How Do You Become a Paleontologist? A specialized scientist who examines fossils is a paleontologist. Candidates with a passion for science and history and strong research abilities may find this to be a terrific job. Learning the measures you can take to get ready for this career can be helpful if you’re considering about becoming a paleontologist.
The functions of a paleontologist, their typical responsibilities and income, and the procedures you can take to enter the field are all covered in this article.
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What is a Paleontologist?
A paleontologist is a specialist in the geosciences who studies fossils to learn more about the past. Depending on their area of expertise, paleontologists may study many kinds of fossils. For instance, some experts in this area concentrate on the Mesozoic Era, which entails discovering and studying dinosaur fossils. The majority of experts in this field concentrate on a topic from one of the three main areas of paleontology:
- Paleozoology: the study of animal fossils.
- Paleobotany: the study of ancient plant life.
- Micropaleontology: the study of tiny fossils.
What Does a Paleontologist Do?
Depending on where they work, paleontologists may be assigned a variety of tasks. someone who labor mostly in the field, for instance, might spend more time gathering fossils, whereas someone who concentrate more on research can analyze artifacts and records largely in an office setting. Here are a few more examples of a paleontologist’s typical work responsibilities:
- examining fossils discovered at dig sites with laboratory tools and chemical analysis
- recognizing fossils by their morphological traits
- determining the age and applications of fossils
- attending archaeological digs to keep an eye on the fossils found
- preparing new specimens for analysis by cleaning them
- conducting independent research using databases and academic journals
- assemble exhibits for touring and museum exhibits.
- assembling summaries of the information they discover into reports to share with the public and their colleagues
Paleontology education is provided to the general public and students in seminars, college lectures, and information sessions.
Salary and Employment Prospects for Paleontologists
Although the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics offers income and job outlook data for geoscientists, which includes paleontologists, Indeed does not expressly provide wage information for paleontologists. The BLS reports that the geoscientists’ national average yearly salary is currently $83,680. The speciality, location, and years of experience of different geoscientists are only a few of the many variables that affect their pay. For instance, the highest-paid professionals in this industry can make an average of $172,490 annually.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 5% growth in geoscientist employment between 2021 and 2031. This need may be brought on by rising public interest in resource management strategies and environmental protection policies that geoscientists may contribute to and enlighten. Paleontologists may find more employment in fields that study natural resource management because they frequently engage in mining and excavation projects. More roles may become available for new applicants in the geoscience industry as geoscientists retire or change careers.
Where Do Paleontologists Work?
The majority of paleontologists work as professors in collegiate and professional geology departments. Some people hold jobs at museums. A select few work for government geological surveys, creating maps of the earth’s surface or looking into geological problems. A few aid in the search for petroleum by oil firms.
While instructing, publishing, or reviewing their findings, paleontologists spend the majority of their time in offices. However, some people carry out their studies in labs. Paleontologists perform strenuous physical labor outside in all types of weather while performing fieldwork.
How Do You Become a Paleontologist?
Following is a list of actions you can take to get ready for a career as a paleontologist:
1. Commence Planning in High School
Early career preparation for a paleontologist might begin in high school if you decide this is what you want to do when you grow up. Join classes, clubs, and extracurricular activities that emphasize history, the natural world, or physical sciences. For instance, you may enroll in AP biology or chemistry classes or join a club that discusses earth science or geology. This can help you get acquainted with the topics that interest you the most and introduce you to the subject matter that you can investigate in more depth later on in your career.
2. Complete a Bachelor’s Program
Get a bachelor’s degree so you can enroll in college when you’re ready. Most applicants choose to pursue a geology degree because paleontologists spend a lot of their time working with earthen relics, which frequently entails some type of archaeological digging. A geology bachelor’s degree can qualify you for using specialized equipment, recognizing natural substances, and doing extensive study. A minor in history or paleontology is an option for bachelor’s degree programs, which typically last four years to complete.
