Paleontologist Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Alexandra Owens

Alexandra has taught middle school science and has a master's degree in Math and Science Education.

Have you ever wanted to dig up fossils of ancient dinosaurs? Then the job of a paleontologist is the career for you! In this lesson, learn all about what paleontologists are, what they do day to day, and how to become one.

What Is a Paleontologist?

Have you ever dug in the dirt looking for interesting rocks or old objects? Perhaps you have even found an old shark tooth or arrowhead. This is similar to the job of a paleontologist! A paleontologist is someone who studies the history of ancient life. In order to do that, they look for fossils, which are the remains or imprints of living things from long ago.

Fossils can tell paleontologists not only about the organism, but also the environment it lived in and what the Earth was like at that time. Fossils are most often thought of as dinosaur bones, but fossils can include any living thing, including plants. Let's learn more about fossils and what a paleontologist does!

Fossils include remains and imprints, like this fossil of a marine organism.

What Do Paleontologist Do?

A paleontologist mixes the skills of a scientist, historian, and detective. Not only do they find old things, but they must try to figure out what they are and what it was like when that organism was alive. In the field of science, it is a combination of a geologist and a biologist. Here are a few things paleontologists do:

  • Look for fossils in the field. A lot of time is spent digging and collecting fossils all over the world.
  • Study the environment the organism once lived in based on elements found in the fossils.
  • Classify how living things are related to one another based on common features seen in the fossilized remains.
  • Teach others about fossils in a museum through displays and lectures.

Some paleontologists work in museums to teach others about ancient organisms like this dinosaur.

Types of Paleontologists

There are many things that paleontologists can specialize in. Here are a few:

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