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.
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 transferable skills 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
- Team-working 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
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.
- Museum/gallery curator
- Museum/gallery exhibitions officer
- Museum education officer
- Research scientist (physical sciences)
- Higher education lecturer
- Palynologist or Stratigrapher
Jobs where a degree in Palaeontology would be useful include:
- Environmental Consultant
- Engineering Geologist
- Geological Surveyor
- Programme Researcher
- Science Writer
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:
- Business Analyst
- Insurance Risk Surveyor
- Secondary Teacher
- Primary Teacher
- Chartered Accountant
- Teaching Laboratory Assistant
- Scientific Laboratory Assistant
- Environmental education officer
- Community education officer
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. Here are some examples of relevant postgraduate courses:
- MSc Palaeobiology
- MSc Micropalaeontology
- MA Museum Studies
- MRes/PhD in 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
The universities providing postgraduate courses in this subject area include University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University of Edinburgh, University of Leicester, University College London, University of Portsmouth and University of Southampton. You can research postgraduate course options on the Prospects website.
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.
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
- Earthworks Jobs
- Oil and Gas Job Search
- Oil and Gas People
- The Geologist’s Directory – a directory of geologists and could be useful for making speculative approaches
Professional Body websites
Keeping up to date with developments in your field is important too. The following websites are useful for this purpose:
For more information on career paths and how to become a palaeontologist have a look at the following case studies:
- How to become a Palaeontologist – Dr Susie Maidment
- A view from Dr David Martill University of Portsmouth – The Guardian
- Are there any jobs in Palaeontology? – Benjamin Burger
- Researcher who completed her BSc and PhD at the University of Portsmouth – Holly Emily Turner
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.
You can also access our services by calling or emailing us:
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone us: +44 (0)2392 842684
Office hours: Monday – Thursday, 8.30am – 5.00pm; Friday, 8.30am – 4.00pm