Paleontologists study past animal and plant life.
Paleontologists are geo-scientists who study fossils found in geological formations. Their work leads to better understanding of the evolution of animal and plant life and the geologic history of the planet. Paleontologists work in several museum fields as curators, collections managers, lab technicians and fossil preparators. They also work as college and university professors, for government agencies and for major oil and gas companies.
College and University Jobs
The majority of paleontologists are employed as college and university professors, according to the Paleontology Research Institution. Professors of paleontology may teach courses on historical geology, evolution, fossil records, and vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology. Some classes may require lab work. Paleontology professors may also do fieldwork and research in their area of expertise. A Ph.D. is usually required to teach at the college and university level. Colleges and universities that offer a paleontology degree and employment for paleontology professors include Northern Arizona University, Yale University, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of Kansas.
Paleontologists can find work at museums that include the study of geo-sciences. You might find a job as a museum director, curator, educator, consultant or fossil preparator. A Ph.D. in paleontology is often required. Museums such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines employ paleontologists. Some colleges and universities with paleontology degrees have on-site museums, such as the Mesalands Community College in New Mexico, the University of Utah and the South Dakota School of Mines.
Paleontologists may find work with government agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey. Government work may involve doing state or federal mapping and surveys. As geo-scientists, paleontology graduates may also work on governmental policies for energy resource expansion. Geo Corps America offers paid short-term positions to geo-scientists, including paleontologists. The program is sponsored by the Geological Society of America, which partners with the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.
Oil and Gas Companies
A number of energy companies recruit geo-science majors. Some graduates work for gas and oil extraction companies, looking for new resources. Workers with this degree discover new resources by determining the earth’s subsurface constraints. Employee team work may include creating geological models of the earth’s subsurface, planning the trajectory and location of development wells and finding ways to access reserves, according to the Shell website. Teams may also create reservoir property definitions. In recent years, however, energy companies have employed fewer paleontologists.