Becoming a Herpetologist: Requirements & Education

Find out what a herpetologist does and who she works for. Learn more about the education requirements, the necessary skills, the projected job growth, and the median income for this career path. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Herpetologists conduct scientific research on reptiles and amphibians. They are responsible for identifying the role that these species play in a given environment and for developing plans for conservation. In the table below, you'll find the education requirements, necessary skills, projected job growth, and median income for herpetologists.

Education Required Bachelor's degree required for entry-level positions; master's or Ph.D. required for scientific work
Field of Study Wildlife biology or zoology
Required Skills Emotional stamina and stability, critical thinking skills, communication skills, outdoors skills, observational skills
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 8% (for all zoologists and wildlife biologists)*
Median Income (2017) $62,290 annually (for all zoologists and wildlife biologists)*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Herpetologist Do?

Herpetologists are responsible for researching reptiles and amphibians, identifying new and invasive species, and maintaining population data. They are tasked with studying the ways in which reptiles and amphibians interact with their environments and for determining the roles they play in a given ecosystem. Herpetologists carry out scientific experiments to develop a more refined understanding of these species in terms of their physical anatomy, reproduction processes, and population cycles. They assess species and their environments by collecting samples through soil and water pH levels as well as through blood and feces testing. Herpetologists are also responsible for determining what needs to be done in order to conserve reptiles and amphibians and their environments. They also must present their research findings to others at scientific conferences.

What Type of Education Is Required to Become a Herpetologist?

Entry-level positions require that individuals hold a bachelor's degree in zoology or wildlife biology. Undergraduate-level academics for these majors include courses in ecology, biology, chemistry, conservation, statistics, and wildlife management. In order to specialize, students must also take specific herpetology courses that focus on reptiles and amphibians. Many employers require that an individual earn a master's degree or Ph.D. in herpetology in order to conduct research in the field and to ensure that their work is credible and valid. It is highly recommended that students partake in internships or volunteer work in the field of herpetology while completing their degrees in order to gain relevant work experience.

What Skills Do I Need for This Profession?

Because herpetologists may spend time traveling to conduct site research or field observations, it is essential that they have emotional stamina and stability. This type of research can call for long hours in remote locations and long periods with little human contact. While working in these elements, herpetologists must have outdoor skills in order to identify potential dangers and to traverse difficult terrain. While conducting research, herpetologists must utilize both observation skills and critical thinking skills in order to identify species and determine what type of data needs to be collected in order for an experiment to be successful. As herpetologists commonly work on conservation projects alongside other specialists and wildlife biologists, communication skills prove useful. They also must be able to effectively communicate their findings through written reports and oral presentations.

Who Employs Herpetologists?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest levels of employment for all wildlife biologists and zoologists were found in state and federal government positions. Government positions are typically founded on conservation efforts in a given environment. Colleges and universities also employ herpetologists to conduct advanced research in the field in order to develop greater scientific understandings of these species. Herpetologists that work for universities and colleges are typically required to produce written scientific findings for publication so that the research is then affiliated with the school.

How Much Do Herpetologists Make?

The BLS reports that all wildlife biologists and zoologists earned a median income of $62,290 annually as of May 2017. Between the years of 2016 and 2026, employment for wildlife biologists and zoologists is expected to grow by 8%. As the human population continues the grow and expand into new areas, the demand for further conservation efforts is projected to grow as well. Herpetologists will be tasked with conducting research on reptiles and amphibians and then developing strategies in an attempt to maintain population levels.

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