Palaeontology

We are currently developing a Career Guide for Palaeontology, content will be available here soon.  In the meantime please contact the Careers and Employability Service for information and advice.

This guide has been developed to help you to find out more about the sectors that you could be working in and also to help you find work experience during your studies and graduate employment.

To enter the field of palaeontology it is likely that you will need to undertake further study of some kind.  For anyone wishing to work in the museum sector or the oil and gas industry a postgraduate qualification would be required.  For anyone wishing to enter the geotechnical, environmental or construction sectors a relevant postgraduate qualification would be desirable and for those wishing to become a researcher whether in a university or research institution, you would need a PhD. 

Where do I start?

The following careers guides provide useful starting points to find out about the main job sectors and roles that palaeontologists work in and how to get there.

Job outlook

If you are passionate about palaeontology, follow your dream as you never know where it might lead you, from a dig in the Gobi desert to a lecture theatre in Portsmouth, but it is important that you are aware that job opportunities are not plentiful.  The oil and gas industry has been contracting, the museum sector is small and the relatively small number of universities with research departments focusing on Palaeontology means that there are not many academic jobs in this subject area. You may need to broaden your job search and target jobs roles where you could use the skills that you have developed during the study of your Palaeontology degree.

What transferableskills have you developed that you could use in another career area?

  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Report writing skills
  • Problem-solving skills and lateral thinking
  • Self-motivation and resilience
  • Teamworking skills and the ability to work on your own initiative.
  • IT skills
  • Collecting data and samples on field trips
  • Examining and testing samples in the lab
  • Conducting research 
  • Skills in observation, data collection, analysis, classification and interpretation
  • The ability to prepare, process and present data
  • The ability to handle information in a range of different mediums, e.g. textual, numerical, oral, graphical

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List of careers related to palaeontology

Below is a list of job profiles related to your degree, many of these can be researched on the Prospects and Targetjobs websites, where you find out about the typical work activities, entry requirements, typical employers and websites for job hunting. 

Jobs where a degree in Palaeontology would be useful include: 

Other career ideas 

As a STEM student you will have gained a lot of transferable skills that can be applied in a wide range of job roles. You could be looking at some of the following job roles: 

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Further study options

If you wish to pursue a career directly related to your degree subject it is highly likely that you will need to undertake postgraduate study.  The Prospects website is probably the best place to search for postgraduate course options.  Here are some examples of relevant courses: 

  • MSc Palaeobiology                             
  • MSc Micropalaeontology
  • MA Museum Studies                       
  • MA Museum Studies                         
  • MA Museum Studies                        
  • MRes/PhD in Palaeontology          
  • PhD Palaeontology                        
  • MSc (Res) Palaeontology and Geobiology           
  • MSc Engineering Geology                   
  • MSc Environmental Geology and Contamination  
  • MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards       
  • MSc Archaeology (Palaeoanthropology)                 
  • MSc Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology   

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How to get experience

There are different ways you can get experience and develop transferable skills whatever your career goal, for example this could be by working on a part time basis, undertaking a summer internship, through work shadowing or volunteering.  It is worth remembering, however, that it's not the amount of experience that you gain but what you make of it that will count in your favour when looking to progress your career. 

If you wish to work in the museum sector then volunteering in the sector is crucial. Don’t limit your efforts only to national and large regional museums and galleries. They are likely to be overwhelmed with requests for voluntary work.  Apply to smaller local museums as you are likely to get a broader range of experience. During your studies there is a number of museums in Portsmouth where you could volunteer: for example, the Natural History Museum, National Museum of the Royal Navy and the Portsmouth City Museum.  Roles with these organisations are regularly advertised on MyCareer.  If you cannot see a role advertised then approach the museum yourself. Treat your request as if you are applying for paid work - find out about the museums that you are interested in, visit them if you can and when you contact them explain why you want to volunteer for them.  Be honest about how much time you have available - you're more likely to find an opening if you are available for the same amount of time each week. 

If you are looking for field locally the Jurassic Coast Trust has a contact email for anyone interested in volunteering with their organisation.  The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre organises guided fossils walk as well as whole day or weekends of fossil hunting activities for families, so you might be able to volunteer and help out. You could also contact Dinosaur Isle on the Isle of Wight to enquire about volunteering opportunities. 

If you intend to pursue an academic career, gaining experience whilst you are an undergraduate student would be advantageous.   Experience such as volunteering to be a course representative is a great way to network with academic staff and to understand how academic departments are structured and conduct their business.  A part time role working as a Student Ambassador, promoting the university at events such as Open Days, also would be a great way to gain experience.  Equally any opportunities to attend conferences to network with researchers in your field of interest as well assisting researchers with data collection and classification could be a good way to gain new skills and experience.

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Finding a job

Useful websites for finding paid work in Museums: 

Useful websites for finding paid work in Academia:

Useful websites for finding paid work in Geosciences and the Oil and Gas Industries: 

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Professional Body websites

Keeping up to date with developments in your field is important too.  The following websites are useful for this purpose: 

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Case studies

For more information on career paths and how to become a palaeontologist have a look at the following case studies:

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