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Herpetology Colleges and Schools in the U.S.

Herpetology is a branch of zoology having to do with amphibians and reptiles and their relationship to the environment. Students interested in studying in this field will find relevant coursework in bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in zoology, environmental studies and related fields.

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How to Select a School for Herpetology

Herpetologists study species and habitats of amphibians and reptiles. Some herpetologists are involved in ecological studies, due to the fact that amphibians are very sensitive to environmental changes. Graduate and undergraduate programs in zoology and environmental studies at colleges and universities across the U.S. offer the opportunity to study herpetology.

List of Considerations for Choosing a Program

  • Career goals
  • Field and research opportunities

Career Goals

When deciding between degree programs, students should consider their research goals. Those passionate about studying the biology and behavior of reptiles and amphibians may wish to pursue a degree in zoology, whereas those interested in applying herpetology research to environmental preservation efforts might favor an environmental studies degree program. Students interested in both can find zoological programs offering concentrations in environmental and ecological studies.

Field and Research Opportunities

Individuals seeking employment as herpetology researchers often benefit from gaining field experience while earning their degree. Many schools have student-run clubs that lead to research opportunities and involvement with professionals in the field. Graduate students may want to consider schools based on the ability to pursue specialized research projects through university-affiliated herpetology research centers and laboratories. In addition, herpetology laboratories and research centers often hire graduate students to aid in research.

Herpetology-Related Program Overviews

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Aspiring herpetologists can benefit from undergraduate studies in zoology, environmental studies and related fields. Some zoology programs offer interdisciplinary options with environmental studies. Students enrolled in an environmental studies degree program study public policy and environmental law in addition to science-based classes. Depending on the specific program, classes might include:

  • Genetics
  • Evolution
  • Anatomy
  • Plant taxonomy
  • Herpetology

Master's Degree Programs

Both zoology and environmental studies are offered at the master's degree level. Both programs typically require students to complete an original research project for their thesis, which allow aspiring herpetologists to focus on a particular species or problem. Environmental studies students might develop plans for resource management and study economic and societal impacts on the ecosystem and the response of reptiles and amphibians to those changes. Those enrolled in zoology degree programs take courses in:

  • Genetics
  • Cell biology
  • Histology

Doctoral Degree Programs

Many herpetology-related doctoral degree programs require students to develop a dissertation based on original research with an amphibian or reptile species, have teaching experience and, in some cases, pass an oral exam. When selecting a program, students should consider the specializations offered, such as a focus on environmental impacts or field-based research. Examples of seminars students take include those in:

  • Toxicology
  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Plant biology
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