Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians. Students can enroll in graduate-level degree programs in biology and specialize in the field. Online courses and programs may be available.
An M.S. in Biology program lasts an average of 2-3 years, with a mixture of classes and lab work. Most programs have students gradually narrow their research interests and use their final year to complete a capstone project or thesis. To qualify for admission at most schools, applicants must have a bachelor's degree in biology or a related subject, such as zoology. Most programs also require that applicants have a high undergraduate grade point average in the sciences and that they submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
In a Ph.D. program, students engage in specialized research during the program's 5 or 6 years. They are required to research, write and defend a dissertation. Doctoral students often are required to teach undergraduate classes as well. Students must have completed a bachelor's and master's degree in biology or a related subject to qualify for admission; many students complete a master's degree in the course of their progress toward doctoral candidacy. Some programs also require students to pass a qualifying exam and submit scores from the GRE.
Master of Science in Biology
Students interested in studying herpetology may wish to seek a university where faculty members are involved in herpetology research. Depending on their choice of specialization, students interested in herpetology might study course topics such as:
- Advanced herpetology
- Vertebrate physiology
- Evolutionary development
- Forest ecology
Ph.D. in Biology
Most students who wish to enter a career in teaching or researching herpetology earn a doctoral degree in biology. A student interested in pursuing advanced research of reptiles and amphibians might study the following topics:
- Scientific writing and communication
- Respiratory and circulatory systems
- Population growth and regulation
- Developmental biology
Possible Career Options
While many graduates of master's degree programs with a specialization in herpetology continue their studies towards a doctoral degree, some pursue entry-level jobs in teaching or research. Some popular careers include:
- Museum reptile collection manager
- Herpetology wildlife manager
- High school science teacher
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists, the broader category that includes herpetologists, is expected to increase 4% between 2014 and 2024, slower than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the mean annual wage for zoologists and wildlife biologists was $64,230 as of May 2015.
Master's and doctorate degree programs in biology allow students to specialize in herpetology to prepare for careers in research, education or wildlife management. Job growth for zoologists and wildlife biologists is expected to be slower than average, but positive.