Art Conservation Degree Program Information

Art conservation professionals maintain and recondition artworks. This article looks at the admission requirements, courses and career options with a bachelor's degree or a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Art Conservation.

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Essential 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.

Students enrolling in a bachelor's degree program will need a high school diploma or GED certificate and may be required to present a portfolio of their art work. They must complete general education courses as well as study subjects related to their majors such as art history, foreign languages and studio art. Other courses teach them to care for diverse objects including photographs, tools, buildings and documents. An internship in a museum or art gallery may be offered.

Applicants to a master's degree program generally hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, although some schools will accept students with other types of degrees. Master's programs in art conservation teach students what causes art to deteriorate and gives them hands-on experience in conservation and restoration techniques. Students may be allowed to choose a specialization such as museum studies. A thesis or research paper and presentation may be required.


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 may have the opportunity to study abroad or intern at a museum, gallery, auction house or similar setting.

Prerequisite Education

A high school diploma or its equivalent is necessary for admission into an art conservation bachelor's program. Some schools also require applicants to submit an art portfolio.

Course Topics

Students in an undergraduate art conservation program 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. Common topics include:

  • Drawing
  • Art history
  • Organic chemistry
  • Art conservation ethics
  • Museum conservation
  • Preservation
  • Archeology

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

Masters Degree Programs in Art Conservation

In master's programs, art conservation students learn advanced preservation techniques and about specialties within the field. Students typically focus their studies on a chosen concentration, such as textiles, furniture or paintings. Graduate programs typically last between two and four years and culminate with an internship at a museum or art conservation firm.

Prerequisite Education

Students must have a bachelor's degree to gain entrance into a master's program. Some programs prefer applicants who majored in anthropology, art, art history, chemistry or other relevant field. Applicants with an unrelated major are typically required to complete specific coursework associated with art conservation.

Course Topics

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

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 26% growth rate for art conservators between 2008 and 2018, which is faster than average for all other professions (www.bls.gov). This growth rate is fueled by steady museum attendance and continued public interest in the arts. As of May 2010, the mean annual wage for art conservators was $41,940, reported the BLS.

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.

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    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
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