Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians. If you love turtles, crocodiles, snakes, salamanders, frogs, and everything else, you might love a career as a herpetologist. Herpetologists study reptiles and amphibians and how they interact with the local ecosystem.
They spend much of their time in a laboratory conducting research. There is usually a specific topic that they are interested in, whether it is anatomy, ecology, population biology, reproduction, immunology, genetics, or any other topic. Herpetologists need a doctorate degree to proceed in this field.
Why Become A Herpetologist
It is important to realize that herpetologists are, first and foremost, biologists. Herpetology is a sub-field of biology. Those who choose to go into this field have been trained in anatomy, genetics, ecology, behavior, and other fields. Those who are herpetologists are often hired for their expertise in biology first, and then their secondary knowledge of reptiles and amphibians.
The world has recently begun to take more of an interest in reptiles and amphibians. For example, national and state parks have traditionally focused their attention on the care of big game animals, but recently have sought out experts to protect other smaller, non-game species. Conservationists use reptiles and amphibians as indicators to study local habitats. Herpetologists will be needed for their expertise in the field.
A herpetologist develops studies involving reptiles and amphibians. They spend much of their time in a laboratory setting, conducting research with a variety of equipment. They collect data, analyze it and summarize their findings. Depending on what line of work they are doing, they may spend time out in the field, directly studying species. They may monitor certain species and track them for future data collections.
Every scientist has a specific topic that they work on. A herpetologist might study the effects that climate change has had on a certain species, the reproductive behaviors of a lizard species, the feeding habits of a species of snake, or many other kinds of topics. They write research papers and publicize their findings. They often speak at conferences about what they have discovered.
Herpetologists should possess the following qualities and skills:
Herpetologist Work Environment
Herpetologists spend much of their time doing research. This is conducted in a laboratory environment, usually in a setting such as a research university. Herpetologists collect data, analyze it, and work to get their research published.
Herpetologists usually have a special interest or topic that they are studying, whether it is reproduction, physiology, genetics, anatomy, or any other topic. This work may require scientists to spend time conducting field work, where they observe or collect organisms. Herpetologists tend to work independently, researching species or working in the field.
The median annual salary for wildlife biologists was $60,000 in 2016, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. This category also includes herpetologists.
The salary for herpetologists can vary widely. Those who are employed by federal or state governments will likely earn the best salaries. Government workers earned $75,000 on average in 2016. On the other end of the spectrum, those employed by universities tend to make the least in their field. $52,000 was the median salary for biologists employed by colleges and universities in 2016.
Those with additional experience and education may be able to earn higher wages.
Herpetologist Career Outlook
Employment for herpetologists is expected to grow by about 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is slower than many other occupations in the United States.
The world definitely needs scientists. The problem is that many realms of the science world are incredibly specific, and there is not enough of a demand for certain positions. While you may have a passion for amphibians, there are not many positions at universities or in the government for this type of career.
Those who are interested will face competition applying for jobs available. Those candidates who have the most experience and education will have the best chance at being offered a job opportunity.
To learn more about becoming a herpetologist, read below about this profession.
Step 1: Undergraduate degree. A person looking to begin a career in this field first needs a bachelor’s degree. There are courses where people can specialize on reptile and amphibian behaviors. Programs that are good choices include biology, wildlife biology, zoology, ecology, or another closely related program.
During this time, students will take courses in math and science, and learn more about this field. It takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Step 2: Graduate degree. It is quite difficult to find a job opportunity as a herpetologist with simply an undergraduate degree. Job candidates will be much more likely to be successful if they have a graduate degree, such as a doctorate. Doctorate programs in biology or wildlife biology will offer advanced coursework.
Graduate students perform research, work in the field and in the laboratory, studying a specific topic of interest. They learn to use geographic information systems (GIS), modeling software and computers to help them in their line of work.
A person interested in a profession as a herpetologist should enroll in a doctorate program in biology or wildlife biology. Below are some examples of classes that you will take in such programs.
Wildlife Genetics: In this class students will learn how genetic methods are used within the constructs of wildlife biology.
Plants and Ecosystems: Students will learn about the habitats that animals live in. They will learn about how animals interact with their surrounding ecosystem.
Field and Laboratory Methods: Students will participate in field-based research and learn the appropriate methods for conducting research in the field and working inside of a laboratory.
Herpetologist Career Path
Biology Lab Assistant
A biology lab assistant helps inside of a laboratory environment.
They help with conducting research, they prepare samples, they set up equipment, they prepare solutions and more.
This is a great entry-level position to exploring biology and seeing what a laboratory environment is like.
Related Herpetologist Careers
If herpetology sounds like an interesting career field to you, you may also be interested in other fields. Here are some career choices that are related to this profession.
Zoologist: A zoologist is a scientist that studies animals and their habitats. They study animals and animal behaviors.
Environmental Scientist: An environmental scientist studies the environment. They study the habitat and the impact that humans have on it. They come up with solutions to protect the environment.
Veterinarian: Veterinarians provide care for sick and injured animals. They diagnose and treat a variety of animals. They perform routine checkups, give surgeries, and have other responsibilities.