The identification, evaluation, protection and preservation of America's important historic and cultural properties depends upon the participation of all citizens; however, certain decisions must involve individuals who meet nationally accepted professional standards in order to assure credibility in the practice of historic preservation at the Federal, State, and local levels, as well as in the private sector.

 The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for establishing standards for all programs under Departmental authority. In accordance with this responsibility, the Secretary of the Interior's Professional Qualification Standards were developed by the National Park Service (NPS) 20 years ago to ensure that a consistent level of expertise would be applied nationally to the identification, evaluation, documentation, registration, treatment, and interpretation of historic and archeological resources.

 The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (Pub. L. 89-665) gave the Secretary authority to set criteria for State grants, surveys, and plans. The National Park Service administratively required State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) to maintain professionally qualified staff (in 1976), and to appoint qualified individuals as advisors to serve on State Review Boards (in 1977). The professional qualification standards have not changed since then.

 The 1980 Amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act (Pub. L. 96-515) statutorily affirmed the previous regulatory requirement for professionally qualified staff. Congress also reiterated the regulation's requirement that State Review Boards include a majority of members qualified in one of the professional disciplines which met minimum Professional Qualification Standards defined in regulation in 36 CFR 61 (Architecture, Architectural History, Prehistoric Archeology or Historic Archeology, and History). In addition, the 1980 amendments created the Certified Local Government (CLG) program to recognize the role of local governments in the national partnership, and stipulated that the CLG Review Commission membership needed to be adequate and qualified. The Congressional Committee Report for the 1980 amendments (H.R. Rept. 96-1457) called for “professional bodies which can objectively evaluate the historic significance of properties and provide professional advice on historic preservation matters.”  Finally, States, local governments, Federal agencies, and the private sector often require that proposals from historic preservation contractors or work submitted by them meet these same professional practice Standards.

 How to Use the Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards provides background and general information in a question and answer format about the three basic components of each Standard: academic or comparable training; professional experience; and products and activities that demonstrate proficiency in the field of historic preservation.

Discipline and Historic Preservation Proficiencies consists of a series of general proficiencies (knowledge, skills, and abilities) that are needed by historic preservation program applicants, employees, consultants, and advisors. The first set of proficiencies is related to disciplines; the second, to historic preservation.

Following the standard for each discipline is guidance about meeting the standard for that specific discipline, including a list of some of the most common “closely related fields” within academic degree programs; information on documenting professional experience; and a list of typical products and activities that may be used to document acquired proficiencies in the field of historic preservation.

Finally, a list of Professional Organizations is included to assist users in obtaining additional information about the disciplines, college and university departments, and publications on the practice of each discipline.



In its 1992 amendments to the Act, (Pub. L. 102-575) Congress recognized the evolution and growth of the professional practice of historic preservation, and an expanded role for Indian tribes in implementing the National Historic Preservation Act. Accordingly, the number of disciplines acknowledged as key to the responsible practice of historic preservation has been increased by the Act and therefore by the National Park Service from the five identified almost 20 years earlier to 12, now including Archeology (Prehistoric and Historic), Architectural History, Conservation, Cultural Anthropology, Curation, Engineering, Folklore, Historic Architecture, Historic Landscape Architecture, Historic Preservation, Historic Preservation Planning, and History.

As a result, NPS consulted at length with Federal agencies, SHPOs, CLGs, and professional societies involved in historic preservation about issuing updated and expanded Professional Qualification Standards that recognize the evolution and development of the disciplines in the field.

 The Secretary of the Interior's Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards are designed to be national measures for determining minimum requirements for professionals practicing in the field of historic preservation. The format for the Standards provides a consistent, yet flexible, framework for establishing sound professionalism in the twelve disciplines. There is one Standard for each of the disciplines. Each Standard defines:

  • academic degrees or comparable training
  • professional experience; and
  • products and activities that demonstrate proficiency in historic preservation

These Standards do not apply to “entry-level” applicants or to preeminent professionals in the field. Rather, they outline the minimum education and experience and products that together provide an assurance that the applicant, employee, consultant, or advisor will be able to perform competently on the job and be respected within the larger historic preservation community. The effective application of any of these national Standards will require the development of a detailed job description containing additional information to suit a particular situation and need.

Note: In each discipline, the most common method of meeting that Professional Qualifications Standard is discussed first. Less common alternatives follow. Typically, a graduate degree or professional license is listed first.



It should be emphasized that the Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards that follow are, in most instances, advisory in nature and may thus be used by anyone hiring personnel or consultants or appointing advisory boards or commissions. Because use of the Standards can help ensure appropriate, informed decisions about protecting and preserving our nation's historic and archeological resources, NPS strongly encourages their adoption and implementation.

However, under well-defined circumstances discussed below, the Secretary's Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards are requirements by statute and regulation. In those instances, a note is added at the end of the required Standard.

First, the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 101, requires that a professionally qualified staff be appointed or employed by State Historic Preservation Offices. Indian tribes that have executed a Memorandum of Agreement with NPS and assumed responsibilities pursuant to Section 101(d) of the Act also must employ or consult with professionally qualified individuals in carrying out those responsibilities. The performance and supervision of Historic Preservation Fund grant-assisted work must be performed and/or supervised by professionally qualified staff and/or contractors. In accordance with 36 CFR part 61 and NPS policy, three of twelve disciplines are required for State program staff and for staff of Tribes with Section 101(d) status: History, Archeology, and Architectural History. States and Tribes with 101(d) status may propose an alternative minimum staff composition for NPS concurrence if their historic resources, needs, or circumstances would be better served or met. States and Tribes with 101(d) status are expected to obtain the services of other qualified professionals as needed for different types of resources.

Second, Section 101(b)(1)(B) and Section 301(12) of the Act requires that a majority of State Review Board members be professionally qualified. As specified in 36 CFR part 61, this majority must include, but need not be limited, to the required disciplines of History, Archeology, and Architectural History. One person may meet the Standards for more than one required discipline.

Third, Section 101(c)(1)(B) and Section 301(13) of the Act requires that State programs encourage CLG Review Commissions to include individuals who are professionally qualified, to the extent that such individuals are available in the community. The State may specify the minimum number of Commission members that must meet the Standards and decide which, if any, of the disciplines listed in the Standards need to be represented on the Commission.

An accompanying guidance section, Applying the Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards, has been prepared to assist the consistent application of the Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards when selecting an employee, consultant, or advisor. As such, the guidance provides additional information and recommendations, but never constitutes a requirement.