Entomologists delve into the insect world, examining not only their anatomy, but also behaviors and their place in society. Learn about career options, related degree programs, class topics and professional certification in entomology.
Is Entomology Right for Me?
Often categorized as a zoological science, entomology is, in broad terms, the scientific study of insects. Entomologists analyze the behavior, genetics and biology of different types of insects and arthropods. They study their ecological functions and relationships to other living creatures, including human populations. Entomologists understand how to manage pest insect populations and how insects can both benefit and harm human societies. If you're fascinated with insects and want to study their ecological and societal functions, then a career in entomology might be for you.
Entomology positions are varied and may be found within industry, government, education and nongovernmental organizations. Entomologists often work for state and federal government agencies, such as state departments of health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Forest Service. Chemical and seed, pest management and horticultural companies also hire entomologists. You could work as a consultant for agricultural nonprofit organizations, environmental consulting firms or businesses invested in sustainable agriculture. Public health agencies concerned with the spread of disease and the safety of our food supply also seek out the expertise of entomologists.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for zoologists and wildlife biologists will grow slower than the national average, at 5%, between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, a need to prevent and reverse environmental problems, such as those from pesticide use, as well as a continuing need for more specialized biological scientists in the area of zoology, will contribute to overall job growth. As of May 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual salary of zoologists and wildlife biologists was $57,710.
How Can I Become an Entomologist?
Degrees in entomology are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Entomology is typically offered through universities that also have agricultural science and zoology departments. Most entomology programs offer several specializations within the field, such as in forest, agricultural, medical or forensic entomology. In a Bachelor of Science program, you'll likely develop a strong foundation in the biological and natural sciences while taking major entomology courses in insect phylogeny, insect ecology, insect biology and the interactions of insects and society.
A master's degree program generally includes advanced courses in insect physiology, insect ecology, systematic entomology, medical entomology and pest management. You may also learn how to conduct research, analyze data and write grant proposals. Some schools offer thesis and non-thesis tracks geared for research and non-research based careers, respectively. At the doctoral level, you'll work closely with faculty members to develop an innovative research project in your specialty area. Online entomology programs, as well as undergraduate and graduate certificates, are also available.
Beyond formal education, voluntary professional certification is available through the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Certification Corporation. Certification as a Board Certified Entomologist requires a combination of educational attainment and practical experience, and the Associate Certified Entomologist credential requires a pesticide applicator license, at least seven years of work experience and a passing score on an exam (www.entocert.org). ESA also offers professional development opportunities, such as meetings, job postings and networking opportunities (www.entsoc.org).