Historic buildings are an important part of our heritage. As well as providing valuable evidence for the way people in the past lived and worked, they help to preserve the character of our cities, towns and villages. Building conservation officers help to protect and enhance buildings as diverse as houses, churches, windmills, lighthouses and factories, ensuring they survive for future generations to learn from and enjoy.
The work may involve:
Some building conservation officers are part of a small team, but many work alone. They may work alongside local and national government agencies, and heritage and conservation groups.
Building conservation officers usually work standard office hours, from Monday to Friday. Travel to sites may involve early starts and late finishes.
Building conservation officers are usually based in offices, but spend much of their time visiting buildings. This can involve working outdoors in all weather conditions, and in buildings that are in a poor state of repair. Work environments are likely to be dirty and dusty, and projects may include working at heights and in confined spaces. Bending, crouching, stretching and climbing ladders may be required.
When on site, conservation officers wear protective clothing, including a hard hat and safety boots.
A driving licence may be useful for travelling to buildings.
Starting salaries may range from around £18,000 to £26,000 a year.
Building conservation is a relatively small field, although opportunities are growing as more organisations provide funding for conservation projects. There are opportunities throughout the UK.
Special interest groups such as the Georgian Group and Victorian Society may also employ a limited number of building conservation officers.
Vacancies may be advertised in local and national newspapers, on the website of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and on specialist recruitment websites.
The majority of entrants are graduates. Relevant degrees include planning, building/construction, civil/structural engineering, surveying and architecture.
A small number of universities offer specific degrees in architectural heritage and conservation, as well as building conservation and management. The IHBC lists recognised conservation and conservation-related courses on its website.
The minimum entry requirements for a degree are usually two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent. Entry requirements may vary, so candidates should check with individual colleges or universities.
Many candidates also hold a Masters degree or postgraduate diploma. Relevant postgraduate programmes are offered by a number of universities. Applicants to postgraduate courses normally need a relevant first degree (typically a 2.1 or above).
Most employers look for candidates with previous experience. Voluntary work is available with a number of organisations in the field. For example, the National Trust has around 40,000 volunteers. The IHBC website features links to a number of conservation organisations that may need volunteers. Local authorities may be able to offer relevant work experience.
The IHBC requires its members to undertake a minimum of 50 hours' professional development every two years. It organises and supports a broad programme of professional training courses and seminars. This includes numerous regional activities and visits.
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings runs two six-day courses of lectures and visits each year. These are aimed at people who are professionally involved with old buildings.
A building conservation officer should:
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A building conservation officer may be promoted to senior conservation officer or a managerial role. Promotion prospects may be limited in small organisations, and it may be necessary to change employer in order to progress.
Experienced building conservation officers may become self-employed, offering advisory and design work on a consultancy basis.
Ancient Monuments Society, St Ann's Vestry Hall,
2 Church Entry, London EC4V 5HB
Tel: 020 7236 3934
The Civic Trust, Essex Hall, 1-6 Essex Street, London WC2R 3HU
Tel: 020 7539 7900
Department of Environment Northern Ireland,
Clarence Court, 10-18 Adelaide Street, Belfast BT2 8GB
Tel: 028 9054 0540
English Heritage, Customer Services Department,
PO Box 569, Swindon SN2 2YP
Tel: 0870 333 1181
The Georgian Group, 6 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 5DX
Tel: 087 1750 2936
Historic Scotland, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Edinburgh EH9 1SH
Tel: 0131 668 8600
Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC),
Jubilee House, High Street, Tisbury, Wiltshire SP3 6HA
Tel: 01747 873133
The National Trust, PO Box 39, Warrington WA5 7WD
Tel: 0870 458 4000
The National Trust for Scotland,
Wemyss House, 28 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH2 4ET
0844 493 2100
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB),
37 Spital Square, London E1 6DY
Tel: 020 7377 1644
The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain,
16 Barnard Terrrace, Edinburgh EH1 1JZ
The Victorian Society, 1 Priory Gardens, Bedford Park, London W4 1TT
Tel: 020 8994 1019
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.