How to Become an Ichthyologist

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Ichthyology is a branch of zoology that focuses on the study of fish. Ichthyologists are biological scientists that specialize in the examination of a variety of different species of fish.

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What does an ichthyologist do?

Ichthyologists identify and classify many different fish species. They study the behavior and anatomy of fish and are involved in observation, handling, and breeding activities. They also study how fish interact with their habitats and with other animals. Many ichthyologists perform research activities and gather a variety of data. Some travel to many different parts of the world to gather specimens. Many ichthyologists work to establish suitable environments and habitats for many different types of fish. Others observe the population and health needs of certain fish. They help keep a stable population of specific breeds, especially ones that are endangered in the wild. Many ichthyologists specialize in a specific type of fish such as marine or freshwater species. Ichthyologists often consult with other professionals such as conservationists, wildlife management, and engineers to investigate how the possible habitat changes impact fish in certain areas. Ichthyologists work in many different environments such as museums, zoos, conservation organizations, government agencies, and universities.

What kind of training does an ichthyologist need?

Ichthyologists typically need at least a master degree in ichthyology, zoology, biology, or other related field. Many ichthyologists have a doctorate degree and extensive experience. Many universities and some museums offer programs in ichthyology. Many aspiring ichthyologists complete internships or shadow experienced ichthyologists to gain practical experience in the field. Some also gain part-time jobs as assistants. Many ichthyologists join the American Society of Ichthyologist and Herpetologists to remain competitive in the field. Ichthyologists must complete regular continuing education throughout their careers to keep their skills current and stay up to date on developments in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as an ichthyologist?

Employment of all biological scientists, including ichthyologists is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 21% from 2008 to 2018 (1). Environmental changes and increased need for studies on a variety of species of fish will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good with some competition for basic research positions. Some job openings will arise from the need to replace ichthyologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do ichthyologists make?

As of March 2010, the average annual salary for ichthyologists is $24,000; average annual ichthyologist salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as an ichthyologist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in nature and animals, and a strong passion for fish. Ichthyologists must have a solid understanding of the concepts and principles of ichthyology. Patience, determination, detail orientation, and good problem solving skills are necessary characteristics. Ichthyologists must have good communication and interpersonal skills and ability to present their research findings to a variety of people.

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