To some, taxidermy may seem like a morbid field, but to others it represents the opportunity to utilize artistic talents and celebrate the memory of animals. The following sources may help you determine whether this is the career for you.
Contrary to popular belief, taxidermy is about more than just 'stuffing' dead animals for display. In the past, this may have been an accurate description of this field, but modern taxidermy services involve combining natural animal parts with artificial materials - like foam, wax and glass - to produce lifelike 3-D representations of fish, birds and other wildlife. In a way, modern taxidermy could be considered an art form.
Your local taxidermist may help hunters preserve their big catch or prize-winning buck for display in their home or office, but you can also see the work of taxidermists in public settings, such as museums or sporting goods stores. Some taxidermists start their own businesses, whereas others may work for companies, museums or governmental agencies.
Training programs are available that can teach you the art of taxidermy. This is a hands-on field that combines aspects of woodworking, molding, tanning, casting and sculpting. You might be a good candidate for a career in this field if you have natural artistic talents and a keen attention to detail.
Working with animal corpses isn't for everyone; squeamish individuals and some animal lovers may not have what it takes. However, considering that taxidermy services preserve the memory of animals, it may actually be a deep appreciation for wildlife that inspires you to pursue this field.
Working in taxidermy, you might expect to earn an annual salary between $18,268 and $59,598. At least, this was the yearly wage for most taxidermists, as reported by PayScale.com in March 2014.
Several community colleges offer taxidermy programs. Most require one year of study to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. Some programs offer weekend or evening classes. Additionally, online taxidermy programs may be available from some commercial companies.
Some schools also offer taxidermy certificate programs specific to a certain type of wildlife. For example, you may be able to earn a certificate in fish, mammal or bird taxidermy in a single semester or summer session.
In a taxidermy program, you'll learn how to preserve and mount fish, birds, deer and other animals using various tools and techniques. You may also learn how to make your own specialized tools and recreate animal habitats. Specific topics of study can include tanning, capping and fleshing, specimen selection, form and armature construction, painting and finishing, sculptural techniques and casting. Such a program also often involves the study of federal and state game laws and small business operations.