Studies & Degrees in Paleontology

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Paleontology is mainly a scientific area of study that focuses on elements of prehistoric life. This may include a variety of courses in fossil excavation and examination, evolution, animal and mineral classifications, prehistoric animals, biology and paleobotany (the study of prehistoric plants).
Almost no other institutions, aside from accredited colleges and universities, will provide programs applicable to the field of paleontology. It is important to note that, depending on your location, it is sometimes difficult to find higher education institutions that provide courses of study specifically in paleontology. Paleontologists often acquire other related science degrees, such as earth science, geoscience or geology. The pursuit of multiple degrees is also highly popular among paleontologists.
Depending on the level of degree obtain, a student can attend a college or university for 3 to 8 years. Many bachelor or master’s programs include a fieldwork, study abroad or internship requirement.
Online courses are available for paleontology and provide degree levels similar to traditional colleges. Other paleontology classes are sometimes offered at museums, and though they provide certifications, such documentation is not always as valuable in the job market.
Skills, Qualifications and Prerequisites for Studies in Paleontology
Since paleontology studies can be pursued almost exclusively in higher education institutions, candidates must meet the admission requirements of their college or university. This usually includes some form of a secondary school completion certificate, aptitude test or other standard admissions exam. Individuals may not need such previous credentials in entering an online or museum program, though completion of secondary school is preferable.
Students seeking a career in paleontology should display an analytic thinking style and already be notably successful in the maths and sciences, as these subjects are fundamental to paleontology practices. Good candidates should also be extremely detail-oriented and capable of taking specific, relevant and research-benefiting notes – meaning some clear communication and language skills are also required. Patience is also heavily associated with paleontologists due to the often delicate and time-consuming nature of their work.
Other skills that will increase a student’s likelihood of success in paleontology studies include:
  • Fluency in a second language or multiple languages
  • Ability to cooperate and work well on a team.
  • Fluency in technology (this is of huge importance for paleontologists, who work with a variety of mapping, surveying, research, data recording and other scientific software and technology).
Skills and Qualifications Acquired from Studies in Paleontology
While many paleontologists will acquire a separate science degree, a strictly paleontologist field of study will at least cover these basic topics:
  • Animal classifications and characteristics
  • Soil and mineral classifications and characteristics
  • Prehistoric plants and animals
  • Geology or geosciences
  • Earth history
  • Identification and classification of fossils
  • Evolution
  • Biology
  • Field data, research and reporting documentation and technology
  • Various other sciences and mathematics
Most paleontologists will either earn a certification or university-level degree from their studies – and while there are some paleontology careers available to those possessing a certification or bachelor’s degree, many jobs in this field will require candidates to hold a master’s or doctorate for consideration. Graduates can generally expect employment with private or government research programs or in geological mapping and surveying projects. They can also work as professors for universities, museum curators, or company consultants.