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Paleontology Degree: What to expect?

Dinosaurs last roamed the earth about 250 million years ago, but for some people, the obsession with these creatures is still going strong. If you know what the defense mechanisms of the Triceratops were, how fast the T-Rex ran, or what color the Apatosaurus was, then a paleontology job might be a perfect fit for you.
Paleontologists discover and study the history of life on earth. More than just learning about dinosaurs, they look at things like fossils of plants, animals, and sea life; examine old ecosystems; and try to answer questions about evolution.


In order to spend your days piecing together old bones or creating museum exhibits from frozen fossils, you’ll need a degree. Getting into a paleontology career requires a bachelor’s, but it’s tricky because there are no schools that offer undergraduate degrees in paleontology. Instead, plan on majoring in either biology or geology, and then continuing on to get either your master’s or your Ph.D. in paleontology.

While in your undergrad years, be sure to take a wide range of science courses (like physics and chemistry). And although you probably won’t end up with a paleontology degree, many schools offer courses in the field. Look for schools with classes like “paleontology of lower vertebrates” and “the DNA of dinos.”

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When you graduate with a bachelor’s degree, you’re still not done with school. Having an advanced degree sets you up for a leadership role and actual research, as well as letting you study paleontology as a field rather than just a sweet elective.

When looking at schools, keep in mind that getting a master’s in paleontology is really just a stepping stone. In this field, as with most science fields, you’ll need a Ph.D. to really do anything. While there are no online paleontology degrees, you can do some of your sciences classes online in preparation for your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

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