Skills, knowledge, and degrees/majors wanted by historic preservation employers

Developing curricula for historic preservation degree programs (bachelor’s and master’s) can be a frustrating experience because we lack useful data on the job market (e.g., what employers want from graduates) and curriculum standards. In addition, the field has no certifying or accrediting body, so there is no regular discussion on curricular matters in the field. Feeling motivated, I decided to leap into this vacuum and conduct my own survey on the skills, knowledge, and degrees/majors required by historic preservation employers of prospective job applicants. My survey is based on seven months of nationwide (United States) job postings in historic preservation, slurped up by Indeed. I’m not going to go into all of the methodological details as I may, at some point, publish the info in a peer reviewed venue, but for now what I’ve found is sufficiently interesting that I thought others may find it of use.

Main themes

  • About 40% of employers want employees who can perform environmental review/compliance work and can apply both cultural and natural resource rules and regulations.
  • Less than half of the job postings list a requirement for an historic preservation major; other, sometimes related, majors are listed instead.
  • More than half of the employers require or prefer applicants with a master’s degree.

Some observations

Rules and regulations seem to drive the employment market: Three quarters of the jobs posted were in the area of regulatory compliance. This includes employees who perform “environmental review”, work in a local municipality’s planning office, or a state historic preservation office. This result is consistent with a similar survey I completed 6 years ago.

Only 3% of positions are associated with architectural design and/or are based in an architectural firm.

The top basic skills that employers want are, not surprisingly, the ability to communicate effectively in writing and verbally. But beyond these skills, employers want people who have project management skills, can work in a team, think analytically, work with diverse groups of people, and resolve conflicts.

The top ten specific skills required by employers are:

  1. Knowledge and experience in design review processes
  2. Knowledge of zoning and land use regulations
  3. Archival research
  4. Urban planning knowledge
  5. Architectural history
  6. Ability to conduct architectural (reconnaissance) surveys
  7. Fund raising
  8. Photography
  9. Read architectural drawings
  10. Stakeholder engagement

The top ten regulations that employers want proficiency in are:

  1. The National Historic Preservation Act (specifically Section 106)
  2. The National Environmental Policy Act (ability to do environmental impact statements and environmental assessments)
  3. National Register
  4. Endangered species act
  5. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards
  6. Clean Water Act
  7. Tax credits
  8. Transportation Act, section 4f
  9. CEQA (California’s version of Section 106)
  10. Clean air act

The most common required major is historic preservation, but only 40% of the employers require it. The next most common required majors are:

  1. Urban/regional planning
  2. Architecture
  3. Architectural history
  4. Environmental science/studies
  5. History
  6. Landscape architecture
  7. Archaeology
  8. Public administration
  9. Biology (yes, that’s right, some employers require people to have a biology major and be able to do historic preservation work!)

88% of the job postings mentioned a requirement of at least a bachelor’s degree, but there is a clear preference for a master’s degree, with about half either preferring or requiring a master’s.

One thought on “Skills, knowledge, and degrees/majors wanted by historic preservation employers

  1. Thanks, Jeremy. As a guy who writes and consults and occasionally teaches about the US legal/procedural underpinnings of historic preservation and related practices, and who promotes inter/extradisciplinary competence, this poll should cheer me, but in the Age of Trump I suspect that the skill-sets I’ve been pushing all these years are going to become about as useful to job-seekers as hermeneutics.

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