How to Become a Historic Preservationist


If you want to become a historic preservationist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for work in this field:


• You have an interest in history and architecture

• You enjoy assessing the condition of properties and preparing reports

• You are familiar with governmental historic preservation law and regulations

• You have cultural sensitivity

• You enjoy working with property owners, city officials, team members and other stakeholders 


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a historic preservationist. We've also included helpful occupational information, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Historic Preservationist

The educational requirements for this field can vary from employer to employer, and may depend on factors such as the historic preservationist’s area of specialty, the level of responsibility of the job, the area of focus of the employer, and other factors.


For example, if you're planning to specialize as an "architectural conservator", you may require a Master of Science degree, or a degree in Architecture, whereas if you wish to specialize in "preservation planning", you may need a Master of Arts degree in Architectural History, Historic Architecture, Historic Preservation Studies, or a related field.





General Job Description

Historic preservationists are responsible for ensuring the survival and preservation of historic neighbourhoods, sites and buildings.


Historic preservationists try to find ways to preserve these historic neighbourhoods, sites and buildings by either transforming them into museums, or by making changes needed for new life and adapting them for new uses.


In trying to adapt old buildings and sites to new uses, historic preservationists sometimes requires careful research into where demand exists for potential future uses, as well as a search for grants, tax credits, and loans.



Historic Preservationist Career: Types of Projects 

There are many different types of projects that historic preservationists may be involved in, including the preservation of:


• Houses and schools

• Commercial buildings

• Religious structures

• Industrial structures

• City Streets

• Neighborhoods

• Designed landscapes

• Rural countrysides



Typical Job Duties

• Perform surveys for the Historic Sites and Structures inventory

• Ensure complete site documentation for identified properties

• Assess physical integrity of old buildings 

• Make fiscally sound recommendations for repair and rehabilitation of old buildings

• Help building owners obtain historic preservation tax credit

• May participate in environmental reviews of federal projects and their effect on historic properties

• Assist other preservationists in the development of strategies for saving endangered landmarks

• May produce drawings, assessments, plans, and documents

• May conduct paint and mortar analysis 

• Complete National Historic Register nominations

• Give public presentations related to historic preservation

• Prepare grant applications



Salary Level of Historic Preservationists

The salary level of historic preservationists can vary depending on their personal qualifications, the specific responsibilities of their job, the size and type of their employer, and many other factors.


Historic Preservationist Salary - Canada: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Conservators and Curators occupational group earn an average salary of $72,973 per year, whereas those working in B.C. earn an annual provincial median salary of $60,323 (according to WorkBC).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary level of American workers in the Museum Technicians and Conservators occupational group (which is the most closely related for which there are salary figures from the BLS) is $48,400.





Skills Needed to Be Succesfull

To be effective in a career as a historic preservationist, you need to posses a certain set of skills. These skills will allow you to perform your job duties with competence, and as a result they are often listed on relevant job postings.


• Able to maintain detailed treatment records and write reports

• Able to conduct a thorough analysis of the physical condition of buildings

• Able to work independently as well as part of a conservation team

• Able to competently review technical aspects of architectural plans and drawings

• Knowledge of local history, specifically as it relates to various project sites or buildings

• Familiarity with federal, provincial/state and municipal historic preservation law and regulations

• Knowledge of relevant tax credits and grants that are available for historical preservation

• Excellent communication and negotiation skills

• A valid driver’s license



Personal Characteristics Needed to Become a Historic Preservationist

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a historic preservationist, you need to have certain personality traits. These personal attributes will help keep you interested in your job, and will help you maintain a positive attitude towards your duties.


• Cultural sensitivity

• Willingness to keep up to date with new preservation techniques

• Willingness to travel

• Comfortable working on a construction site

• An interest in history and architecture

• An interest in adopting old buildings and areas for new uses

• Enjoy the idea of revitalizing streets and neighbourhoods

• An interest in working with building owners, city officials, and other stakeholders



Who Employs Historic Preservationists?

Historic preservationists are typically employed on a permanent, full-time basis by the following types of organizations:


• Private non-profit preservation groups

• Private for-profit consulting firms

• Provincial/state government historic preservation office

• Municipal preservation commissions

• Federal government departments, such as The National Trust for Historic Preservation (U.S.)



Historic Preservationist Jobs

Our job board below has "historic preservationist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




Similar Occupations in Our System

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "historic preservationist", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.



Historical Site Administrator

Museum Curator

Restoration Architect





Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a historic preservationist.


Occupations in Alberta:Conservator.” (March 31, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved December 20, 2019.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Museum Technicians and Conservators.” (March 29, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved December 20, 2019.

Explore Careers:Conservators and curators.” (January 18, 2018). WorkBC website. Retrieved December 20, 2019.

Subjects:Learn How to be a Preservationist.” (December 2, 2018) U.S. Department of the Interior - National Park Service website. Retrieved December 20, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Historic Preservationist

Scholarships in our system are organized by field of study. The fields that are relevant to this profession are listed below on our "Relevant Areas of Study" section below. Any scholarships found within those fields will be suitable, all of which can be found on our Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Areas of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this field. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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Historic Preservationist