A guide to starting a career in antiques

Whether you are a school leaver looking for your first break, or finishing a successful career and looking to embark on a new venture, working in the fine art and antiques trade can be a very rewarding experience.

That said, any dealer will tell you that the antiques trade is fiercely competitive with few opportunities and there are no easy routes to success. Here’s our guide to gaining the first rung on the ladder.

Hard work

Auction room porter and antique shop assistant are common entry level roles for school leavers entering the industry. Both can be physically demanding with plenty of early starts and heavy lifting but the chances of progressing through the ranks are good, if you are willing to put in the work.

There is always plenty of competition for entry level jobs and dealers/salesrooms seldom need to advertise, so try emailing as many as possible and asking them to keep your c.v. on file for any suitable openings.


With competition so high for even entry level roles, knowledge and experience can give you a major edge on your rivals. Some Universities offer vocational qualifications in antiques and fine art, but a language degree or diploma can also be an asset in the trade.

Other useful experience can be gained by volunteering at galleries and museums, attending vocational night school classes, attending talks and lectures or simply gaining on site work experience with a dealer or saleroom.


If you are interested in becoming a dealer and feel that you have gained a suitable standard of knowledge about your field of specialism, a stall in an antiques market or one-day fair is a good opportunity to test your skills.

Remember, even a popular market stall requires a significant investment of time and capital to maintain a good stock of inventory, so be prepared to rack up the miles searching for bargains to keep your business ticking over.