How to Become a Herpetologist

Career Path Guide

If you want to become a herpetologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for this profession:


Herpetologists must be strong in academics and emotionally stable, as this is required to complete all of the necessary education and find a suitable job. They must also have a very strong desire to study reptiles and amphibians, and be able to prepare articulate reports based on their methods and their findings.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a herpetologist. We've also included helpful occupational information, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Herpetologist

Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree is required for most entry-level herpetologist jobs, such as laboratory assistant. Ideally, candidates should have a degree in a field that provides students with a solid foundation in biology, specifically as it related to animals and ecology (as finding an undergraduate degree in ‘herpetology’ is rare), as well as coursework in ‘herpetology’ or ‘biology of amphibians and reptiles’.


Master's Degree: Completing a master’s degree related to herpetology is a great way to open doors for your career. Having a master’s degree opens up doors to work as a research assistant, junior-level researcher, or earn a senior-level position with zoos, museums and wildlife management organizations. Also, some non-tenured teaching positions require only a master's degree.


Doctoral Degree: Having a Ph.D. in a relevant field typically qualifies someone for the same positions as a master’s degree, as well as teaching and primary research positions in herpetology. It may also qualify them for a higher level of pay than candidates with a master’s degree.


Success Tip: Research successful herpetology graduate programs, such as those with a large faculty involved in herpetology, as well as a high number of successful graduates in the field. 





General Job Description

Herpetologists collect and analyze data to study the origins, behaviours, genetics, diseases and life processes of reptiles and amphibians. Their knowledge may be applied to various areas, such as caring for zoo animals, determining the effect of human activity on the habitat of animals, and developing cures and treatments for health conditions and diseases. 



Typical Job Duties

• Collect and analyze animal specimens

• Take inventory of animal population levels

• Ensure that research activities comply with environmental laws and regulations

• Study animals in their natural habitats

• Assess the effects of environment and industry on animal habitats

• Form recommendations for alternative operational procedures for industry based on interpretation of findings

• Present information by writing reports, scientific papers or journal articles, and by giving talks for schools, clubs, interest groups and park interpretive programs

• Classify animals by analyzing their characteristics

• Prepare preserved specimens or microscopic slides for studying the development and progression of disease

• Make recommendations on management systems and planning for wildlife populations and habit



How Much Do Herpetologists Make?

The salary level of herpetologists can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, and many others.


Herpetologist Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for workers in the Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists occupational group is $63,420 per year (May, 2018 data)


Salary - Canada: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans that are part of the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group (which includes "herpetologists") earn an average salary of $84,998 per year. According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those working in that same occupational field in B.C. earn an annual provincial median salary of $74,277. 





Getting Relevant Work Experience as a Student

As many jobs in biology, zoology and herpetology are highly competitive, it is extremely important to acquire practical experience during your undergraduate and graduate years.


Most university departments offer a number of summer job opportunities for research assistants. There may also be similar openings for summer students in government agencies and private industry. Be sure to ask your school’s career resources counselor to give you information about any such opportunities.


These opportunities not only provide you with valuable work experience, they allow you to network and get your foot in the door with an organization in your field. This will be extremely useful when you apply for graduate school or a permanent job.



Who Employs Herpetologists? Where Do They Work?

Below is a list of common employer types for herpetologists:


• Provincial/state and federal governments

• Environmental consulting firms

• Large resource-based corporations such as pulp and paper producers, oil and gas companies and mining companies

• Non-profit organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Alberta Conservation Association, Trout Unlimited or Wildlife Habitat Canada

• Zoos, aquariums and nature centres

• Colleges and universities

• Herpetologists may also find work as specialized writers and photographers



Herpetologist Job - Current Opportunities

What all of herpetology jobs have in common is training in a biological field; herpetological emphasis is put there by the worker or by the project!


For example, a medical researcher with training in hematology might study blood of reptiles and amphibians (if they have an interest in herpetology). It is rare to find a job that considers someone to be a herpetologist first, they are typically specialists in other fields.




Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "herpetologist", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.




Wildlife Biologist






Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a herpetologist.


Occupations in Alberta:Biologist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved December 20, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved December 20, 2019.

Explore Careers:Biologists and related scientists.” Anna Tims (December 11, 2018). The Guardian website. Retrieved December 20, 2019.

All About Herps:How to be a Herpetologist.” (November, 2019) Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles website. Retrieved December 20, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Herpetologist

Scholarships in our system that are relevant for becoming a Herpetologist are all of those that can be found on our Biology Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for working in this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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