The aim of this paper is to consider what knowledge and skills are required in professional conservation practice for the twenty-first century and how they are best developed. It will consider the transition of conservators from a technical grade to a professional status and will discuss the impact of this transition on the education sector around the world along with the impact of the broad conservation career structure on curricula. The paper will discuss developments in conservation practice over the last 20 years from the perspective of both employers and practitioners, and will consider how well programme curricula align to current demands and how things might need to be approached differently. It will consider the impact that changes in recent conservation practice have had on advanced manual skills and why they are currently at risk and require special measures to be taken in order to protect them. The research will draw upon a literature review as well as surveys to represent the various aspects under consideration.