USC’s Master of Heritage Conservation (MHC) program empowers students to improve people’s lives using historic places and the stories they tell. MHC students love history and relate it closely to physical space. They want to tell the stories of their community. They’re curious about the world around them. They see historic places as tools for social justice, community revitalization, and sustainability. They want an academic approach that integrates urban planning, elevates cultural heritage, and pushes the boundaries of the field. They want not only an advanced degree but a close community of scholars, friends, and future colleagues. Or, they’re not sure what they want and seek a supportive space in which to find out. 

The global term for historic preservation, heritage conservation more accurately reflects the work within the discipline, as well as the continuum of conservation from the natural environment to built and intangible heritage. With a distinct perspective rooted in urban planning and design, the program focuses on three areas: modernism and the recent past, cultural and intangible heritage, and underrepresented communities. There’s no better place to explore these issues than Los Angeles— a postwar metropolis and one of the most diverse, complex, and fascinating cities on the planet.

And there’s no better place in Los Angeles than the USC School of Architecture, alma mater of architects both legendary and overlooked—including Paul R. Williams, whose archive we now steward in partnership with the Getty Research Institute. Much of the history we teach was made in Southern California, from a rich legacy of modern architecture to the long-standing fight for social justice.

The Heritage Conservation program exposes students to the vast possibilities in the field. Taught by both academics and leading conservation professionals, the curriculum gives students broad exposure to many disciplines throughout and beyond the School of Architecture. Topics range from history, theory, and policy to materials, documentation, climate change, and site management. Students can also study subjects across the university, including real estate, regional history, urban planning, and spatial sciences. See the MHC learning objectives here.

MHC students conduct groundbreaking research that aligns with their personal passions, as illustrated in our Master Thesis Showcase and on our podcast, Save As: NextGen Heritage Conservation. We honor one outstanding thesis each year.

I'm not saying no one else out there is doing innovative work, but it does seem that if you want to use preservation or conservation as a tool for social justice or community health or climate, this might be a better place to do it. It's partly who's here, but I also think that's just our perspective. USC’s at the vanguard and has been doing this work for a while.

— Daniel Mata, MHC/MUP ‘20

The Heritage Conservation programs at USC include:

The typical MHC program spans two years, though students may apply for advanced standing. The USC Master of Heritage Conservation program is a proud member of the National Council for Preservation Education.

We invite you to learn more and contact USC/MHC Director Trudi Sandmeier for a conversation.

Related Links: LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Podcast, Thesis Showcase, USC Architecture News, USC Architecture in the News, Application Info

Check out our new podcast, which glimpses the future of heritage conservation through the work of our students.
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“Our MHC program is the only program of its kind in California. We seek to celebrate diversity in all the ways you might define it. Just as Los Angeles is a dynamic cosmopolitan urban hub, so, too, is the practice of conservation in this context.”

— Trudi Sandmeier, Director of Graduate Programs in Heritage Conservation


Completion of this degree requires 48 units and includes 26 units of specified courses, 5 units of thesis preparation and thesis, and 17 units of elective courses as approved by the program director. 


Students must have one of the following: an accredited graduate certificate in historic preservation or heritage conservation; professional degree or professional registration in architecture or engineering; graduate degree in a related field, such as architectural history, planning or history; and at least five years of teaching or practice (may be combined). Each student will be considered individually. Qualified students will be admitted to a three-semester program at the time of review of admission. Students with advanced standing must complete 36 units.

Following is the program curriculum for the 2020-2021 Academic Year. For previous years, please consult the online USC Catalogue archive.


The USC Catalogue is the document of authority for all students. The program requirements listed in the USC Catalogue supersede any information which may be contained in any bulletin of any school or department. The university reserves the right to change its policies, rules, regulations, requirements for graduation, course offerings and any other contents of this catalogue at any time.