Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Griffith University's online course, Cities of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Why Heritage Matters. Join the course to learn more.
Conservation project in Huanling village (China), July 2015.

Careers overview

Because heritage matters, it is a shared concern and there are many careers, from professionally recognised ones to volunteer opportunities.

Our built environments have developed over time through the actions of a variety of people, some working specifically towards them, some unconsciously contributing to them.


In this first category, architects, urban designers and planners are the main agents involved in the design of the built environment. The distinction between the three professions is mostly a question of scale.

  • Architects tend to focus on designing and building structures (or large groups of structures).
  • Urban designers deal “with a larger scale, such as entire neighborhoods and cities, and with longer time frame, frequently 15 to 20 years” (Levy, 2017).
  • Planners work with an even larger scale and time frame, as their practice concerns the collaborative and deliberate management of urban developments on a large scale (eg rural land use, parks, towns, cities, megapolis, regions, territories).

All of these professions are involved in one way or the other with heritage issues. Heritage issues may even become a specialisation for some professionals. Furthermore, in many countries an interest in heritage can also lead to a specific qualification. For example,

  • In France, les architectes du patrimoine (heritage architects) begin as architects (Master of Architecture), but then undertake two further years of study to become heritage experts. This role is governmental and based on an entry selection, as such it is very competitive.
  • In Australia, planners study an accredited planning degree, usually four years. Qualified architects usually undergo five years of study, plus two years in practice to become registered architects. All heritage architects are registered architects. Australia differs from France, as there is no required formal training to become a heritage practitioner. Professionals interested in becoming heritage practitioners may however complete university courses in heritage studies.

If you are interested in finding out more about pathways to these professions, you can search for information on the web. Try looking for heritage societies, official heritage architects’ bodies or institutes of architects in your country.


Of course, besides the design, management and planning of heritage, there are many other careers directly involved with heritage. For instance, each of the trades completing the conservation of a building or a place are vital to the success of the project. Trades may include carpenters, masons, plasterers, building painters, glass artists, sculptors, lawyers, project managers, landscape architects, etc. As you can see by the number of people that can be involved, for a heritage project to be successful, there needs to be a high level of collaborative management.


In addition to professionals and tradespeople, anyone with a passion for heritage can also be part of these projects or even at the origin of the conservation process. As we have seen with the High Line and the Sirius projects, residents are at the heart of the conservation. Opening up the debate, collecting data, analysing and generating ideas, shaking the establishment. These volunteers are gradually gaining expertise that is also recognised.

We’re convinced that you know at least one example of a restoration project carried out by local or international volunteers from all over the world. In France for instance, REMPART offers everyone the possibility of participating in work camps to rehabilitate or maintain castles. In the same way, it is possible to volunteer in Australia for the National Trust. See if you can find an organisation in your country offering similar opportunities.

As you can see, heritage is not only for professionals, it’s a shared concern where everyone can be involved.

Your task

Do any of these careers interest you? Tell us why.

Share your response in the comments.


Levy, J. M. (2017). Contemporary urban planning (11th ed.). New York: Routledge.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Cities of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Why Heritage Matters

Griffith University