How to Become an Ichthyologist


Career Path Guide

If you want to become an ichthyologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following strikes a chord with you, then it's time to give this profession some serious thought:


A career as an ichthyologist suits those that are detail oriented, hard working, well organized, and have a genuine interest in nature and different forms of life.


Those who become ichthyologists are typically mentally and emotionally well prepared for a career involving diverse activities, ranging from hours and hours of data entry and report writing, to taking exciting trips to exotic locations in order to study fish in their natural habitat and collect biological samples.


Below, we've outlined what you'll need to begin your journey towards becoming an ichthyologist. We've also included helpful occupational information, such as a job description, list of job duties, an overview of salary expectations, a list of possible employers, and much more!



Education Needed to Become an Ichthyologist

Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree is required for most entry-level ichthyology jobs, such as laboratory assistant. Pursuing coursework in areas such as biology, chemistry and environmental science will provide you with skills, knowledge and competencies in various areas that are applicable to a career as an ichthyologist, such as the scientific method, terminology, and equipment used by ichthyologists.


Master's Degree: A master’s degree in zoology or ichthyology will allow students to pursue practical and independent research on a specific topic, thus allowing them to gain skills in a variety of areas applicable to ichthyology careers. Having a master’s degree opens up doors to work as a research assistant, junior-level researcher, earn a senior-level position with zoos, aquariums and fish management organizations, or work as an instructor for some non-tenured college and university teaching position.


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


Success Tip: Investigate university programs with reputable undergraduate science departments, in order to determine which school can provide you with the best opportunity to work in the field upon graduation, or best prepare you for graduate study. 





General Job Description

Ichthyologists study the anatomy, behaviour and environment of fish, including how they interact with other organisms. Typically, ichthyologists conduct research and prepare detailed scientific papers based on their findings, although some ichthyologists may directly apply their knowledge of ichthyology in conservation work, or for the purpose of fishery management. Their work may take place in a laboratory, office, classroom or field setting.



Typical Job Duties of Ichthyologists

• Collect and record field data

• Measure animals and obtain samples from field

• Analyze findings in laboratory

• Submit samples to inventory

• May write research proposals to secure grant funding

• May teach and mentor students

• Attend conferences and seminars to share and gather information from other scientists



Ichthyologist Salary: How Much Do Ichthyologists Make?

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


Ichthyologist 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 (which general includes ichthyologists) is $63,420 per year. The lowest 10 percent of salaries in this occupational group are less than $40,290, and the top 10 percent are more than $102,830 per year.


Salary - Canada: According to the 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans that are part of the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group (which generally includes ichthyologists), earn an average salary of $84,998. In British Columbia, WorkBC states that the annual provincial median salary is $74,277. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (October 11, 2019).





Skills Required to Become an Ichthyologist

To be effective as an ichthyologist, you’ll need a certain set of skills, knowledge and competencies in addition to a natural interest and appreciation for fish and wildlife. Some of these skills you will acquire on the job, others you will learn during your undergraduate and graduate years, and some you are born with.


Patience: Ichthyologists need to have patience in their work activities; compiling data, analyzing the data, and preparing well articulated scientific reports can take time, and be very frustrating.


Communication Skills: Being able to properly communicate findings to other professionals in the field of Ichthyology is arguably the most important task an ichthyologist has, aside from the research itself.


Organization: Sometimes the daily tasks of ichthyologists can be overwhelming; it is important to stay organized and have work prioritized.


Computer Skills: Being proficient in the use of computers is very important for ichthyologists, as they must use them for keeping track of data and communicating with other ichthyologists and professionals in their field.


Stamina: The work of ichthyologists can be very demanding, and they must be able to remain focused and have the ability to pay attention to details after working for several hours. The work of ichthyologists can also be physically demanding when they are in the field, observing fish in their natural habitat and collecting biological samples.



Getting Relevant Work Experience as a Student

As many jobs in biology, zoology and ichthyology 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.



Where Do Ichthyologists Work?

There are many organizations that are interested in employing the skills, knowledge and competencies of ichthyologists, including:


• Environmental consulting firms

• Government agencies

• Zoos and aquariums

• Fisheries

• Non-profit organizations

• Colleges and universities



Current Job Postings

Our job board below has "ichthyologist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "ichthyologist", 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 an ichthyologist.


• Occupational Profile: Biologist. (March 31, 2019). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 11, 2019.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists. (September 4, 2019). United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved October 11, 2019.

• Explore Careers: Biologists and related scientists. (December 11, 2018). United States Province of British Columbia - WorkBC. Retrieved October 11, 2019.

• Discover Fishes: Careers in Ichthyology. (August 26, 2019). Florida Museum. Retrieved October 11, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming an Ichthyologist

The scholarships in our system that are relevant for becoming an ichthyologist, 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!



Relevant Fields of Study

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


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