What is a herpetologist?

Before we launch into what a career in herpetology looks like, it’s probably best that we go over what a herpetologist actually is. Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles, making a herpetologist the person that studies and works with said amphibians and reptiles.

The mere mention of slimy, scaley, wriggly creatures might be enough to turn a lot of people off a career in herpetology. But, maybe, you’ve always enjoyed spending your time hunting around your garden for frogs in the long grass; perhaps you were happy to have a snake draped across you at a reptile show; or its possible you think axolotls are the coolest, cutest things on the planet. If so, herpetology could be for you.

Photo by Achyuthan Srikanthan

What does a Herpetologist do?

The next thing we need to talk about is what a herpetologist actually gets up to. The short answer is: whatever you can think of as long as it includes reptiles or amphibians. Cool right? There is a lot of freedom in being a herpetologist – you could go the terrestrial or the marine route, you could work in a lab or venture out into the field. You would be free to study gecko biology, slow worm anatomy, toad behaviour and chameleon conservation. You could put studying behind you and simply care for crocodiles (husbandry) or you could teach people about why tortoises are the best organisms on the planet.

Being a herpetologist is a career you can make work for you. As long as you have that love for reptiles and amphibians, you can pick a path that interests you and follow it. And you can always choose another branch of herpetology down the line.

Photo by Claire Teakle

How do you become a herpetologist?

Chances are you’re going to need a Bachelors degree in Zoology or a similar field. But then it all depends on what path in herpetology you want to take. If you’re interested in studying reptiles or amphibians in more detail, you might need a Masters or even a PhD. But in other areas you might not need to study further, only gain more practical experience.

Now, you might be thinking that being a herpetologist sounds amazing, but how on Earth do you choose which kind of herpetologist you want to be? My recommendation would be: get out there and get some experience. Try whatever takes your fancy. Getting work experience at a zoo could let you try out reptile husbandry. Or maybe volunteering on amphibian centric courses could help you work out if education is for you. If you want to try some more field-based options, I would definitely recommend visiting one of our herptastic sites.

  • Want to try herpetofauna conservation management? Check out the projects we have running in Croatia and Mexico.
  • Does the ecology of reptiles and amphibians take your fancy? There are projects going on in Mexico, Madagascar, Honduras and Croatia that would be worth looking at.
  • Find yourself wondering why reptiles behave a certain way? Read about the science going on in Madagascar and Mexico.
  • Want to combine your love for reptiles and the water? Our marine site in Mexico could be the place for you.

There are so many different species of reptiles and amphibians you can observe on our expeditions while also getting to experience a number of different methods of studying them. Plus, there are some amazing experts whose knowledge will blow your mind and whose advice may help you figure out a plan.

Hopefully this has helped you figure out whether a career as a herpetologist might be the one for you. If you have any questions about how we can help you further your career in herpetology, or about any of our projects specifically, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Photo by Angela Roberts
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