How to Become an Ornithologist

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Ornithology is a branch of zoology that focuses on the study of birds. Ornithologists are biological scientists that are experts on a variety of species of birds.


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What does an ornithologist do?

Ornithologists specialize in identifying and classifying many different bird species. They study the biology, physiology, behavior, ecology, and environment of birds. Some focus their studies on the instinct and learning abilities of specific species and others are concerned with conservation and ecosystem development. Many ornithologists use mass spectroscopy to determine where migratory birds originate. Some ornithologists travel to a variety of different locations to conduct studies on many different types of birds that are unique to specific areas. Many ornithologists work with other professionals and incorporate their studies into other disciplines. Ornithologists often work at zoos, universities, laboratories, scientific preserves, and research facilities.

What kind of training does an ornithologist need?

Ornithologists typically need at least a bachelor degree in ornithology, zoology, or other related field. Many ornithologists have a master or doctoral degree. Prospective ornithologists typically complete courses in wildlife biology, ecology, anatomy, evolution, and statistics. Many ornithologists complete internships or obtain part-time jobs as assistants at zoos, museums, or other facilities to gain practical experience in the field. Many ornithologists join professional organizations such as the Wilson Ornithological Society or the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) to remain competitive in the field. Ornithologists often complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers to keep their skills up to date and keep up to date with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as an ornithologist?

Employment of all biological scientists, including ornithologists is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 21% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The increased demand for the study of a variety of birds will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be great with some competition for research positions. Ornithologists with advanced training and extensive experience will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will stem from the need to replace ornithologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do ornithologists make?

As of March 2010, the average annual salary for ornithologists is $44,000; average annual ornithologist salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as an ornithologist is a great choice for people with a strong interest in many different types of birds. Ornithologists must have a solid understanding of the concepts and policies of ornithology. They must also have mathematical aptitude and thorough knowledge of scientific methods of observation. Patience, detail orientation, analytical thinking, and good problem solving skills are necessary traits. Ornithologists must have good communication and interpersonal skills and ability to interact with a variety of professionals. Ornithologists must be able to regularly work outdoors and in sometimes less desirable weather conditions. They must also be able to effectively work independently as well as part of a team.

Joshua T Osborne

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