our everyday life

How to Get a Paleontology Degree

by Sav Keo

If you are fascinated by the lives and remnants of creatures past, then paleontology may be the field for you. Paleontology is a specialized field in the area of science,and paleontology students study fossils, including human bones, that range from thousands to millions of years old. To be able to accurately gauge all the specifics that go into digging for fossils, prospective paleontologists go through specialized training to receive their degrees.

Undergraduate Biology Degree

The first step to becoming a paleontologist is to receive a strong foundation in the basic sciences. This can occur in the form of an undergraduate degree in biology, geology, chemistry or related fields. This undergraduate degree can be attained at most colleges and will give you the necessary courses to move on to the graduate phase of a paleontology degree. A bachelor's degree in one of the fundamental sciences will aid your future studies, and the more you know about what you want to do in the paleontology field, the better you'll be able to gauge which specific undergraduate degree to pursue.

Graduate Studies in Paleontology

After attaining an undergraduate science degree, a graduate program is the next necessary step towards attaining a paleontology degree. Locate the school of your choice that offers a paleontology program and research the requirements for admission. Unlike the undergraduate program -- in which you will have learned most of the concepts in lecture halls and typical classrooms -- graduate programs involve more hands-ons experience and the ability to get into the field and learn through action. A master's degree in paleontology will allow you to locate appropriate jobs in the field, but many students choose to specialize even further and pursue doctorate degrees.

Doctorate Degrees in Paleontology

Receiving a Ph.D. in paleontology not only requires study in the aforementioned bachelor's and master's programs, but also requires extensive and unique research into the field. For example, a doctoral candidate in paleontology may come up with a thesis that states that particular dinosaurs in one region only ate a certain vegetation, and these candidates will spend their doctorate programs proving that theory through field and academic research. Most professors and acclaimed paleontologists have doctorates in the field.

Jobs for a Paleontology Degree

Besides working in the field to dig up fossils, paleontologists can choose from a wide range of jobs. Those with paleontology degrees also work in museums, state and federal geological surveys, colleges and universities, and within the industry conducting original research. A job within the paleontology industry is difficult to attain as the number of jobs is limited compared to the number of people who pursue the occupation. The higher the degree attained, the better the likelihood of procuring a better job.

About the Author

Sav Keo has been a freelance writer and editor since 2009. She received her Bachelor's degree in English literature and Journalism from Georgia State University and has written for several cultural and academic publications, including "Creative Loafing" and "The Signal." Sav is an Atlanta native and when she is not taking red pen to paper, she can be found devouring zines over a pot of coffee.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images