Unfortunately, heraldry is not a subject that is widely (or even narrowly) taught in our schools or other institutions of learning. As such, getting a diploma in say, “Heraldic Studies” is out of the question.
However, there are options for those of us who enjoy heraldry and what to achieve some sort of validation of the knowledge attained.
Many of the heraldic societies around the world have developed curricula upon which various levels of heraldic proficiency are established through examinations or through a written dissertation.
The most popular heraldic proficiency exams out there are those conducted by the Heraldry Society, the Royal Heraldic Society of Canada and, finally, the International Association of Amateur Heralds.
The two first offer 3 levels in their education programs: Basic and Intermediate. These two levels can be attained through written examinations supervised by a qualified invigilator of your choice, approved by the society. The basic examination is truly basic however, the intermediate one is particularly tricky.
The third level, in both societies, is only attained through the submission of an original heraldic research paper of a certain length. You should look at this as a doctoral dissertation that must be submitted to and defended before a committee. Those who successfully complete this have the right to use post-nominals indicating this status.
When it comes to the International Association of Amateur Heralds (IAAH), there are only two levels.
The first level is the “Associate Fellow” which can be achieved via the successful completion of a basic examination. What is interesting about the basic exam of the IAAH is that it is self regulated. In other words, nobody need supervise you taking the test. It works on the honor system and the trust on those taking the test.
The second level is the “Fellow” and it can only come after the nomination of another Fellow and is then elected by the board.
The American Heraldry Society has been discussing the creation of a heraldic examination program for their members for quite a while. However, they are still in the initial discovery phase of the effort.
Outside of the examinations of heraldic societies, one may study medieval or renaissance history, history of art or even medieval literature. Those are the traditional subject matters studied at university when delving into the world of heraldry.
Links to the societies mentioned:
- The Heraldry Society
- The Royal Heraldic Society of Canada
- International Association of Amateur Heralds
- The American Heraldry Society