Historic Conservation and Preservation

Historic conservation and preservation spans the fields of art, architecture, history, economics, law and design to restore and revitalize old structures. As a growing field, degrees are available at all levels and careers can be found in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. Read on for career and education information.

Is Historic Conservation and Preservation Right for Me?

Career Overview

Repurposing old buildings for modern use while maintaining their original features is a primary concern in the field of historic conservation and preservation. Professionals in this field draw on the areas of architecture, planning and art history to manage restoration projects that revitalize old buildings and other structures of historical importance. Historic preservationists often work in conjunction with community members to ensure projects benefit neighborhoods and preserve cultural integrity. Knowledge of project management, economics, sustainable building methods, preservation law and planning are typically required.

Career options span the public, private and non-profit sectors. In the public sector, you could work within state historic preservation offices, governmental planning agencies or landmark commissions. Within the private sector, you could work for restoration, architectural and cultural resource management firms. Depending on your personal interests, you may pursue work in the areas of sustainable historic management, planning and education, preservation administration or architectural conservation. Sample job titles you could hold include archivist, historian, archaeologist, preservation consultant, curator, preservation planner or historic preservation officer. With a doctoral degree, you could teach historic preservation courses at a college or university while performing research in the field.

Employment Information

The career outlook and earning potential in this field varies by area of employment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts faster-than-average job growth for anthropologists and archaeologists, at 19% from 2012-2022, average job growth for urban and regional planners at 10%, and slower job growth for historians, at 6% (www.bls.gov). Competition for jobs as anthropologists, archaeologists and historians is expected to be fierce.

As of May 2013, the median annual salary for urban and regional planners was $65,650, while anthropologists and archaeologists earned a median annual salary of $58,360, and historians earned $55,180, per the BLS.

How Can I Work in Historic Conservation and Preservation?


Studies in historic conservation and preservation are available at all levels, from associate to doctoral degrees, as well as graduate-level certificates. Degrees are most commonly offered at the master's level, though you'll find that a variety of programs are offered. For instance, you could pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Historic Preservation, Master of Arts in Historic Preservation Planning, Master of Historic Preservation or Doctor of Philosophy in Preservation Planning. In some schools, this field of study may be offered as a concentration within architecture or planning degree programs. The National Council for Preservation Education establishes standards in the field and certifies undergraduate and graduate preservation degree programs in the United States (www.ncpe.us).

Associate degree programs emphasize construction technology, handcrafting skills and trades used in the preservation of historic structures. At the bachelor's and graduate degree levels, program curricula typically cover a wider array of topics that include preservation and planning policy, architectural methods, architectural history, preservation law, planning and preservation management. Cultural heritage, economic development and neighborhood planning are also likely to be addressed. Many programs emphasize hands-on experience in the field through community-based projects, internships or research projects.

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