Questions and Answers

How to use the Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards

There are three basic components of each Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standard: academic degrees or comparable training; professional experience; and products and activities that demonstrate proficiency in the field of historic preservation. A number of commonly asked questions about the design and content of the Standards, as well as their application and implementation, are answered below in order to assist anyone applying for a position or anyone charged with obtaining the services of a professional in the field of historic preservation.

 1. Under what authority are these Standards developed? The Secretary of the Interior's Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards and Guidelines are part of the larger Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidance for Archeology and Historic Preservation. The statutory authority for the Secretary’s development of these can be found in Sections 101(g), 101(h), 101(i), and 101(j)(2)(A) of the National Historic Preservation Act, as amended. These Standards and Guidance (including the Professional Qualification Standards) were published in The Federal Register in 1983 as the Secretary's best guidance for historic preservation practice nationally. This remains their preeminent function.

 2. What about the requirements in Section 112 of the National Historic Preservation Act? Section 112 is not the statutory authority for The Secretary of the Interior’s Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards and Guidance (see the preceding paragraph). Section 112 splits Federal agency requirements for meeting “professional standards” into two parts. Section 112(a)(1)(A) mandates that Federal “actions” meet professional standards; it is not directed at establishing professional qualification requirements. It is Section 112(a)(1)(B) that requires the Federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to devise professional qualification requirements for Federal employees and contractors in seven disciplines. OPM is required by statute to consult with the National Park Service (NPS) and others in creating these requirements. When completed, NPS will offer the Professional Qualification Standards and Guidance as its best advice to OPM for their use.

 3. Are the Standards regulatory or are they advisory? The Standards are not in and of themselves regulatory. A separate regulation or other official action which references or otherwise adopts part or all of them is necessary to give any force to any language in the Standards. In a number of instances, this has occurred. For example, the Standards for Rehabilitation are regulatory in the Federal Preservation Tax Incentives program through 36 CFR part 67. Likewise, the Professional Qualification Standards are regulatory for States, local historic preservation programs, and participating tribes through 36 CFR part 61. The guidance (“Academic Background” and “Documenting Professional Experience”) accompanying the Professional Qualification Standards is intended to assist users in the application of the Standards; the guidance is not regulatory.

4. How were these Standards developed? Who was consulted? Consultation has been extensive over the four years of this project. The wide range of constituents that use the Standards dictates a broad consultation process, which, not surprisingly, results in widely varying opinions and recommendations. To date, NPS has consulted with: 1) Federal, tribal, State, and local government historic preservation programs as well as related organizations; 2) professional societies and organizations of professional societies; 3) academic programs in historic preservation and organizations of such programs; 4) individuals and companies in the private practice of historic preservation as well as related organizations; and, 5) individuals working in the public sector as well as organizations of such people.

5. Why did the National Park Service choose the disciplines it did? These disciplines were selected because each is specifically mentioned in the National Historic Preservation Act. [See Sections 112(a)(1)(A), 112(a)(1)(B), 201(a)(9), 301(12)(B), 301(13), and 401(c)(3).]

6. How are these Standards to be used? The Standards are designed to be a tool to help recognize the minimum expertise generally necessary for performing professionally credible historic preservation work. The Standards are not designed to identify the best or ideal person for any position or the preeminent practitioners in any discipline, nor are they developed to qualify apprentice or entry level workers. The Standards are designed to describe the typical expertise held by credible mid-level journeymen working in historic preservation.

7. Do the Standards apply to “entry level” or “technician level” positions? Although the work of “entry-level” or “technician-level” personnel is critical to the success of historic preservation projects, these professional levels are not addressed in the Secretary’s Standards. The Standards apply only to the “journeyman” professional and define the minimum level of expertise necessary to provide reliable technical opinions relating to historic properties (without in-depth oversight or review by another professional in the discipline).

8. Do Federal agencies have to meet these Professional Qualification Standards? For Federal employees and Federal contractors, the Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards are regulatory only if they are specifically adopted by: 1) the Federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) pursuant to its responsibility under Section 112(a)(1)B) of the Act; 2) a Federal agency in its own agency-wide regulations, requirements, or policy; or, 3) a Federal agency as part of a program or project agreement with another party.

9. How are general Standards applied in specific situations? General standards are intended to define minimum professional qualifications for identifying, evaluating, registering, treating, and interpreting historic properties nationwide; however, the best historic preservation professional for a particular office, program, project, or property depends upon the situation. Different skills and expertise are needed for different geographical areas and resource types. In most cases where the Standards are applied in hiring or contracting, job descriptions and qualifications will have to be tailored to specific situations and locations so that experience and training are relevant to the needs of the resources and the work to be done. Where there is a need for specialized expertise in a project, application of the Standards will necessarily focus upon specialized training and demonstrated experience and products. For example, a person may be highly skilled in restoring a particular kind of resource (such as covered bridges), but that person would not be an appropriate choice to work on other types of resources.

10. Do all staff, consultants, and appointed advisors need to meet the Standards? SHPOs, CLGs, and tribes hire staff, select consultants, and appoint advisors to perform historic preservation work. However, it is NPS policy that historic preservation activity supported by the Historic Preservation Fund must be conducted, supervised, overseen, evaluated, or signed off by someone who meets the appropriate Professional Qualification Standard. Therefore, NPS requires the use of some of these Standards in certain circumstances by State Historic Preservation Offices, State Review Boards, and Certified Local Government Commissions (see 36 CFR part 61). Consequently, in some offices there could be no staff meeting the Professional Qualification Standards as long as there is access somewhere along the line to the appropriate expertise. For offices (e.g., States) required to have professionally qualified staff and Review Board membership, the requirement is usually to have at least one qualified individual in the three specified core disciplines. States and Tribes with 101(d) status are expected to obtain the services of professionals qualified in other disciplines as needed. It is possible that an individual may meet the Professional Qualification Standards for more than one discipline. Other staff members working in the discipline do not have to meet the Standards.

