Does prehistoric life on earth arise your curiosity? Are you interested in animal and plants that lived before us humans? If yes, then a career in paleontology could be apt for you. A paleontologist studies fossils or pre-historic traces in order to document the history of our planet. Most of us confuse paleontology with archeology, but the main difference between the two is that paleontology deals with only natural formations on the earth whereas archeology deals with man-made artifacts.
A typical work place for paleontologists include working in the petroleum industry, teaching in the geology department or working at a museum apart from doing regular field work. The petroleum industry hire micropaleontologists because they have in-depth knowledge of sedimentary rocks and fossils that interpret a recurrent pattern which can prove vital in locating natural resources like coal, oil and peat. Paleontologists through fossils can interpret data on past climates and environment which can be used to understand future climate trends and their likely effects on our world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment chances for geoscientists, which include paleontologists, is set to increase by 21% from 2010 to 2020, with a minimum salary starting at $40,000 and maximum salary to be around $160,000. Out of which, the petroleum industry is the highest paying sector where paleontologists can easily earn about $75,000 a year. However, there are many other factors like experience, education, and location that should also be taken into consideration, when looking at the salary aspect of this job.
- All figures are as of March 2013, and is in US Dollars.
- All figures are average annual salaries and may vary according to education, experience, location, and type of employer.
Salary by Experience
|Less than 1 year||$36,000 - $38,000|
|1-9 years||$40,000 - $67,000|
|10 years or more||$70,000 - $160,000|
Salary by State
- The minimum educational requirement at entry-level is a Master's degree in earth science or geology.
- Aspirants educated in other areas of science like chemistry, biology, engineering or physics should ensure that some areas of their coursework includes geology-related subjects. Topics like petrology, mineralogy, structural geology, hydrology, ecology, evolution, and paleontology are classical geology fields of study.
- Those looking for high-end research level work or professor jobs, a Ph.D. is mandatory.
- Extensive knowledge in areas of digital mapping, computer modeling, remote sensing, and data analysis is required.
- One should also have good written and oral communication skills, knowledge about few foreign languages and ability to think in a logical manner to analyze various findings can be an added advantage.
- The job of a paleontologist can be physically demanding due to extensive field work being involved.
- There are no routine working hours or working days for paleontologists as they can be employed in varied settings. They should have the ability to adapt to different situations and working conditions, as one day they may be out for field work and the next day working indoors, either lecturing on paleontology or working in museums.
- Most paleontologists in the US are employed as university or college professors in the geology department. Some work for the government doing research projects and others assist engineers in the petroleum industry to find sources of energy.
- Some specialize in the study of fossilized plants or micro-organisms and also organize scientific excursions to study fossil rock formations.
- Recover specimen of fossils and classifying them according to their likely numerical age and the rock family they belong to.
- Studying the fossilized remains discovered in geological formations and tracing their evolution and past-life development.
- Preparing dissertation based on findings for future study or to help locate natural resources like oil, water, and minerals.