What Careers are there in Paleontology?
We have had a post before on creating a career in paleontology which you find here. What wasn't really looked into in depth was just how many careers you can actually have, or even how many types of paleontologist you can choose to be!
There is a huge amount of career choices in paleontology, nearly infinite if you can think outside of the box! A bottom line I mentioned in the aforementioned post is that I am a true believer in creating income from your passion because you owe it to yourself. So much of our time is spent working and it is such an unhappy life if you spend 5 days a week looking forward to 2. It isn't as easy as I make it sound, no, but it is an end goal if you are willing to put the work in.
But let's say you go ahead and get yourself a general degree in geology (the scientific discipline that includes paleontology). You'll come realise pretty quick how many options there are for you and just how unspecialised a 'degree in geology/paleontology' really is! The career options out there can also offer opportunities to combine other creative outlets you might have! So, let's go over the many different ways that you can actually make money partaking in your passion in paleontology!
The first type of career in paleontology is that of a research scientist. This is the classic one to go for and requires you to find your speciality. There are plenty of niches you can find within paleontological research when you are looking for a career in paleontology, including:
This is the field in which you specialise in the study of all vertebrates throughout history, such as mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and, yes, dinosaurs.
The field of invertebrate paleontology is a slightly larger field as there are many more groups of invertebrates like arthropods (anything with limbs and a hard exterior shell, such as insects, arachnids or crustaceans), gastropods (snails), corals and many more.
Paleobotany is the study of plant-life (officially known as flora) throughout Earth's history.
This is the study of trace fossils, also known as ichnites. Ichnites are traces which the animal has left behind other than its physical body, such as footprints, feeding traces, burrowing traces and even poop!
Want to think small? Well, micro-paleontology will allow you to view life throughout out planet's history at a microscopic level, studying even the origins of life itself!
These are just some examples of research niches you can get into in a career in paleontology, but hopefully they'll get your curiosity going!
Maybe museums are more your thing? Well, as a museum curator, it would be your job to aquire, display, expand and develop a museum's collection. This career in paleontology really delves deep into interactions with the general public, educating them in a digestible and fun way about a given group. Most large museums have multiple curators in charge of certain sections, so this would be another chance to show off your speciality!
If you like the idea of educating but want to take things up a notch, you can always become a university/college lecturer. Here you will have your own subject (often several) that you can teach to prospective students who are studying paleontology. With this career in paleontology, you will also often act as supervisor to postgraduate students doing their Master's or PhDs, lending your expertise to others dreaming of the career you have.
Yes, you can even work freelance! As a consultant paleontologist, you will most often be hired by either oil companies (read more below), building companies looking for your expertise in a project, museums or universities who want some help on a field project, or even companies looking to you for expertise for a TV show or blockbuster movie! In this particular career in paleontology, the possibilities really are endless...
This role in paleontology is geared much more towards oil companies. As a paleontologist, your expertise is how and where to find fossils, which means you are potentially a great sniffer dog for oil companies looking for fossil fuels or geological occurrences indicative of valuable commodities. This can often be an unpalatable job for some, given the implications it has for global warming, which is probably why it is one of the most well paid careers in paleontology, with salaries normally being six figure sums!
Believe it or not, you would be a very sought after individual as a park ranger if you are a paleontologist. A park rangers main job job is to preserve and protect a nature reserve as well as lead the outreach and education to the general public, such as giving advice and tours. If you are a paleontologist, you have expertise in natural geography, geology, ecology, and many forms of wildlife, both past and present. This means that this career in paleontology is a role that, whilst not many think of, is almost made for a paleontologist.
This career in paleontology is a little more vague. More often than not, paleontologists have an expertise in not only life on Earth, but also in how the climate affects it. This means they have enough knowledge in Earth's climatological history to help in predicting in what the current climate is and what the future may hold. With this particular career, you will often be hired by government bodies in order to help solve problems with how the planet's climate is affecting life on Earth.
Plenty of literature is out there on paleontology and not just scientific papers. Books, magazines and news sites are out there that specialise in putting out the latest in paleontological news as well as what is going on with nature in general. A paleontologist is a prime candidate for such jobs as they already have a wealth of knowledge to draw on in order to give the news that people want to know, such as new discoveries!
Science is very technical work. Because of that, we need technicians for handling all of that complicated equipment. This kind of work will often require someone with a good amount of knowledge in the particular subject that the equipment is being used for, so as a technician, you would be responsible for sourcing, handling and maintaining all of the various equipment that is being used in paleontology, whether that's for research or education. This career in paleontology doesn't normally require any qualification higher than undergraduate either!
Got a creative side that you're worried will be put to the wayside if you're pursuing a career in paleontology? Don't worry, because you can combine both! If you're a keen artist, there is plenty of jobs in paleontology that you can have. You can work as a paleo-artist creating jaw dropping scenes for companies or for news articles reconstructing scientifically accurate animals, or you can use your knowledge in anatomy to create scientific illustrations showcasing all of the known anatomical features of an animal for scientific papers.
If you are looking for a career in paleontology and nothing above tickles your fancy, don't worry! Whilst these are the most typical jobs you'll find in this sort of sector, there are plenty more opportunities if you can think outside the box!