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Historical preservationists take on the duty of preservation by identifying buildings and other parts of what those in the field tend to call the “built environment” that are worth preserving. Working for and with a variety of organizations and communities, from inner cities to remote towns, historic preservationists design and implement plans to restore and maintain historical sites in a way that balances conservation and preservation with commercial and development interests.

Graduate programs prepare students for careers in this field with a combination of class and field work. Students study history, architecture, and techniques of preservation and conservation. Internships with community partners such as museums and historical societies are integral to most programs, providing students with essential hands-on experience.

Degree Information

Historic Preservation degree programs (M.A., M.S., M.S.H.P.) usually take two years. Many programs have a specific interdisciplinary focus (for instance, Historical Preservation and African American Studies or Historical Preservation and Museum Studies), which students should consider as they search for a program. Thesis projects are usually required and may be either creative or research-driven.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Do you want a program emphasizing design, conservation, history, or planning?
  • Do you want to work in the geographical area after you graduate? This is especially important when determining internships and classes on local history, architecture, or issues.
  • Who are the instructors? What work have they done? How accessible are they?
  • With what organizations (like museums and historical societies) does the school have relationships?

Career Overview

Graduates of historic preservation programs have a wide range of career opportunities. They may work as designers, conservators, and historians for restoration architects, historic interior designers, historic site managers, historic building-materials consultants, contractors, site interpreters, preservation researchers, and advocates. They can work in rural or urban areas, helping to turn the birthplace of an important figure into a museum or a forest into a national park.

Career/Licensing Requirements

For this field, a master’s degree is the only background one needs; no license is required.

Salary Information

Positions range depending on the type of institution. Jobs at museums may start in the mid-$20,000 range, while jobs with private architectural firms and certain government bodies can start in the mid $40,000s.

Related Links

National Trust for Historic Preservation
A not-for-profit organization dedicated to save historic buildings, neighborhoods, and landscapes that form community.

National Council for Historic Preservation Degree Programs
Provides a comprehensive list of schools offering graduate programs in historic preservation. One informative column points out specific areas the program covers (like neighborhood planning and architecture).

Public History Resource Center
Great resource site with a ton of links, website reviews, and "views from the field."

Provides a database of regularly-updated resources and current professional and educational opportunities.


  • Historical Preservation

  • Archival Documentation

  • Design And Presentation Techniques

  • Directed Research

  • Documentation And Registration Of Historic Properties

  • Economics Of Historic Preservation

  • Historic Preservation Technology

  • History And Theory Of Historic Preservation

  • History Of American Architecture

  • Internship

  • Preservation Law And Planning

  • Restoration Design Studio

  • Thesis