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Museum Technicians and Conservators

At a Glance

  • Treat and care for old or valuable objects
  • Often conduct research
  • Museum technicians usually assist conservators
  • Technicians have a bachelor's degree
  • Conservators have a master's degree
  • May work part time or full time

Career summary

Museum technicians and conservators care for and preserve artifacts and works of art. They document their work.

Museum technicians and Conservators decide how to restore objects such as paintings. Conservators treat and care for old or valuable objects. Museum technicians assist them with many of their duties.

Conservators manage and care for art pieces and historical artifacts. Artifacts are objects, such as tools or weapons, made by humans long ago. Some conservators work with specimens. These might include coins, stamps, or even preserved plants and animals. Many conservators specialize in a specific area, such as:

A large part of their job is to prepare objects for display. Conservators arrange and assemble items, and install them in an exhibit for the public to see. They carefully monitor the process to make sure the items are safely displayed.

Conservators conduct historical, scientific, or archaeological research. They may use x-rays and special lights to examine objects. They use chemical tests, microscopes, and other lab equipment to determine the age and condition of the objects they study. They must decide if these objects need treatment or restoration, and the best method to preserve them. They document their findings.

Conservators also restore and treat objects to prevent them from decaying or breaking. For example, they clean paintings, or items made of paper, wood, metal, glass, or clay. They preserve them with sealants and hardeners. Conservators repair the surfaces of artifacts and reassemble broken parts. They may build mounts for fossils, or construct replicas (copies) of artifacts. They recommend climate control measures to help preserve the objects. Factors such as too much heat, humidity, or light can damage art and other valuable objects.

Conservators may need to consult outside experts. They may also estimate the cost for restoration work. In addition, conservators may direct the work of technical staff in handling, mounting, and storing objects.

Museum technicians assist conservators by performing a variety of the above tasks. They prepare, maintain, and organize objects or materials. They may also assist with research.

Related careers

This career is part of the Education and Training cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to museum technicians and conservators.

Common work activities

Museum technicians and conservators perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, museum technicians and conservators:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Museum technicians and conservators frequently:

It is important for museum technicians and conservators to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for museum technicians and conservators to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Museum technicians and conservators need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a museum technician, you typically need to:

To work as a museum conservator, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Museum technicians usually need a bachelor's degree in their area of specialty. Few schools grant a bachelor's degree in museum studies. However, many students complete a minor in museum studies while majoring in a program such as art history. Many schools grant a master's degree in museum studies. Some employers may accept applicants who have taken relevant college course work, but do not have a degree.

Conservators need a master's degree in conservation. Only a few schools offer conservation programs at that level. A background in chemistry, archeology, studio art, and art history will help you get into a graduate program. It may also help if you know a second language. A master's program in conservation takes two to four years to complete.

A small number of conservators learn their skills through an apprenticeship. In an apprenticeship you work at a museum, nonprofit organization, or with a conservator in private practice. You learn skills from an experienced conservator. You also take courses in chemistry, studio art, and history.

Work experience

Working or volunteering at a museum or art gallery can give you good experience for these occupations.

On-the-job training

While completing a master's degree in conservation, you can get experience by working as an intern. During your internship, you work under the guidance of an experienced conservator. Internships usually last up to six months.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

When hiring conservators, employers look for a master's degree in conservation or in a closely related field. They also look for experience.

When hiring museum technicians, many employers prefer applicants with a thorough knowledge of the museum's specialty. The also prefer applicants with museum work experience. Formal training in museum studies may also be helpful.

Costs to workers

Workers must pay for association dues, reference books and journals, and college classes to keep up with changes in the field.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


The minimum wage for Washington State as of January 1, 2020 is $13.50 per hour. Some areas of the state may have a higher minimum wage.

Museum technicians and conservators (SOC 25-4013)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $13.29 $15.90 $20.10 $25.87 $34.04
Monthly $2,303 $2,755 $3,483 $4,483 $5,899
Yearly $27,650 $33,080 $41,800 $53,820 $70,810
    Bellingham Hourly $12.98 $14.04 $16.31 $19.79 $24.68
Monthly $2,249 $2,433 $2,827 $3,430 $4,277
Yearly $27,004 $29,207 $33,928 $41,165 $51,336
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $13.93 $17.48 $21.97 $28.36 $36.39
Monthly $2,414 $3,029 $3,807 $4,915 $6,306
Yearly $28,975 $36,346 $45,691 $58,986 $75,697
    Vancouver Hourly $15.46 $16.58 $18.38 $21.95 $27.82
Monthly $2,679 $2,873 $3,185 $3,804 $4,821
Yearly $32,173 $34,486 $38,251 $45,652 $57,855
United States Hourly $12.22 $15.66 $20.68 $27.27 $35.98
Monthly $2,118 $2,714 $3,584 $4,726 $6,235
Yearly $25,430 $32,580 $43,020 $56,730 $74,840

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The worker's level of experience and responsibility also affect wages.

Museum technicians and conservators who work full time often receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Museum Technicians and Conservators (SOC 25-4013)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 203 25.1% 16.1% 33
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 15 20.0% 11.9% 2
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 17 17.6% 15.2% 2
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 31 19.4% 14.1% 4
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 14 28.6% 14.6% 2
    King County 116 23.3% 19.6% 18
    Pierce County 19 31.6% 15.2% 4
United States 14,400 9.0% 5.2% 1,800

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

This occupation will grow faster than average as public interest in science, art, history, and technology increases. Budget cuts may reduce the number of available jobs.

Competition for job openings will be strong as many people are trained to do this work. Openings will occur as people leave the occupation. Turnover is very low in this occupation.

Other resources

American Alliance of Museums (external link)
2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1005
Arlington, VA 22202
American Historical Association (external link)
777 6th St NW, 11th floor
Washington, DC 20001
American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (external link)
727 15th St NW
Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005
Museum of Flight (external link)
9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle, WA 98108


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters