What Does a Fine Art Restorer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of a fine art restorer: Developing and maintaining standards for storing, handling, installing, packing, and shipping of artworks, Collaborating with scientists and others on complex projects, Examining, studying, and treating artworks, Publishing and presenting research, Advising curators on issues relating to potential acquisitions and current collections

The Balance / Daniel Fishel

A fine art restorer is responsible for repairing damage to artwork such as paintings, murals, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, paper works, books, and other cultural objects or historical artifacts. The job often requires some research to determine the best course of action to take, particularly with antiques and other valuable works where the original should not be changed in any way.

Fine Art Restorer Duties & Responsibilities

A fine art restorer's job involves cleaning artwork and preserving it for the future. However, there are many other duties that may be involved in the position as well, such as:

  • Examining, studying and treating artworks
  • Performing conservation treatments to the highest standards
  • Developing and maintaining standards for storing, handling, installing, packing, and shipping of artworks
  • Collaborating with scientists, department colleagues, and others on complex projects
  • Publishing and presenting research
  • Advise curators and other staff on any technical issues related to potential acquisitions and current collections

Fine Art Restorer Salary

You can charge whatever seems fair and reasonable to you if you freelance, and if you're good enough, your clients should be more than willing to pay your going rate. If you'd rather lock in with an employer, you might want to consider relocating to the District of Columbia if you don't live in that area already. Fine art restorers are paid more than $61,700. Elsewhere in the country, you can expect to earn in the neighborhood of $40,000. Metropolitan areas such as New York or Philadelphia pay a bit more.

As a benchmark, other museum workers, such as curators and museum technicians, have the following salary range:

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017

Education, Training & Certification

Education requirements can vary. Do you simply want to carry on your family's traditional business, or do you want to become a certified restorer to broaden your horizons?

  • Education: University courses can be helpful, and the knowledge you'll get is often necessary for certification. Many employers may require that you have at least a bachelor's degree in art conservation or a similar subject area.
  • Coursework: If you decide to study fine art restoration, focus on courses like chemistry, anthropology, studio art, and art history. You can pursue a degree ranging from an associate degree all the way up to a Ph.D.
  • Apprenticeship: It's common for a student to apprentice under a master conservator after graduation, before jumping into a major restoration project.

Fine Art Restorer Skills & Competencies

In addition to education and training, soft skills like the ones that follow can help you stand out in your job:

  • Passion: A passion for the art to be restored is necessary. Any halfhearted or indifferent attempt at restoration shows.
  • Detail-oriented: Being meticulous, detail-oriented, and patient are also good skills to have.
  • Specific materials skills: Necessary skills vary according to the restoration project, too. Restoring a 19th-century painting requires a chemistry background and an in-depth knowledge of oil paints and canvas while restoring a medieval woven tapestry requires specific knowledge of textiles and historical methods and materials.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for museum staff, such as restorers and curators, over the next decade relative to other occupations and industries is very good, driven by strong public interest in art.

Employment is expected to grow by about 13% over the next ten years, which is faster growth than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. This growth rate compares to the projected 7% growth for all occupations.

Work Environment

Workers in this position typically spend their time in a museum workroom, handling artwork and using solvents, cleaners, and tools to repair and maintain works of art.

Work Schedule

Work as an art restorer is usually full-time, especially if you work for a museum. If you work on a freelance basis you can set your own hours.

How to Get the Job


A qualified and certified restorer can easily make a career in fine art restoration. Numerous sites and institutions often require the services of such a professional. Museums, libraries, galleries, antique stores, historical societies, and other businesses that deal with fine and decorative art and historical artifacts all require your services.

Look at job-search resources like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available positions. You can also go the websites of individual museums or visit them in person to apply to existing job openings.


Many art restorers decide to freelance, hiring out to whoever needs their services. If you decide the latter is more your cup of tea, achieving excellence in your work through education and experience should ensure that your services are in demand.

You might even find work restoring art owned by private collectors, or working on site-specific projects such as restoring a historic mural.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in becoming a fine art restorer also consider the following career paths, listed with their median annual salaries:

  • Craft and Fine Artist: $48,960
  • Anthropologists and Archeologist: $62,410
  • Historian: $61,140

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017