CAREERS: Historical Preservationist

Posted by on Dec 1, 2021 in Careers

Do you enjoy visiting museums and historic places? Do you like to stop at historical road markers when you’re on a trip, or find out more about the historical significance of places you visit? If so, you might be interested in a job in historical preservation someday. This is a broad career field that protects our nation’s important historical and cultural resources for future generations to enjoy.

What Is a Historic Preservationist?

An historic preservationist’s job is to use federal regulations to identify, evaluate, preserve, and interpret sites that are historically or culturally significant. There are many different types of positions available in this field, with different focuses. For example, some jobs might focus more on research, while others are more about planning, and still others center on education.

Harriett Tubman National Historical Park
The is Harriett Tubman’s home on the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.

Education, Experience, and Training

A background in history is a key component of this career’s preparation. A bachelor’s degree in history or a related field is usually required. While a master’s degree in public history is helpful, real-world experience in the field can be just as important. Good research skills and experience in a related field, such as community planning, library science, or real estate, are very useful as well. Knowledge of architecture and construction is also helpful for understanding the physical makeup of historic buildings.

The National Park Service (NPS) heads up the National Register of Historic Places and is responsible for overseeing nearly two hundred historical and cultural sites across the United States. Therefore, the NPS offers several training programs for people interested in pursuing a career in historical preservation. Their training includes resource management, museum management, and more.

For young people who are interested in historic preservation as a possible career, there are many opportunities available to learn more about it while gaining some real-world experience. For example, the National Trust for Historic Preservation heads up a program called Hands On Preservation Experience (HOPE). This program  allows young adults to help rehabilitate historic sites. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) creates partnerships with local schools to teach students about the historic resources in their own community. And the ACHP, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service all offer internships as well.

Job Outlook

While historic preservationists began by just protecting important historical homes, now they are in demand by everyone from city planners to construction companies to architectural firms.

The NPS employs more preservationists than any other public sector employer. Working as a preservationist for the NPS could involve anything from developing educational programs, to research, to writing articles for journals. State governments also employ preservationists, whose job it is to create educational programs and evaluate places that have been nominated to the National Register. Locally, preservationists are often hired by municipal governments to preserve local cultural and historic resources, to encourage tourism and community pride. Nonprofit preservation organizations also hire historians to protect local resources, write grants, manage budgets, and more.

Over the past ten years, the number of available jobs in this field has grown by about 6 to 9 percent. Median salary in 2018 ranged from about $52,000 per year (for archivists) to about $61,000 per year (for historians). Federal government historians can make as much as $98,000 per year.

Dig Deeper Visit the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s website to learn more about opportunities for young adults. Create a brochure that you could share with other students that gives more information about the opportunities available, including internships, volunteer positions, and the Young Professionals in Preservation program.