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Begin a Career in Cultural Resources Management: Info and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cultural resource manager. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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Cultural resource management involves the exploration and preservation of historically and culturally significant locations. CRM professionals often excavate and study archaeological and historical remains to determine if the site needs to be preserved. They need a graduate degree in a relevant field.

Essential Information

Cultural resource management (CRM) professionals investigate and preserve cultural sites, such as architecturally significant buildings, Native American burial sites, shipwrecks and historical districts. They help safeguard both sites and their associated artifacts for future generations in accordance with federal preservation laws. There are many disciplines that contribute to cultural resource management. For example, CRM projects might enlist the efforts of archaeologists, museum curators, archivists and historians.

Career Titles Anthropologists and Archaeologists Museum Technician and Conservator Historian
Required Education Master's degree or Ph.D. Bachelor's degree (technicians)
Master's degree (conservators)
Master's degree or Ph.D.
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% 7% 2%
Median Salary (2015)* $61,220 $40,340 $55,800

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Cultural resource management involves specialists in historic preservation, archaeology, history, architecture and related fields. Professionals in this field may be employed by government agencies or private companies to safeguard cultural sites in compliance with federal laws. Due to the varied nature of the employment options, cultural resource management jobs vary in salary and employment statistics.

Archaeologist

Archaeologists study human origins, customs and cultures. They collect and analyze data and perform research to understand the historic significance of artifacts. In the course of their work, archaeologists may lead investigations and conduct field work to uncover, preserve, and protect historic sites.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that archaeologist jobs, counted along with anthropologist jobs, are expected to increase 4% from 2014-2024, while archaeologist jobs, again counted with anthropologist jobs, paid a median salary of $61,220 in 2015 (www.bls.gov).

Curator, Museum Technician and Conservator

Curators oversee the operations of a museum or other institution, such as a zoo, nature center, or botanical garden. They negotiate the acquisition and display of collections and exhibits, and authenticate specific pieces. Curators may also manage educational programs and secure funding through fundraising or grant writing.

Museum technicians work with the public and also assist curators in their duties, often taking care of pieces in a collection. Conservators use sophisticated techniques to authenticate artifacts and pieces of art, and restore them to their natural condition. They often specialize in a specific area, such as documents or textiles.

The BLS predicts that jobs as curators will increase at a rate of 13%, from 2014-2024, while museum technician and conservator jobs will grow 7%. The agency also reported that curators earned a median salary of $51,550 in 2015; museum technicians and conservators earned a median salary of $40,340 that same year.

Historian

Historians investigate a variety of historic sources, such as documents and artifacts, to build knowledge about the past. Researching, authenticating and documenting items and sharing findings with the public are important, as is coordinating with museums. Historians often publish or present their findings about a particular project or historical figure.

Jobs for historians are predicted to increase 2% from 2014-2024, per the BLS; in 2015, the median salary for this job was $55,800.

Cultural Resource Management Education Requirements

CRM workers include archaeologists, historians and other specialists, such as ethnobotanists and landscape architects. Formal education and experience in any of these fields may qualify an individual for a career in CRM. Additionally, certificate and degree programs in cultural resource management are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior's professional standards document the minimum education and experience necessary for supervisory CRM positions on public lands (www.nps.gov). Under these standards, historians and architectural historians are required to have a bachelor's degree, two or more years of professional experience and published research. According to these same guidelines, archaeologists are required to have a master's degree plus one year of experience that includes at least four months of field or lab work in North America. Similar standards apply to museum specialists, historical crafts workers, preservation gardeners and other CRM workers.

Undergraduate Programs

Aspiring CRM workers might study fine arts, art history, historic preservation, American studies, landscape architecture, horticulture or social science at the undergraduate level. Students may earn a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Resource Management. CRM courses may also be offered by archaeology or anthropology departments. Individuals with a 4-year degree and specialized training in field or lab methods may find entry-level CRM positions.

Graduate Programs

Master's degree programs in CRM and archaeology train students in identifying, evaluating and preserving a variety of cultural resources. Graduate programs typically include interdisciplinary coursework in history, archaeology, cultural resource management, quantitative analysis and research methods. An internship and a thesis may be required for program completion. Aspiring CRM specialists might also consider earning a graduate degree in architectural preservation, museum conservation or landscape history.

Cultural resource management professionals are often archaeologists or historians and work with local communities to preserve historic and culturally important sites. Some are employed by museums or other institutions with exhibits of cultural importance. All these careers require graduate degrees and specialized, hands-on training.

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