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Palaeontologists study the fossils of plants and animals.

Salary range: £20,000 to £60,000

How to become a palaeontologist

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course


You could do a degree in:

  • botany
  • Earth sciences
  • geology
  • palaeontology
  • zoology

Some employers, like museums or oil and gas companies, may ask for a postgraduate qualification like a MGeol, MBiol or MSci.

Other employers, like universities or research institutions, will expect you to have completed, or be working towards, a PhD in your specialist area of interest.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including a science, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More information

More information

Career tips

You may find it helpful if you can speak a second language because you’ll often be working with colleagues from around the world.

Further information

You’ll find more on palaeontology training through The Palaeontological Association.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of geography
  • analytical thinking skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • science skills
  • excellent written communication skills
  • knowledge of physics
  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • collecting data and samples on field trips
  • managing volunteers on field trips
  • examining and testing samples in the lab
  • doing research and publishing your findings
  • planning and delivering lectures developing courses and workshops
  • recording and classifying samples and collections
  • giving talks and managing displays and exhibitions
  • writing articles for scientific websites and magazines
  • providing expert advice for broadcasters on programmes

Working environment

You could work in an office, in a museum, at a university or in a laboratory.

Your working environment may be physically demanding and you may spend nights away from home.

Career path and progression

You could work as a geological surveyor, a consultant in mining and mineral exploration, or the oil and gas industry. 

You could move into university teaching and research.

The skills you gain are also valued in the scientific media, TV and the financial sector.

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