Paleontologists examine the history of life on earth using fossils.
Paleontology, a sub-field of geoscience, is the study of the history of life on earth that is revealed by the examination of fossils. Its subdivisions include vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology, micropaleontology, paleobotany, taphonomy, biostratigraphy and paleoecology.
Geoscientists, excluding hydrologists and geographers, earned average wages of $44.57 per hour or $92,710 per year, according to a May 2009 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median wages were $39.05 per hour or $81,220 annually, and salaries ranged from $43,140 or less for the lowest-paid 10 percent to $161,260 or more for the highest-paid 10th. PayScale.com reported that, based on a survey of 47 geoscientists, updated in September 2010, salaries ranged from $49,401 to $110,571.
Many geoscientists are employed in oil and gas exploration and extraction, but the top five industries also include the state and federal governments, as well as management, scientific and technical consulting services. Those employed in geological exploration services earned $46,055 to $81,899 per year, as of September 2010, according to PayScale.com. Many paleontologists work as college and university professors in departments of geology, teaching general geological subjects as well as courses specific to paleontology.
A career in paleontology generally requires a doctoral degree, which usually takes six to eight years to obtain for graduate students who do not obtain a master of science degree first, or four to six years for those who do have their master’s, which generally takes two or three years to complete.