conservators work with a wide variety of objects, such as:

  • Clothing and textiles
  • Furniture
  • Musical instruments
  • Decorative art objects
  • Historical artifacts
  • Natural history collections
  • Indigenous materials
  • Archeological materials
  • Industrial artifacts
  • Architecture, such as historical buildings
  • Photographs
  • Books and archival materials
  • Works of art on paper
  • Paintings
  • Sculptures
  • Mixed media artworks
  • New media artworks
  • Motion-picture film and video recordings and audio recordings

They usually specialize in certain types of material or categories of objects but, in general, conservators:

  • Advise curators and archivists regarding the object’s condition and suggest possible treatments and options for long-term care
  • Perform analytical tests and technical exams to better understand material composition or mechanisms of degradation, in order to determine compatible storage and conservation treatment materials and techniques
  • Conserve and restore objects using scientific knowledge and analytical methods (such as polarized light microscopy and chemical analysis) as well as manual and artistic skills and aesthetic sensibilities
  • Maintain written, electronic, and photographic records of the condition of artifacts, treatment options, and treatments carried out
  • Prepare reports on progress, technical issues, and other topics
  • Take preventive conservation measures such as ensuring that storage environments are stable and that they protect objects from environmental agents of deterioration
  • Advise curators, archivists, educators, and designers on environmental needs and suitability of collections for exhibit, storage, loan, and travel
  • Draft policies and administer procedures to prevent damage caused by excess light, fluctuations in temperature and humidity, dust particles, air pollution, infestation, and human interaction
  • 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
  • Design and deliver training programs for staff, volunteers, and contractors on the care and conservation of collections
  • Complete risk assessments for collections, and prepare disaster plans
  • Research and evaluate new conservation and restoration techniques (such as new cleaning methods for paintings or wood consolidation) and make them available to the museum community
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 17, 2021

Conservators may use, examine, and treat a wide variety of materials, which can contain toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials. They may also work with firearms collections. They must follow safety precautions to avoid injury or illness. Conservators may work on ladders or scaffolding. They may experience health problems related to repetitive hand movements and neck or back strain. Or they may be exposed to objects or areas that have been subject to mould or pest infestation.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 17, 2021

Conservators need:

  • An active interest in art, science, and history
  • Respect for the objects in their care
  • Creativity and flexibility
  • Manual dexterity
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Good colour perception
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • An ability to concentrate for long periods and pay close attention to details
  • An ability to work as part of a team
  • A willingness to keep up to date with new conservation techniques

Conservators should enjoy completing tasks with precision, finding solutions to problems, and taking a methodical approach to their work.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 17, 2021

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

  • Art history
  • Anthropology
  • Paleontology
  • Materials science (for example, textile science)
  • Studio art and design
  • Photography
  • Biology or other sciences

They also need creative and manual skills in fields such as painting, 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.

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 schools offer post-secondary programs directly related to conservation work:

  • Algonquin College in Ottawa offers a 3- year Applied Museum Studies program.
  • Queen’s University in Kingston offers a 2-year Master’s degree program in Art Conservation with specializations in paintings, artifacts, paper objects, and research.
  • Fleming College in Peterborough offers a 4- semester Cultural Heritage 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.
  • The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) in Ottawa offers 1-year paid post-graduate internships and unpaid curriculum internships.
Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 17, 2021

The Canadian Association of Professional Conservators (CAPC) offers voluntary professional accreditation. Accreditation may be required for certain employment opportunities.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 17, 2021

Conservators work for:

  • Provincial and federal governments
  • 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. Some conservators may be self-employed and work for private clients or public institutions and organizations.

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 [pdf] 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 (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 5112: Conservators and curators occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 0 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 17, 2021
Conservators and curators

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 $19.00 $38.43 $31.18 $35.82
Overall $20.88 $57.69 $38.52 $40.92
Top $20.88 $57.69 $40.16 $47.19

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
ALL INDUSTRIES
Information, Culture, Recreation

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

19%
19%)

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

0%
0%

Vacancy Rate

N/A
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 Mar 17, 2021

Alberta Museums Association website: museums.ab.ca

American Institute for Conservation (AIC) website: www.culturalheritage.org

Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property (CAC) website: www.cac-accr.ca

Canadian Association of Professional Conservators (CAPC) website: capc-acrp.ca

Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) website: canada.ca/en/conservation-institute.html

Cultural Human Resources Council (CHRC) website: culturalhrc.ca

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 17, 2021. 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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