If you are interested in a career as a Paintings Conservator, there are various routes into the profession, but the most recognised is via a postgraduate qualification in Easel Paintings Conservation. Conservation is an interdisciplinary field, and first degrees in the History of Art, Fine Art or Natural Sciences are the most relevant to have. As a conservator you would need to engage in all of these, and so an interest in or knowledge of those which are not your main subjects would be an advantage. In the UK there are three postgraduate courses for the Conservation of Easel Paintings (as opposed to wall paintings):
The Courtauld Institute of Art, London: Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings
This is a three year course. Applications are open from September, open days usually in early November, and application deadline in early December for entry in October of the following year. The Courtauld takes five students per year. For more information visit http://courtauld.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/postgraduate-diploma-in-the-conservation-of-easel-paintings. To register an interest in the Open Days email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hamilton Kerr Institute, Whittlesford, near Cambridge (part of Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge): Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings
This is a three year course. Applications are open from September for a place starting in October the following year and the open day is usually in the spring. The Hamilton Kerr Institute accepts two or three students for the Diploma every two years, and also has an internship programme for conservators who have recently graduated from other postgraduate programmes. For more information visit: http://www.hki.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/courses/postgraduatediploma. To register an interest in the open day email email@example.com
Northumbria University, Newcastle: Conservation of Fine Art MA
This is a two year course. The number of students taken each year varies, but as a guide is around ten students for Easel Paintings. For more information visit: https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/study-at-northumbria/courses/conservation-of-fine-art-dtfcfz6/
The structures of the courses and environments of the institutions vary. It is important to research the options carefully and highly recommended to go to the open days, and do as much research as possible into the field before making a decision to apply. Visit any restorers you can make contact with to satisfy yourself that it is something you want to commit to. The National Gallery publications A Closer Look: Conservation of Paintings, and The National Gallery Technical Bulletin (which is available online) are useful publications. You can also attend events run by the BAPCR and The Institute of Conservation Icon (whose website also has useful information on training and careers).
The BAPCR does not endorse any particular course or route into the profession. Some find other ways to train including informal apprenticeships. There are many courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in other conservation fields. The Institute of Conservation, (Icon) website lists some of these.
Paintings Conservators may work as practitioners in private practice, heritage organisations and museums, and may be freelance or employed. They may specialise in practical interventive conservation, preventive conservation, conservation science, collection management, carry out research and/or work in education.
On graduation, further ways to develop skills and experience are sought through internships and employment in different institutions and studios. As conservators we never stop learning, and as well as gaining greater practical experience, there are numerous resources, courses, conferences and lectures to enable professional development. After a few years, many conservators choose to become accredited via the Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers scheme, which is run by Icon.