Skills every conservator needs to know


Are you looking for an art conservation job this year or taking steps to become an art conservator? What skills are employers looking for in conservation employees? We were curious to find out which ones stood out above the rest. We carefully read over current job openings at conservation companies from 10 different states to see which skills conservation studios are looking for in 2019 . We’ve made a list of the top 6 for you and we’ll explain why these are so important. Then, we’ll tell you how to improve these skills.

6 skills every conservator needs to know

  1. Adobe Photoshop (and/or other Adobe programs)

  2. Microsoft programs

  3. Photography

  4. Hand tools and/or construction

  5. Supervising others

  6. Conservation protocols

Adobe Photoshop is the most required skill on job descriptions for conservation positions.

Adobe Photoshop is the most required skill on job descriptions for conservation positions.

Why do these skills matter?

Adobe Photoshop (and/or other Adobe programs)

Most photos need a little editing after they are taken. White balancing, cropping, or other adjustments might need to take place before placing them into a report. There are many software options out there to use for photo editing, but Photoshop or Lightroom are towards the top of the list for most conservation studios. Having a good grasp on basic techniques in these programs is going to help you in your career.


There is a lot of data that accumulates during a conservation project and it needs to be kept organized. Many companies are turning to brands that offer integrated program families, like Microsoft (or Google). It would be valuable for you to get to know the interworking of Microsoft’s email platform, Excel, and other program offerings.


Document, document, document. Besides the written word, photos are the main source of documentation for conservation projects. They help as visual aids for before, after, and during the process. It is important to have a general knowledge of cameras, lighting, and composition as this will help you not waste time while shooting and less time editing afterwards. Most conservators take their own photos, so its a good idea to start learning now.

Hand tools/construction

Surprised? You shouldn’t be! Many conservation projects require much more than a paint brush. Large scale architecture or macro artifacts often require the need for hand tools and basic understanding of construction terms and equipment. You also might find value in getting experience with other trades like welding or mechanical.

Supervising others

When projects turn into team projects, someone needs to be the leader. Have you ever been the one to run the show? There is a lot that goes into managing a team. Keeping track of progress, checking other’s work, approving work and many other tasks are involved in supervising a group. One of the biggest struggles as a supervisor or leader of any kind is good communication, which is a skill that is also required for conservators. 

Conservation protocols

There are many industry standards that conservators need to adhere by for their work like things to wear, ways to handle certain items, how to write a good report and many other aspects. Employers are expecting that when you join their team that you are going to be working within certain criteria. These protocols can be learned by joining associations like the AIC.

How you can improve these skills

Are you lacking in any of these skills? Have no worries. There are ample opportunities to improve or learn any of these skills.

  • Finding an online tutorial has never been easier. Many brands have tutorials for their products right on their websites, like Adobe where you can learn how to use Photoshop or any of their other programs or Microsoft where you can learn Excel.

  • LinkedIn Learning provides hundreds of courses that cover anything from Photoshop to improving your photography.

  • There are webinars listed on the AIC website where you can stay up to date with industry trends.

  • If construction skills is what you are lacking, you don’t have to look far to find volunteer opportunities in your community to gain experience with tools. Contact your local community leaders and organizations to get involved with building projects in your hometown. The best part is that they will train you for free.

  • If you don’t have any experience with supervising others, you could join a non-profit committee to work in a team or volunteer for an event as a leader to practice these skills.

Next: Are you interested in learning how to become an art conservator? You might want to check out our post on the top qualities every conservator needs to have.

A bit about our research: The job openings we used to research for this article were all found on public listings on Indeed. The job postings were all live during December 2018. The positions varied from Objects Conservator, Paper Conservation Technician, Paintings Conservator, Fine Arts Conservator, and more. We simply compared each job description and looked for commonalities between them and see which skills were required the most.