3. Decide on a Specialty
It can be useful to choose which subject you want to concentrate on throughout your undergraduate studies because paleontologists can specialize in investigating a variety of different historical eras and types of fossils. Your choice of extracurricular activities and potential graduate degree programs can be influenced by this. Paleoecology, paleobiology, and invertebrate paleontology are a few of the most well-liked specializations among paleontologists. Investigate many paleontology-related topics to test out various specializations before deciding which is best for you. For instance, you may find out the subjects you prefer studying by going to a history museum or listening to a lecture about fossils at a university.
4. Complete a Master’s Program
A master’s degree is the minimal educational requirement for the majority of professions in paleontology. Because of this, starting your master’s program right after receiving your bachelor’s degree can be advantageous. You can pick your graduate school major based on the speciality you want to pursue, allowing you to customize the education you receive to help you achieve your unique professional objectives.
For instance, you can think about pursuing a master’s degree in paleontology with a focus in botany if you are most interested in working with plant fossils. Geoscience is another well-liked master’s degree for prospective paleontologists since it may prepare students for working with various sediment and fossil kinds. The average length of these programs is two or three years.
5. Think About Getting a Doctorate
You can consider getting a PhD after earning your master’s degree. While a doctorate degree is normally not required for paleontologists, possessing one can help you be more competitively paid for higher-level positions. The fact that many doctorate degree programs in paleontology permit students to write for publication is another advantage of holding a degree at this level. The majority of doctoral programs in paleontology last between four and six years since they often require field work, independent research projects, and dissertation preparation.
6. Acquire Work Experience
Work in the industry while pursuing your doctorate to increase your level of competence. To get a taste of the day-to-day activities of the profession, you can look for entry-level positions helping paleontologists with their research and experimentation in labs or research institutes. You can also ask folks in your network about paleontology-related possibilities that you would be a good fit for if you meet any throughout your master’s or doctoral studies. You can think about applying for positions as a lab assistant, research associate, or paleontological technician.
7. Ascend to Higher Positions
After a few years of experience in the industry, you can begin to advance your career and aim toward being a paleontologist. whether you like your current job, find out whether there are any prospects to advance to a more senior position. Inquire about open positions in paleontology from other specialists you meet at conferences or other gatherings.
How Can I Earn a Degree in Paleontology?
Typically, a Ph.D. is required for professions in paleontology, especially in academia. Those who want to become paleontologists need to be well-versed in biology and geology. The greatest academic option is a double major with comprehensive instruction in both. Additionally crucial are computer science, statistics, calculus, statistics, chemistry, and physics. Mineralogy, stratigraphy, sedimentary petrology, vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology, ecology, evolutionary biology, and genetics are frequently included in undergraduate geology courses.
Experience in the lab and in the field is essential. Paleontologists will need to be familiar with industry norms and best practices for inspecting construction sites and recovering their finds. Look for volunteer opportunities at neighboring museums or sign up for a club focused on minerals or fossils at your school.
Common Paleontologist Skills
The most accomplished paleontologists typically possess the following abilities:
For their jobs to succeed, paleontologists need to be proficient communicators both in writing and verbally. These specialists frequently have to communicate with people in their sector and write down the results of their research. Additionally, they can be required to present their findings at conferences or other business events.
2. Critically Analyzing
Paleontologists frequently unearth prehistoric fossils and remnants that they must examine and interpret. Paleontologists must then draw conclusions from their research and convey them to other experts in the subject. This profession necessitates having the capacity to critically consider findings as well as what they might indicate.
Paleontologists frequently collaborate with other scientists or experts in the topic. Being able to get along with others and work well in a team are frequently key abilities for paleontologists to possess.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of environment do paleontologists work in?
The majority of paleontologists work both inside, in a lab or office, and outside, in the field while conducting research. Paleontologists might also go fossil hunting frequently in far-off places.
Which academic background is necessary to become a paleontologist?
The majority of paleontologists have at least a master's degree. Paleontology master's degrees may be offered by some universities, but for this field, a geology degree may be adequate. Many paleontologists also pursue a doctorate in the field, particularly those who want to teach at colleges or hold executive
What other professions are associated with paleontology?
A person can study paleontology and use their expertise in a variety of occupations. Professors, museum workers, science journalists, television researchers, and stratigraphers are a few examples of these occupations.