Paleontologists are geoscientists who study the fossils of ancient life-forms, including human life, found in sedimentary rocks on or within the earth's crust. Paleontological analyses range from the description of large, easily visible features to biochemical analysis of incompletely fossilized tissue. The observations are used to infer relationships between past and present groups of organisms (taxonomy), to investigate the origins of life, and to investigate the ecology of the past (paleoecology) from which implications for the sustainability of life under present ecological conditions can be drawn. Paleontology is usually considered a subspecialty of the larger field of geology. There are approximately 3,000 paleontologists in the United States.

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Quick Facts
Alternate Title(s) None
Duties Analyze, identify, and measure fossils; publish research papers; raise grant funding; conduct fieldwork in possibly remote areas; teach paleontology to college students
Salary Range $25,000 to $100,000+
Work Environment Indoors/Outdoors
Best Geographical Location(s) Opportunities exist in all regions with higher demand in cities with museums and universities
Minimum Education Level
  • Doctorate
School Subjects
  • Biology
  • Earth Science
  • Mathematics
Experience Internship; fieldwork
Personality Traits
  • Curious
  • Problem-Solving
  • Scientific
  • Organizational
  • Research
  • Scientific
Certification or Licensing None
Special Requirements None
Employment Prospects Good
Advancement Prospects Fair
Outlook Faster than the Average
Career Ladder
  • Tenured Professor of Paleontology
  • Associate or Assistant Professor of Paleontology
  • Paleontologist
  • Research Assistant of Paleontology

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