Historic Preservation Training and Career Information

Sep 21, 2019

Learn about the education and training needed to become an historic preservationist. Get a quick view of the degree and certification requirements, as well as potential job prospects and salary information.

Remembering and preserving our history is an important task, and there are several professions devoted to this work, including anthropologists, urban and regional planners, and historians. Securing a job in one of these fields requires either a master's in historic preservation or one in another field plus a certificate in historic preservation. An optional certification in planning can also boost your job prospects.

Essential Information

American cities are constantly renewing their infrastructure, sometimes at the expense of their rich heritage. The job of an historic preservationist is to maintain this heritage for future generations. A bachelor's degree in urban planning along with a master's degree in historic preservation, or alternatively, a certificate in historical preservation along with a master's degree in another field is needed to enter into a number of professions involving historical preservation.

Career Historian Anthropologist Urban & Regional Planner
Required Education Master's degree; some research positions require a Ph.D. Master's degree Master's degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% 10% (for anthropologists and archaeologists) 11%
Median Salary (2018)* $61,140 $62,410 (for anthropologists and archaeologists) $73,050

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Students with a degree in historical preservation may choose to focus on the theoretical or practical applications of the field. For students more interested in studying and learning about history, a career as a historian or anthropologist affords the opportunity to analyze and study historical data. Graduates craving a more hands-on profession may opt to be urban and regional planners, a career involving the development and administration of historical artifacts and the land upon which they lie.


Historians are responsible for researching the past and preserving the present for future generations. Typical job duties include researching historical documents, obtaining data from various sources, and interacting with the public in regards to historical matters. Historians commonly work for the government or academic institutions, but work is available in the private sector.

Historians need to be well-versed in their subject of interest, and most positions require a master's degree or Ph.D. In addition to studying historic preservation, students can choose a specific time period or region to focus on in their studies, and their academic concentration often determines their career path.

Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners design plans for the use of land. Historical preservation often plays a role in this profession as many historical areas and landmarks are subject to federal and local protections. Planners must factor this in and adjust their designs accordingly. These professionals often work closely with local residents and communities to ensure that development plans are well-received and appropriate for the area.

Urban and regional planners looking to bolster their resume can earn the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification, which is bestowed upon applicants who have the requisite education and experience. This certification must be renewed every two years.


Anthropologists analyze the gradual evolution of language, behavior, and culture. These individuals are charged with preserving the history of mankind, and typical job duties include excavating artifacts and copious amounts of research. Individuals in this profession fall into three categories: linguistic anthropologists, cultural anthropologists, and biological anthropologists. No matter which field an anthropologist chooses, a graduate degree will be required.

Five Steps to Becoming an Historic Preservationist

Step 1: Study for a Bachelor's Degree

Students interested in historic preservation can first study for a bachelor's degree in urban and regional planning or architectural history. This major discusses not only the future of urban planning but also how historical architecture can be incorporated into these urban and regional centers. Courses on urban history, society and politics help students to understand how influences both inside and outside of government can affect the dynamics of historic preservation in an urban setting. Advanced courses include studies in community and the environment, ethics and the history of historical preservation movements.

Step 2: Study for a Master's Degree in Historic Preservation

A master's degree program in historic preservation teaches students how to analyze and document historical landmarks and buildings. Students may engage in practical preservation projects. Courses cover topics such as American architecture history, neighborhood conservation and legal and economic preservation issues. Students may complete a final thesis report that may be focused on a topic such as bridges, businesses, churches or residences.

Step 3: Study for an Historic Preservation Certificate

Students studying for a master's degree in another field may also study for a certificate in historic preservation. The certificate program is intended to enhance the knowledge of those studying for a professional degree, or for others who are looking for a career change. Courses focus on law and advocacy, American architecture through the centuries and the science and technology of historic preservation.

Step 4: Find Employment in the Field

Most graduates looking to secure a position as a historic preservationist should first look toward the public sector. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the industry with the highest concentration of urban and regional planning jobs is local government. However, a number of private companies in the architectural field and scientific and technical consulting companies also hire urban planners with knowledge of historic preservation (www.bls.gov).

Step 5: Join a Professional Organization

Organizations such as the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) offer certification choices, which can increase professional credibility. Any certification must first be preceded by membership in the organization. Membership requires proof of relevant education and employment. Certification exams are given at various locations twice a year.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2018, historians, who may help preserve historic sites, earned an annual median salary of $61,140; urban and regional planners earned $73,050, and anthropologists and archaeologists brought home $62,410, that same year. Predicted employment growth from 2018-2028 was 6% for historians, 11% for urban and regional planners, and 10% for anthropologists and archaeologists, per the BLS.

The field of historical preservation has something for the people who like theory: work as a historian or an anthropologist studying buildings, landmarks and artifacts. If you prefer a more active role, consider work as an urban or regional planner, helping to preserve the old while building the new. Whatever your preference, a master's degree unlocks the door to jobs in this sector.

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