Herpetologists work within the branch of zoology that studies in amphibians and reptiles. They may in a research capacity, find themselves at a zoo or aquarium, or as an educator working at a college or university. Though they study amphibians or reptiles, they may also learn other skills (such as teaching or working with laboratory equipment).
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How to Become a Herpetologist
To become a herpetologist, you would get a bachelor’s degree in a life science, such as biology or zoology. From there, you would want to take courses or gain experience to expand your knowledge of amphibians and reptiles and specialize in this particular area of zoology. While in college, it would be important to learn as much about reptiles and amphibians as possible. It’s recommended to even volunteer or intern at a location so you gain experience working with them.
Often, herpetologists may hold a master’s degree as it may be required by employers. The Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (link opens in a new tab) has even more information if you’d like to continue your research on becoming a herpetologist.
Job Description of a Herpetologist
A herpetologist job description may vary based on the industry they work in. For instance, they could work at a college or university teaching students. They could also work in an aquarium or zoo and educate the public as well as tend to the amphibians and reptiles. They may also work for the government or medical field conducting biological research.
Herpetologists could find themselves doing a variety of tasks and they may find they need to learn an additional skill for a job. For instance, if in a medical role, a herpetologist would need to use lab equipment to collect and test samples from amphibians and reptiles.
Herpetologist Career Video Transcript
Jay Bradley, General Curator at the National Aquarium: My main responsibilities are overseeing the animal collection and what animals we have here as well as oversee the animal care staff and the job that they’re doing taking care of animals. It’s probably close to 1,200 individual animals. A little over 200 different species.
CJ Weaver, Herpetologist at the National Aquarium: I pretty much maintain all the exhibits and animals within the exhibits. This entails actual feeding, feeding schedules, and noticing problems with the actual animals themselves.
Did you like playing with animals as a kid? Jay Bradley: As a kid I was always the one out there with a dip net and a bucket out on the streams in my neighborhood and going to parks and stuff and always very active outdoors and everything. But I guess I didn’t really think about working with animals as a career until probably my sophomore year in college.
Taking care of Oleander, an Albino American Alligator. CJ Weaver: We have the albino alligator on exhibit right now. She’s about 3 years old now, she’s roughly four and a half feet. Usually we stick to mice as a staple, frozen mice of course. The technical term is amelanistic. If you break that word down, the melanin is actually the dark pigment in your skin. So if you say amelanistic, it means it does not have this dark pigment. So albino alligator just means that it has none of that black pigments.
Advice for kids interested in working with animals? CJ Weaver: Get in an environment, look around at all the creepy crawlies that are underneath rocks, logs, and in the streams. You get access to as many animals as you can. I’m not saying bug your parents for a lot of animals, but volunteer at nature centers. Once you get to the right age, volunteering at places like the National Aquarium or the National Zoo.
Note: The National Aquarium is closed for renovations. The D.C. location’s animals now have new homes at the Baltimore Aquarium.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists.
National Center for O*NET Development. 19-1023.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the Public Domain and originally hosted on Kids.gov which is now USA.gov, an interagency product administered by USAGov, a division of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service.