Historic Preservationists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Your love of history is a good foundation for a career in preservation. In high school, take as many history classes as possible. Start with U.S. history, but also consider the history of art and architecture. Business classes such as marketing and finance will prove helpful when raising funding for a new project or finishing one within a set budget. As a historic preservationist, you will be expected to write proposals to nominate a potential site, research a specific architectural style, or work as a liaison between federal and local agencies. Begin your training with classes that will strengthen your writing and speaking skills such as speech and English.

Postsecondary Training

Colleges and universities throughout the United States offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in historic preservation. You'll want to make sure your program of choice has met the standards of the National Council for Preservation Education (http://www.ncpe.us/program-list), which closely monitors programs specializing in this discipline. Most positions, especially those connected with the federal government, require at least a bachelor's degree. Management positions, such as those of staff historian, will require a master's degree or Ph.D.

Expect to take classes that focus on the history of a particular design, such as architecture, landscape, archeology, or urban development. You will also take classes on the proper techniques of preservation and documentation. Many programs offer elective classes in law, real estate development, business, government, and design.

Most programs also require successful completion of an internship or short-term apprenticeship. For example, if you choose to intern at the National Park Service, you could acquire valuable field experience working alongside professionals at a variety of locations—a historic site, museum, or national landmark.

Certification or Licensing

Some colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate certificates in historic preservation and related fields. Contact schools in your area for information on available programs. 

Other Education or Training

The National Preservation Institute offers seminars in six main areas: identification, planning, and evaluation; laws and regulations; cultural and natural resource management; Native American cultural resources; historic property management; and curation, conservation, and stewardship. Contact the institute for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for historic preservationists.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Students should obtain as much experience in the field as possible by participating in summer internships, volunteer opportunities, and part-time jobs at local, state, and federal historic preservation agencies or related employers. 

Historic preservationists need to have a curiosity about the past and the patience to research historical events with a painstaking attention to detail. They also need business experience to manage a historic preservation project in a way that makes it financially self-supporting, attracts visitors to the historic site, and presents the significance of the site in a way that is enthusiastically understood by lay people.

Historic preservationists work on many types of projects, from large government-funded restorations of a city devastated by natural disaster to small grassroots campaigns to save a town's Main Street. In turn, preservation professionals must be able to deal with all types of people—from federal officials to ordinary citizens. They must be ready to translate their research in terms easily understood by those outside of the field.

Preservationists must be meticulous with their work, often spending many hours on research, fieldwork, or lobbying various government agencies. Organization and patience are highly valued in this industry.