What Is The Average Art Conservator Salary?

by | Aug 21, 2023 | Blog

Why would we write a post on the average art conservator salary? At Conserv, we believe in the Team approach to collections care. Working with a multidisciplinary team in a library, archive, gallery or museum means we should not only be able to collaborate and work with our colleagues, but we should also have an interest in understanding where they are coming from, what their challenges are and what concerns them on a daily basis.

Fair compensation can be one of these concerns, and it can make the difference between working with a satisfied colleague who loves what they do and a frustrated colleague (who still loves what they do). So here are some interesting questions and answers regarding the salaries of conservators in the United States. Please note the following numbers are not evergreen, we will try to update these every year.

What is the average salary for art conservators?

The average art conservator salary varies depending on factors like location, experience, and the type of institution. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for Museum Technicians and Conservators (SOC Code 254013), the occupation category under which art conservators fall, is around $54,280 per annum as of May 2022.

However, it’s important to note that this is a broad category, and salaries for art conservators specifically may differ. It includes conservators working in educational services (colleges, universities, other schools), independent contractors, libraries, archives, and other information services at both the public and private level. If we pick only those working in Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions, the annual mean wage drops down to $49,890.

For a more up to date estimate, we turned to the job and salary site, Glassdoor. As of June 2023, their data suggests that the average annual salary for an art conservator in the United States is approximately $51,250 – $53,399. The difference between those numbers would be due to cash bonuses or other benefits.

More specifically, the survey conducted by the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) in 2022 shows a conservators median salary of:

  • $79,000 in government institutions
  • $71,500 in museums/historical societies
  • $68,908 in libraries/archives
  • $62,500 in nonprofit conservation centers/labs
  • $60,000 in private practice
  • $60,000 in colleges/universities

For context, an expensive city like New York may have an average monthly rent for a studio unit of around $3,295, so a conservator living alone in NYC could potentially be spending up to $39,540 (about 50-66% of the above salaries).

If you are interested in seeing live salary postings for conservation jobs, check out the National Emerging Professional Network Equity in Pay + Pay Transparency Accountability Spreadsheet, where they specify which job boards post salaries.

If you want to know what the numbers look like in the United Kingdom, ICON did a salary roundtable and published the results of their survey in 2022.

How does experience impact an art conservator salary?

Experience plays a significant part in shaping an art conservator’s salary as many conservator skills are related to manual dexterity and treatment experience. Art conservator salaries may also change over time as experienced conservators move into managerial administrative jobs with higher salaries. A survey conducted by the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) in 2022 showed a correlation between years of experience and salary (PDF pages 66, 106, and 147). The survey suggested that the median full-time art conservator salary is:

Type of employment Up to 5 years experience 20+ years experience
Museums/historical societies $48,000 $83,500-101,000
Libraries/archives $54,500 $93,500
Private practice $59,000 $63,500


How does the type of institution affect art conservator salaries?

As seen in the table above, it is interesting to note here that while salaries are lower in institutional jobs for emerging conservators, they also have a much higher ceiling for experienced conservation professionals. As mentioned previously, this could be due to experienced conservators moving up to managerial positions with higher salaries, which is a less likely possibility for conservators in private practice running their own business.

What is the future outlook for art conservator salaries?

As with any profession, the future of art conservator salaries will depend on various factors, such as economic conditions, funding for the arts, and the demand for conservation services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “overall employment of archivists, curators, and museum workers is projected to grow 12% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 4,700 openings for archivists, curators, and museum workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.”

The 2022 AIC survey also found “a 20% increase in median compensation from 2014 to 2022 for full-time individuals” in private practice (PDF page 65), 14.3% increase for conservators in museums/historical societies (PDF page 103), and 13% for those in libraries/archives (PDF page 146).

Concluding our look at art conservator salaries

Whether you are looking to go into conservation and want to know what salaries you may expect, or if you are interested in making sure your conservators are receiving fair compensation for their work so they don’t leave you to work elsewhere, we hope that the resources presented above will help you inform the decisions you need to make. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation about art conservator salaries in the Conserv Community!

If you have any questions about environmental monitoring, integrated pest management, or just want to talk about preventative conservation, please reach out to us! Don’t forget to check out our blog or join our community of collections care professionals where you can discuss hot topics, connect with conservators or even take a course to get familiar with the Conserv platform.

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