If you’re interested in herpetology, the scientific study of amphibians and reptiles, then you may be wondering how you can make working with these critters an actual full-time career. You may have even asked the very question “How do I become a herpetologist?”
In this blog, we reveal the steps needed to become a herpetologist and what animal studies online you can complete, to kick start your journey to making this dream a reality.
Whether you’re interested in frogs, lizards, crocs, turtles, snakes or salamanders, this is a field that can both excite and inspire any animal-enthusiast. It’s also a field that can be accessible to anyone with the drive to pursue advanced studies, and put in the time and investment into becoming an expert in all things amphibian and reptile.
So if you believe you have what it takes to become a herpetologist, then carry on reading and discover the path to personal and professional fulfilment!
But before we dive into the steps to securing this position, we’ll first clarify…
What is a herpetologist’s role?
As we’ve already mentioned, a herpetologist studies reptiles and amphibians, sometimes even specialising in one particular species. But in terms of their responsibilities and role on a day-to-day basis, a herpetologist may work within either an office or laboratory environment and out in the field (come rain and shine!) depending on their research focus.
Research will usually involve assessing threats of pollution, diseases and invasive species. They will estimate and track animal populations, whilst studying behaviour, genetics, development, their ecosystem and any challenges reptiles and amphibians face.
Whilst the predominant role of a herpetologist is to perform research on these creatures, they may equally find themselves involved in the professional photography of both reptiles and amphibians or the writing of specialised articles.
Likewise, herpetologists can work for the government, for museums, in colleges or in zoos too. They may be actively involved in drawing up policies and plans to protect certain species, spearhead disease and conservation programs, or conduct environmental impact studies.
Typically, a herpetologist will be expected to possess a number of professional skills. This includes organisational skills, time management, written and verbal communication skills, an eye for detail, inquisitive and analytical thinking skills and the ability to fact-check their own research.
So now you understand what a herpetologist is, the next question to address is…
How to become a herpetologist: the short answer
The concise answer to this question is that you will need to undertake higher education and training in herpetology, in order to successfully secure a career in this field.
At a minimum, you will need to complete a graduate program or a Bachelor’s degree in biology or a related subject. Herpetology is a highly specialised field, so alongside a Bachelor’s you may also need to pursue volunteering roles or an internship that focuses on developing your experience and exposure to herpetology.
Whatever Bachelor’s degree is undertaken, it’s vital that a study of animal and ecology is included within your course. This will make your application more attractive to prospective employers when you then reach the stage of applying for entry-level positions or graduate programs.
That’s the short answer, but this is a very high-level overview of the process. There are steps in between and options available for you to take, prior to enrolling on a Bachelor’s degree, to help make this journey easier for you.
Additional steps to become a herpetologist
Chances are you’re already aware that a Bachelor’s degree is no small investment; it’s not only financially expensive, but can take years and years of study to secure. Not to mention that certain positions may even require you to have completed a Master’s or obtained a PhD in a related field, to be in the running for the more competitive or highly-paid positions within this field.
Some universities may offer courses with modules specific to herpetology, and these will provide the best opportunities to gain hands-on experience. However, do be aware that any research-related positions in herpetology will indeed require a Master’s or PhD that is related to zoology or biology.
But if you’re still on the fence as to whether herpetology is right for you, and whether you are prepared to pursue this intensity of study, then there are more manageable options available.
Options that can help to confirm whether this career path is a good fit for you or not.
Consider animal studies online
A Reptile Zoology Course can be the perfect entry point, for you to qualify whether this field of study is actually as exciting or invigorating as you anticipate it to be.
Not only are animal studies online more affordable – with payment plans meaning you can access this education for as little as $20-$30 per week – your studies can also be staggered at a pace that suits your current personal or professional setup, and completed from the comfort of your own home too.
Online animal courses are truly the future of education in specialised fields of study. They offer you the ability to dip your toes in these educational waters without the hefty price tag or physical demands of commuting to a college campus.
Especially as our Reptile Zoology Course dives into the most interesting aspects of reptile and amphibian study. Not only can you learn about their biology, anatomy and physiology, general healthcare and habits, ecology and environmental needs and breeding program management, you will also be taught about captive husbandry and safe animal handling too.
A short course such as this is completed totally online, at your own pace and in your own time. This means you can take your first step into the world of herpetology without feeling pressured to make great personal sacrifices – such as resigning from your current job or neglecting other commitments.
The best Reptile Zoology courses will also ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of the essential elements of herpetology. This is so that if you do decide to then pursue a Bachelor’s in a related field, you already have a solid understanding of the foundations of this subject.
In other words, you’ll already be two steps ahead of your fellow students. Completing a short-course online will also be attractive to future potential employers, who will recognise your personal investment and proactive approach to mastering this education.
Seek experience wherever you can
As we indicated before, you’ll likely need to volunteer or complete an internship in herpetology, in order to get ahead of the competition and gain employment in this industry. Candidates who have secured experience through working for wildlife rehabilitation, not-for-profit organisations or zoos will be in a much stronger position, when it comes to submitting those initial job applications.
Consider approaching colleges, universities, research labs, museums and zoos and applying for an internship. Alternatively, you can aim to seek out a role as a research assistant or apply for a volunteering role at a national park or wildlife centre.
Top tip: Check out spca.nz for animal volunteering roles in New Zealand.
Increase your knowledge in all areas
Once again, animal behaviour courses or animal care courses – whilst not exclusively focused on reptiles and amphibians alone – can still provide more practical education and experience in this related field. For example, you will learn about common diseases and treatments, animal healthcare and behaviour, as well as environmental concerns too.
Whereas reptile and amphibian-specific courses, like our Certificate in Reptile Conversation, will introduce you to the core foundational knowledge of herpetology. Covering everything from the anatomy and physiology of reptiles and amphibians, you will also gain experience in understanding the ecology and environmental needs of these creatures – in addition to wildlife management systems, monitoring and survey systems, vegetation flora surveys and the impact of urban development.
As you can see, there’s a breadth of knowledge and experience you can be accessing in advance of or alongside your efforts to enter the field of herpetology. And you don’t need to focus solely on herpetology, biology or zoology either – developing your mathematical, scientific and writing skills will also be beneficial in the long-term too.
Other ideas to help enhance your knowledge of this field include:
- Educate yourself in physics, chemistry and calculus
- Read scientific and white papers on related subjects
- Attend herpetology or zoological events
- Join clubs or professional herpetology associations
- Follow influential herpetologists online – read their articles, blogs and papers
Top tip: the New Zealand Herpetological Society is a great resource to check out, for any budding herpetologist.
So there you have it! Our top advice on the steps of how to become a herpetologist. We hope this has offered you the clarity and confidence to decide whether a career in this field is the fit for you.
If you are interested in discovering more about our Animal & Wildlife courses, then you can find more information here. The first step into the world of herpetology is always the most exciting, and we can’t wait to support you on this journey.