Snakes and career ladders: How to attain a herpetology degree 🐍
Would you like to become a herpetologist? Source: Max Bender/Unsplash

From crocodiles to Gharials, from lizards to snakes and salamanders to newts, herpetologists have the pleasure of working with various species of reptiles and amphibians.

Originating from the Greek term ‘herpetón’, otherwise known as ‘creeping animal’, it has long been a respected degree that helps the conservation of these cold-blooded creatures.

With universities around the world constantly discovering interesting characteristics of these species, such as the new snake named Cenaspis aenigma at the University of Texas at Arlington, there’s always a great revelation to be unravelled in the world of herpetology!

In short, herpetology is a sub-field of biology. Source: Trevor Cole/Unsplash

Why are herpetology degrees important?

Herpetology degrees tend to include lengthy outdoor pursuits and laboratory sessions where avid students commit their time and energy to study and observe reptilians and amphibians.

Due to the ecological crisis our planet is currently facing, degrees that care for and protect our natural environments are gaining traction.

In herpetology degrees, students analyse the biology and behaviour of reptiles and amphibians, otherwise known as ‘herps’. They learn about the chemistry of water, living organisms and how to capture and handle various herps.

This work transports them to all sorts of climates and areas, such as wet swamps, dry deserts, dark caves and tall trees. So to become a successful herpetologist, you mustn’t be afraid to get your hands dirty or be adventurous at times!

…And it goes without saying that you mustn’t be afraid of handling snakes, turtles, salamanders or other types of herps!

When applying for a herpetology degree or looking to further your career as a herpetologist, it also helps to show evidence of volunteering with live animals. This will also demonstrate your passion for preserving their natural habitats and digging further into the history of reptilians and amphibians.

Herpetology is a great choice, but you must have a strong desire to study reptiles and amphibians! Source: Unsplash/Sebastian Herrmann

How do I become a herpetologist?

Many universities, such as Bangor University in Wales, offer undergraduate degrees in zoology with an addition of herpetology.

“Reptiles and amphibians are increasingly appreciated as model organisms in many fields of zoology, and are the focus of growing conservation concern due to the alarming decline of many species. This means that we now require a new generation of trained professional scientists with specialised knowledge and skills relating to these animals in addition to a broad zoological background,” the university outlines.

A common study route to take would be based on a mix of zoology and herpetology.

Sourcing faculty members that specialise in amphibians and reptiles will give you a leading advantage. Before applying to a broad course in zoology, with the addition of herpetology, ensure the school has either a department or a handful of professors dedicated to this field.

There are also universities dotted around the world that provide a Master’s of Herpetology degree or progressive herpetology internships, such as the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia.

This type of programme often requires a thesis project and field work under rigorous desert and tropical conditions in remote locations.

But the career benefits are plenty.

From getting jobs at museums where you’d work with exhibits and collections, to working in a zoo alongside live animals and the public, your work with snakes and related creatures can lead you up countless career ladders!

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