11. What about professionals who were hired under the old Standards? For programs administered by the National Park Service, each State staff, State Review Board member and Certified Local Government Commission member approved by the Secretary as meeting the Professional Qualification Standards will retain that status, regardless of any subsequent changes in the Standards, until such time as that individual no longer is employed by the State office, serves on the State Review Board, or serves on the Certified Local Government Commission with which that individual was affiliated as of the date of that individual's approval. Contractors qualified in a specified discipline under the old requirements will be deemed qualified in that discipline by NPS under the new rules as long as the contract, cooperative agreement, or other third-party agreement remains in effect. New contractual agreements would apply the new standards. Other organizations using the Professional Qualification Standards are encouraged to adopt a similar approach.

12. Why aren't the Standards for each discipline exactly the same? Because each discipline is different and makes its own distinct contribution to historic preservation, the Professional Qualification Standards differ somewhat according to discipline. Each set of Standards includes educational and experience equivalencies to assure fairness in hiring practices; thus, a graduate or undergraduate degree, or other certification, registration, or professional license or training is given full consideration, when combined with differing periods of full-time professional experience. Documenting a record of high quality products and activities during past employment is required in every Standard; however, the type of products and activities will necessarily differ within each discipline.

13. Why does one have to demonstrate proficiency in a specific discipline as well as in historic preservation? When decision makers lack the expertise required to make informed decisions, historic and cultural resources can be overlooked, mis-identified, mis-evaluated, damaged, or lost. Partial expertise can be just as harmful, whether a person is well-grounded in historic preservation, but lacks professional discipline skills, or, alternatively, is an expert in a professional discipline, but fails to understand its important connection to historic preservation. Involvement of people with expertise in both a professional discipline and historic preservation will greatly improve the reliability of decisions affecting our nation's heritage.

14. What constitutes full-time professional experience? Full-time professional experience generally refers to experience received after the degree was awarded or education was completed. Full-time professional experience can be acquired in blocks of time that, together, add up to the number of years called for in the Standard. In some disciplines, a portion of this experience must have been earned under the direct supervision of a recognized professional. It is possible that some education and experience received outside the United States is relevant to the identification, evaluation, documentation, registration, treatment, and interpretation of United States historic and cultural properties.

15. Does the required experience have to occur subsequent to obtaining the requisite educational or licensing credentials? Although it is preferable to have the practical experience after obtaining the academic training in a particular discipline, there is no such national requirement. The hiring, choosing, selecting, or contracting office must determine for itself how much experience, of what sort, and in what sequence, is appropriate for the job or position.

16. How many and what types of products and activities are routinely used to document the quality of professional experience? The applicant, employee, consultant, or advisor may cite products such as peer-reviewed articles and publications, audio-visual materials, awards, and National Register documentation. Activities could include teaching the theory or practices of a specific discipline; administrative, project review, or supervisory experience in a historic preservation program or office; and field or laboratory work. In any event, products and activities should demonstrate the appropriate use of the applicable Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Archeology and Historic Preservation. Examples are provided in the Documenting Professional Experience section of the guidance for Applying the Standard for each discipline.

17. In determining academic qualifications, what is a “closely related” field of study? To provide flexibility in determining academic credentials, the Standards recognize that a graduate or undergraduate degree may have been attained in either the identified discipline or in a related discipline Thus a candidate for the position of Architectural Historian may have an undergraduate degree in a closely related field of study, such as Art History or Historic Preservation. Merely having a degree in a closely related field does not automatically meet the Standard. The course work taken to earn a degree in a related field should be weighed against the course requirements in the Standard's main discipline. For example, a degree in Art History does not necessarily, on its own, meet the Standard for Architectural History, unless course work relevant to the Standard can be documented, such as American architectural history. (See the Academic Background guidance given after each Standard, which discusses the typical closely related fields of study for each historic preservation discipline.)

18. How much and what kind of course work in a “closely related” field is required to meet the Professional Qualifications Standards? There is no set amount of credit hours. The office hiring or selecting must make a determination that the person with course work in a closely related field has enough relevant education to be equivalent to that necessary for the standard degree in that discipline, and to enable that person to make judgments about the identification, evaluation, documentation, registration, or treatment of historic or archeological properties in the United States and its Territories.

19. When is “exceptional experience” a factor? In general, an applicant, employee, consultant, contractor, or advisor who does not possess a combination of education or training, experience, and products would not meet the Standards. However, in some cases, a person's experience and contributions have been so exceptional that he or she demonstrates the level of expertise that meets the Standards. In particular, this may apply in those situations where persons embarked upon their careers before recognized academic programs were established, and their education or training was thus attained in alternative ways. In such instances, exceptional experience would be substituted for an academic degree or other training.  It is up to the organization with administrative oversight responsibility for the program or project to determine whether the individual meets the Standards.  For example, in a program under the purview of 36 CFR part 61, the State Historic Preservation Office would request an exception from the National Park Service for the person under consideration for a “professional” position on the State staff or Review Board.  Otherwise, the organization doing the hiring or selecting of personnel would determine whether the individual meets the Standards.

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