Pursuing a career in paleontology introduces you to a field of science that deals with the fossils of long-deceased animals and plants that lived up to billions of years ago. This area of study uses science and research to look into the natural world as well as utilise fossils to learn more about the past. Pursuing a career in paleontology can be a good fit if you are fascinated about fossils and geological history. 


A paleontologist is a scientist who studies prehistoric life, primarily through the analysis of fossils. This branch of science integrates fields of science such as biology, geology, and archaeology. It uses these fields  to discover and comprehend the history of life on Earth. Additionally, they study animals that lived in the past, ranging from small bacteria to the largest dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals. A career in paleontology is a rewarding field that offers various job opportunities. 


In this piece, I will walk you through the steps needed to pursue a career in paleontology. Additionally, I will discuss the various fields of specialisation in paleontology. 


How to Become a Paleontologist

  1. Obtain a Bachelor’s degree

    This is the first step to take when pursuing a career in paleontology. You can obtain a bachelor’s degree in paleontology to gain the required knowledge needed to work in this field. Additionally, you can also obtain a bachelor’s degree in disciplines such as geology and biology. This degree will provide you with a strong foundation and basic sciences. Additionally, it will enable you to gain knowledge that will be relevant for you in graduate school.

  2. Gain Practical Experience

    You can gain practical experience through internships. These internships can give you the opportunity to have valuable hands-on experience in this field. Additionally, you will be exposed to the practical aspects of the theoretical knowledge that you gained in school. You can gain experience in places such as laboratories, museums, working on excavations and collecting samples.

  3. Pursue a Master’s Degree

    A master’s degree is important when pursuing a career in paleontology. This degree will give you advanced knowledge in paleontology and give you a deeper understanding of this field. Additionally, a master’s degree will allow you to select an area of specialisation and gain knowledge in it. You can obtain a master’s degree in paleontology or a related field. 

  4. Gain Fieldwork Experience

    This experience is a vital part of your pursuit in becoming a paleontologist. You can gain this experience through means such as internships, field schools, and working on excavations. Additionally, you can also apply for volunteer or entry-level roles in academia or a museum curation.

  5. Obtain a Doctorate Degree

    A doctorate degree is required mostly if you are interested in research or teaching positions at universities. However, other areas of specialisations can also obtain a doctorate degree. This degree will offer highly advanced knowledge in paleontology. Additionally, it can enable you to have high earning potentials as well as leadership positions in research. 

  6. Publish Research

    You need to frequently  make research and publish your findings as a paleontologist. This is a highly important step to take in advancing your career. This will demonstrate your expertise in the field. Additionally, it will contribute to the body of knowledge in the discipline. Therefore, you should publish your research in a peer-reviewed journal.

  7. Build Professional Networks

    You need to build a professional network to be efficient in this career. You can do this by joining professional associations and attending conferences. This can enable you to have access to collaboration, knowledge and growth opportunities. Additionally, it can give you access to mentors and peers in this career which can be valuable to your career growth.


Skills Necessary for Paleontolgist

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Research skills
  3. Leadership skills
  4. Technological proficiency


Resources that can add to your Growth as a Paleontologist

  1. Scientific Literature
  2. Scientific Journals
  3. Online Resources
  4. Fossil Databases
  5. Conferences
  6. Museums


Areas of Specialisations in Paleontology

  1. Vertebrate Paleontology

    Experts in this field study the fossilised remains of backboned creatures such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They investigate fossils discovered in the field as well as those found in museums and other collections.

  2. Paleobotanists

    These experts investigate plant fossils, which can range from small pollen grains to enormous trees. Additionally, they employ a range of methods, such as chemical analysis and thin sectioning, to ascertain the traits and environment of extinct plants.

  3. Taphonomists

    These specialists investigate the mechanisms by which living things turn into fossils as well as the variables that affect this process. Additionally, they look at the physical and chemical processes that lead to the development of fossils.

  4. Invertebrate Paleontology

    These scientists research the fossils of extinct animals such as mollusks, arthropods, and echinoderms that lack backbones. Additionally, they utilise a range of techniques such as scanning electron, microscopy and X-ray.

  5. Paleobiologists

    These experts study the fossil record to learn about the evolution of life on Earth. They may employ a range of approaches, such as phylogenetic analysis and molecular biology, to recreate the evolutionary history of species.

  6. Micropaleontologists

    These specialists research the fossils of microorganisms such as foraminifera, diatoms, and radiolarians. 


Places to Work as a Paleontologist

  1. Universities
  2. Museums
  3. Government agencies
  4. Research facilities


Universities in Africa that Offer Paleontology or Geology

    1. Cairo University, Egypt
    2. University of Lagos, Nigeria
    3. Ain Shams University, Egypt
    4. University of Johannesburg, South Africa
    5. Alexandria University, Egypt
    6. University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
    7. Mansoura University, Egypt
    8. University of Cape Town, South Africa
    9. Assiut University, Egypt
    10. University of Sfax, Tunisia
    11. Tanta University, Egypt
    12. University of Nigeria, Nigeria
    13. Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria
    14. University of Ibadan, Nigeria
    15. Assiut University, Egypt
    16. Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
    17. Tunis University, Tunisia
    18. University of Pretoria, South Africa
    19. Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
    20. University of Ilorin, Nigeria
    21. Cadi Ayyad University, Morocco
    22. Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
    23. University of Ghana, Ghana
    24. University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
    25. Jimma University, Ethiopia
    26. University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
    27. University of the Western Cape, South Africa
    28. Makerere University, Uganda
    29. University of Nairobi, Kenya
    30. University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe


In Conclusion, pursuing a career in paleontology is one of the fascinating careers to break into. However, it demands a high level of dedication, education as well as expertise. Therefore, you should spent time in getting familiarised with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in this career before you begin your career journey.


Good luck!

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