How to Become a Herpetologist

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Herpetology is a branch of zoology that focuses on the study of reptiles and amphibians. A herpetologist is a biological scientist that specializes in the study of a variety of reptiles, amphibians, turtles, and crocodilians.

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What does a herpetologist do?

Herpetologists focus on the study and examination of a variety of reptile and amphibian species. They identify and classify species and study how they interact with their environment and other animals. They spend a great deal of time researching the ecology, physiology, ethobiology, paleontology, and biogeography aspects of many different species. They also help other professionals and organizations understand the effect of venoms and toxins of a variety of species. Herpetologists assist in the conservation of species. Some herpetologists focus solely on research and they publish their findings in scientific journals. Others work for zoos, museums, universities, and wildlife agencies. Some also work as animal breeders.

What kind of training does a herpetologist need?

Herpetologists typically need at least a bachelor degree in zoology with specialization in herpetology. A few colleges and universities have herpetology programs. Some herpetologists have postsecondary training in wildlife biology or other related field. Many aspiring herpetologists complete internships and volunteer experiences or obtain part-time jobs at zoos or natural history museums to gain practical experience and establish valuable contacts. Some herpetologists have doctoral degree in zoology and complete a significant amount of fieldwork. Many herpetologists join herpetology organizations such as the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetologists must complete continuing education on a regular basis throughout their careers to keep their skills current and stay up to date with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a herpetologist?

Employment of all biological scientists, including herpetologists is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 21% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The increase in the biotechnology field and growth of the herpetology field will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be great with some competition for research positions. Herpetologists with extensive experience will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will stem from the need to replace herpetologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do herpetologists make?

As of March 2010, the average annual salary for herpetologists is $45,000; average annual herpetologist salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a herpetologist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in working with a variety of amphibians and reptiles. Herpetologists must have a solid understanding of the concepts and practices of herpetology and be familiar with a variety of species. Patience, detail orientation, critical thinking, and good problem solving skills are necessary traits. Herpetologists must have good communication and be able to work independently as well as part of a team. They must be able to work flexible hours in sometimes less desirable conditions.

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