How to Become a Paleontologist?


Paleontology 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. Paleontology 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 paleontologists do, top courses and universities and how to become a Paleontologist.

Who is a Paleontologist?

A paleontologist studies the fossilized remnants of all different types of organisms like plants, animals and every single-celled living being. A paleontologist 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.

Skills Required

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 over 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 a right course in the field. Mentioned below is a step by step process of how you can become a paleontologist par excellence! 

Step 1 – Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

To become a paleontologist you need to obtain a proper degree. You can start by applying for a bachelor’s degree in the field biology or else geology. Most of the major science fields are also acceptable. But geology, biology, geography, and environmental sciences are the areas which 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 minor.

Undergraduate Programs

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

Step 2 – Earn a Master’s Degree

To obtain a master’s degree in paleontology, you need to enroll in a course that has specific focus on paleontology and its related aspects, including integrative biology, planetary sciences and geography as well. Even though many institutions and universities do not specifically have a paleontology 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 paleontology, 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 Conservation Master of Science in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Master of Geoscience
MSc Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation Master of Science in Integrative Biology Master of Science in Earth Sciences
Master of Science in Plant Pathology Master of Mineral Resources – Exploration Geology Structural 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 Evolution Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology and Evolution
Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Health: Biostatistics Doctor of Philosophy in Mineral Deposits and Precambrian Geology
PhD in Evolutionary Biology Geology 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 the 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 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

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. Prospective job profiles include:

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


Average salary of paleontologists can range upto INR 67,53,694 ($91,130) per annum. A paleontologist’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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