Degree & Certification Programs for Preservation

Because of historic preservation's interdisciplinary nature, degree programs in the field vary in focus. Preservation is frequently studied within related departments such as architecture, history, urban planning, environmental design, and geography. Programs emphasize aspects as diverse as restoration design, administration, documentation techniques, and law. 

Both graduate and undergraduate schools offer historic preservation degrees. In addition to specific education and training, a basic understanding of business, economics, and governmental procedure is helpful, as is practical experience through internships and volunteer activities.

Since 1973, when Columbia University offered the nation's first degree program in historic preservation, at least 55 additional institutions have developed preservation programs. This growth was one of the many factors that led to the formation of the National Council for Preservation Education (NCPE), which, in 1981, established curriculum and degree standards to ensure the quality of the program.

Please visit the NCPE website for a comprehensive list of schools that offer preservation degree and certificate programs. There are also additional programs that focus on preservation trades — find the list on the Preservation Trades Network website.

Preservation Education Degree Options

Undergraduate programs vary in requirements and style. Some offer degrees in historic preservation as a full B.A. degree, while others offer certificates as part of larger affiliated departments (such as architecture or history).

At the graduate level historic preservation programs are more rigorous. As the description above states, each program is designed differently and often focuses more attention on one portion of historic preservation practice. These specialties include but are not limited to architecture, planning, urban studies, real estate, and design. Most graduate programs are two years in length and require internships and fieldwork as part of the degree requirements.

One other option for preservation education is attending a trade school. These programs pay particular attention to the craftwork and the building arts element of historic preservation. These are particularly great programs for individuals who want to work in restoration and construction full-time paying attention to materials with a hands-on philosophy.

Professional Development at the National Trust

Opportunities at the National Trust for Historic Preservation include:

  • Preservation Leadership Forum, a membership level of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is a network of preservation leaders — professionals, students, volunteers, activists, experts — who share the latest ideas, information, and advice, and have access to in-depth preservation resources and training. Learn more about Forum membership.
  • Preservation Leadership Training This training series provides cutting-edge information and training for preservation leaders. Its three distinct formats – Capstone, Intensive, and Targeted – are designed to deliver timely, relevant, challenging, comprehensive, and impactful learning experiences.
  • National Preservation Conference is the premier educational and networking event for historic preservation professionals, volunteer leaders, and advocates. Expert practitioners lead approximately 100 educational and field sessions, all designed to provide tools that participants can use to improve their own communities.
  • The premiere conference on preservation-based commercial district revitalization, the annual National Main Streets Conference brings together over 1,500 people from small and rural towns, suburban communities, large and midsized cities, and urban neighborhood business districts to network and share ideas, solutions, issue-exploration, and networking opportunities.

If you're interested in cultural heritage tourism & historic sites specifically, check out the following options:

Other Professional Development Opportunities

Below is a list of professional development opportunities not affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. If there is a program that should be on this list send an email to forumonline@savingplaces.org.

The National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to education, advocacy, and training for local historic preservation commissions and their municipal staff. NAPC offers a variety of training programs and educational opportunities for commission members, local government administrators, elected officials, Main Street programs, preservation nonprofits, property owners, and more. 

The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training -- part of the National Park Service -- develops and conducts seminars and workshops nationwide on topics like cemetery monument conservation. NCPTT promotes excellence in preservation by promoting external historic preservation training and education opportunities for professionals.

The National Preservation Institute (NPI) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization offering specialized information, continuing education, and professional training to those involved in the management, preservation, and stewardship of our cultural heritage.

Hosted by Restore Media, LLC and Traditional Building Magazine, the Traditional Building Conference Series is an intensive two-day symposium for architects, contractors, craftsmen, designers, planners, preservationists, building owners, and facilities managers. You can network with your peers and suppliers to collaborate on solutions for restoration, renovation and traditional building.

The Campbell Center for Historic Preservation offers professional development coursework to meet the training needs of individuals who work in the fields of cultural resource management. The Campbell Center offers courses in collections care, historic preservation, and conservation refreshers for mid-career professionals. These courses require a varying level of expertise to attend- from basic core courses that require little previous experience, to conservation refresher courses that require mid-level professional experience.

A variety of preservation education providers are featured in Preservation magazine.