How to Become a Paleontologist?

6 minute read

Palaeontology in simple terms is the scientific study of life dating back to the beginning of the Holocene Epoch, 11,000 years ago, from the present age. It encompasses the examination of fossils to categorize organisms as well as investigate their interactions within the environment. Paleontological examinations can be traced back almost to the 5th century BC. Palaeontology employs methods and techniques borrowed from different scientific fields which include mathematics, biochemistry as well as engineering. Want to pursue your career in Paleontology? Check out this blog to know all about what palaeontologists do, top courses and universities and how to become a Paleontologist.

What is a Paleontologist?

A palaeontologist is a scientist who studies the history of life on Earth by analyzing fossilized remnants of all different types of organisms like plants, animals and every single-celled living being. A palaeontologist is highly interested in understanding the historical past of organic life on this planet. A Paleontologist studies the interactions and relationships within the extinct plants and animals with their relatives living in the present age. They examine the intricacies of fossils, applying each of them together, to unravel different layers of history that engendered life on earth. While attempting to investigate the events of the past that led to the extinction, they try to employ their scientific deductions to the events of extinction happening today.

What Does a Paleontologist Do?

It is true that you need a degree to become a Paleontologist but alongside you need to inhabit skills to correspond to the requirements of the domain. For instance, you need to develop data analysis skills to make precise conclusions about your scientific findings in the field. Take a look, you may want to add them to your list.

  • An extraordinary knowledge of mathematics to so that making data analysis is not a problem..
  • Knowledge of Geography for accurate mapping.
  • Analytical skills to critically examine the evidence.
  • Excellent written as well as verbal skills to communicate your research findings, conclusion in a proper manner.
  • Proficiency in science to conduct scientific research of objects.
  • Well versed in the domain of physics.
  • Excellent hold over chemistry so as to safely use and dispose of chemicals to reduce any potential risks.
  • Fluency in use of computer technology and various softwares relevant to the field.

How to Become a Paleontologist?

Apart from having a good grip on your maths and physics, you also need to take up science as a subject in your graduation course. You would need to select a good college offering you the right course in the field. Mentioned below is a step by step process of how you can become a palaeontologist par excellence! 

Step 1 – Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

To become a palaeontologist you need to obtain a proper degree. You can start by applying for a bachelor’s degree in the field of biology or else geology. Most of the major science fields are also acceptable. But geology, biology, geography, and environmental sciences are the areas that are of the core focus to the Paleontologist. It is of high significance to have a vigorous knowledge and background of science so as to be able to grasp the fundamentals of geology and biology. Mostly, a Paleontologist has to obtain a double-major in both geology and biology. Another alternative to this is to major in one subject and take the other as a minor.

Undergraduate Programs

Bachelor of Science (Animal Biology)BSc (Hons) Environmental BiologyBachelor of Science in Geophysics
Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyBachelor of Science in Biology – Ecology and Organismal BiologyBSc Environmental Geology and Chemistry
Bachelor of Science in Plant SciencesBSc (Hons) Exploration GeologyBachelor of Science in Earth Sciences

Step 2 – Earn a Master’s Degree

To obtain a master’s degree in palaeontology, you need to enrol in a course that has a specific focus on palaeontology and its related aspects, including integrative biology, planetary sciences and geography as well. Even though many institutions and universities do not specifically have a palaeontology department of their own, in such a case to receive your degree you have to join courses involving various sciences. These degrees incorporate subjects from vertebrate and invertebrate palaeontology, structural geology, mineral sciences and evolutionary paleo-biology. 

A postgraduate degree can open new gateways for you to earn a doctoral degree and build on your research skills. 

Postgraduate Programs

MSc Applied Ecology and ConservationMaster of Science in Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyMaster of Geoscience
MSc Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and ConservationMaster of Science in Integrative BiologyMaster of Science in Earth Sciences
Master of Science in Plant PathologyMaster of Mineral Resources – Exploration GeologyStructural Geology with Geophysics MSc

Opt for a Doctorate Course

Below are some of the popular research-related courses in Paleontology.

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology – Bioinformatics, Systematics and EvolutionDoctor of Philosophy in Ecology and Evolution
Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Health: BiostatisticsDoctor of Philosophy in Mineral Deposits and Precambrian Geology
PhD in Evolutionary BiologyGeology PhD/MPhil – Palaeobiology, Palaeoenvironments and Palaeoclimates

Eligibility Criteria

One of the paramount steps before applying into a Paleontology program is to secure full information about the requirements to get entry into the degree.

  • Applying for a bachelor’s degree in Paleontology requires you to have a science background with physics, chemistry and biology.
  • Entry requirements into paleontology mostly require you to have a postgraduate degree in geology or earth science if you’re applying for a PhD. 
  • If you’re applying abroad you have to take an English proficiency language test, like IELTS or TOEFL.

Step 4 – Join Internship Programs 

To prepare for a career in Paleontology you can join mentorship and training programs. During these programs, you are often offered stipends so that you can easily meet your professional requirements. It also allows you to meet and learn from experts in the field. You can find internship opportunities in a museum helping curate and research about objects. Additionally, you can explore opportunities to assist a Researcher in conducting scientific analysis and experimentation. This will allow you to gain hands-on experience to boost your future career opportunities. 

After finally settling for a suitable course, it is time to look for a university that matches your expectations. Choose from some of the reputed institutions enlisted below:

Institutions Offering Paleontologist Courses in India

  • Jadavpur University
  • Presidency University
  • Delhi University
  • IISER Kolkata
  • Banaras Hindu University

What subjects do you need to study to become a paleontologist?

Here are some subjects you need to study to become a palaeontologist:

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Geology
  • Biology

Paleontologist Jobs

Since this is an integrative field, incorporating different subjects from biology to geology, there is no paucity for a student to find a job towards moving up the career ladder in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of geoscientists is projected to grow at 6% between now and 2028. Prospective job profiles include:

  • Research Specialist
  • Museum Research and Collections Manager
  • Museum Curator
  • Prospector
  • Paleontology Principal Investigator
  • Paleontological Field Technician

Paleontologist Salary

The average salary of palaeontologists can range up to INR 67,53,694 ($91,130) per annum. A palaeontologist’s salary varies. It depends on his skill set and research abilities. 

Famous Paleontologists

  • William Buckland 
  • Stephen Jay Gould 
  • John Ostrom 
  • Alan Walker
  • Henry Fairfield Osborn
  • James Hall
  • Benjamin Franklin Mudge 
  • Mary Anning
  • Charles Darwin

We hope this blog has answered all your questions pertaining to paleontology and how to become a Paleontologist. Still confused about the right course to choose? Reach out to our experts at Leverage Edu to help you find the right course that aligns with your interests and future goals. Book your free session with us today!

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