This article was last updated on: Dec 5th, 2022
Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not evergreen. Prices and program details may change over time. I will do my best to keep it updated, but please do your own research before making life decisions. Also note that I have obviously not attended or am personally familiar with all of these programs. Just because a program is on this list does not mean I can openly recommend them. Again, please do your own research. I am not affiliated with any of these programs and am not receiving anything from them to put them on this list.
How do I become a conservator?
As you may or may not know, I am one of the moderators of the subreddit for art conservation.
One of the questions that we get most often is
How do I become a conservator or where do I study conservation?
And every time, we have to try to remember which ones there are, in what countries they are in, what specialties they each give people, etc.
For this reason, I have decided to attempt to make a comprehensive list of as many programmes in conservation as I am aware of. Many of these have been taken from the list that we have in this Reddit group.
If I have missed any, please don't hesitate to let me know so that I can add them to this continuously updating list and I will also try to add as many programmes I'm aware of. In both the global North and South.
Wherever possible, I will actually also add how long the programme takes and how much it costs.
If you have attended any of these programmes and would like to be available to answer questions to potential students, please let me know so that I can note you down for being contacted.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is intended to be a comprehensive list of Masters programmes, so if I missed any, please do tell me that I did and I will happily add them and then hopefully we can use this as a future resource for everyone to decide where they want to study conservation.
Please note that I simply did not have the space to list every program's requirements so I have only added certain notes where I thought information was particularly salient.
Do all conservators have masters degrees in conservation?
No, they do not. What degree you have will depend a lot on what country you live in and how the profession has developed in that country. In some countries, you don't need to have studied conservation straight out of high school.
You could have just a bachelors in conservation or a bachelor in something else and a masters in conservation, or you could have both degrees in conservation. It is also possible to become a technician in conservation, which, as the name states, is a technical degree - this may either not be available in all countries, or may be the only thing available in your country. It will vary by location. In some countries, there are also apprenticeship paths into conservation through training with a mentor.
This said, in most English-speaking places and the EU, you will most likely be required to have a formal post graduate degree in conservation (and several years of experience in the field even if it's internships) if you wish to work in a museum, library or similar institution.
This does not mean that you can't open your own private conservation/restoration business. Not all freelance conservators have formal degrees. Some of them have just been doing it for a very very long time and know what they're doing very well without, as we say in Peru, the "cardboard" to prove it (i.e. the official degree).
Because of the different paths conservators may take to become conservators, and the huge number of technical and undergraduate level degrees around the world, this article focuses solely on Masters degrees that are directly related to conservation. I have not included courses that relate to heritage management or museum studies.
Unexpected (unpleasant) surprises when researching where to study conservation for a masters
I will admit I began this article expecting to go into all these website pages and easily find the information a prospective student would want to know. Things like, PRICE or even whether I will come out with an MA or MSc or what and after how long. It turns out that this information is not easy to find and is not in just one place, but scattered all over the websites.
In order not to end up with a 3 year research project as I am doing this in my little free time, I am just leaving ?? marks where I just couldn't find things after a fair amount of clicking around. I am not saying the information isn't there. I'm only saying I couldn't find it after several minutes searching.
Yes, I could guess some of these things by asking some colleagues, but it could still be wrong if it's not official info from the program and also, for now, I want to make the point that this information was not easily available.
If you are able to clear up this missing information snafu for a program you are related to, please let me know and I will update the info - and if you are associated with any of these programs, please tell them we really would like to be able to find these things.
Brief note on financial support and other fees
Since almost if not all programs provide some sort of financial aid, either in the form of fully funding the program, loans, scholarships, awards, etc. I have not noted this information because it would be too much. Be aware that rules for these different forms of financial support will vary by institution and also on whether you are an international student or not.
I have also not included other fees or costs such as materials or lodgings. Some programs will explicitly say everything is included while others will say additional costs are up to you.
Brief note on exchange rates
For the sake of simplicity and so that you can actually compare the cost of programs on the same footing, I have converted all prices to USD based on the exchange rate on Dec 3rd, 2022:
1 GBP - US$ 1.20
1 EUR - US$ 1.03
1 AUD - US$ 0.68
1 NZD - US$ 0.64
1 SEK - US$ 0.10
1 MXN - US$ 0.05
1 CLP - US$ 0.0011
1 COP - US$ 0.00021
Some of these institutions offer not only masters level courses, but they also have diplomas or professional development courses. I have not included these for the sake of focus. If I find enough demand, I will make another article dedicated to Continuous Professional Development courses, certificates and diplomas.
Okay! Here we go then.
Where can I study art conservation and how much does it cost to become a conservator?
Apparently quite a lot depending on where you would like to study!
- Unless otherwise specified, all program lengths and prices are for full-time students.
Interesting things I found while researching
Pricing is really clear on UK programs, but extremely hard to find on American ones.
UK programs have gotten insanely expensive since I got my degree in 2015.
Asian programs were impossible for me to find, probably because of the language barrier. If you know about Asian programs, please reach out to me so I can flesh out this table.
Most programs have no specific information with hard numbers about your chances of employability after you graduate.1
Pre-reqs are extremely varied globally and reflect the expected conditions of the local applicant pool.
Many of the Latin American programs don't have anything online but expect you to send a request for information. Not even price.
Latin American programs really tend towards monuments and buildings more than objects.
Some of the Spanish-speaking programs only open if they get a minimum number of applicants.
Colombia (Not ColUmbia) had an amazing system that ties the tuition fees to the national minimum wage.
What did I miss?
Did I miss any programs or got any information wrong? Have things changed since I first released this post? Please reach out to me through any of my social media or through my contact form on this website and let me know. I will happily update.
A couple updates and acknowledgements
Since this article came out on Sunday, December 4th 2022, I have now received a few messages from a couple of the programs mentioned in the above table, so that I will be able to fill in their missing information. I have also received very kind requests from at least half a dozen conservators around the world offering to add missing information on certain programs in Spain and Germany. These are currently pending and will be uploaded as soon as possible.
I want to explicitly thank all of you who have reached out to me in one way or another with encouraging comments about this article and its associated table. I am grateful for your patience where I may have got information wrong. I am happy to correct it where necessary. I am very pleased that this article will save a lot of you a lot of time and I feel proud of our profession - so many of you are selflessly offering me your time to add more programs to the table.
So thank you again, and let's keep making resources for everyone!
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It was recently pointed out to me that UK programs have vague employment figures because of marketing laws (consumer rights). If you want to know about employability for the UK, please contact the programs directly. ↩