How to Become a Parasitologist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 05, 2020

Find out how to become a parasitologist. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in parasitology.

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Should I Become a Parasitologist?

Parasitologists study all types of parasites, including ticks and tapeworms. They study the relationships between parasites and their hosts, and they look for ways to treat and prevent diseases caused by them, such as malaria. Parasitologists may work with animals, humans, or plants, and they can be employed by government agencies, nonprofits, or private companies. Pharmaceutical corporations may hire parasitologists to research vaccines and treatments for parasite-related illnesses. Parasitologists must wear protective clothing and gear in order to keep themselves safe from infection.

Parasitologists, like other types of microbiologists, spend their time in office and laboratory settings. Some may travel in order to gather parasite samples. The majority of parasitologists work full-time during regular business hours.

Career Requirements

Parasitologists have bachelor's degrees in biology, biochemistry, or microbiology, along with master's degrees. Those who want to teach or lead research programs also have Ph.D.s. They are professionals with curiosity and skills in teamwork, communication data analysis and using research software.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for all microbiologists, which include parasitologists, was $71,650 in 2018.

Steps to Become a Parasitologist

What's the steps do I need to take to become a parasitologist?

Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree

Parasitology integrates principles and techniques from microbiology, pathology, and immunology, so individuals seeking to pursue this field can expect to integrate multiple disciplines into their studies. Students are advised to have strong coursework in math and statistics as well as science. Coursework may include calculus, chemistry, and hands-on lab work that teaches students to properly use equipment and execute experiments.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in undergraduate research programs. Undergraduates can gain research experience by participating in research projects. Many schools offer designated undergraduate research programs. Otherwise, students may contact faculty directly to work on research related to parasitology.

Step 2: Earn a Master's Degree

With a foundation in biology, students will be able to begin focusing their graduate research and studies on parasitology. It's important for aspiring parasitologists to choose research that allows them to focus on parasitology in topics such as zoonotic diseases, parasitic diseases and dynamic ecosystems. Some schools even have specialized training in specific areas of parasitology, including immunoparasitology and molecular parasitology.

While most programs will be found in the science or veterinary science departments, some parasitology degrees can be found in universities' public health departments. Public health-related programs generally focus on parasitology to manage health care epidemics.

Step 3: Earn a Ph.D. in Parasitology

Individuals who want to lead research projects or teach others will need a Ph.D. for advanced career opportunities. At this level, students will be able to focus their research on parasitology. To obtain a Ph.D., students will have to complete research related to parasitology, write a dissertation, and defend the research thesis. Students will also undergo a series of exams throughout the program to assess their knowledge of parasitology.

Success Tip:

  • Publish research results as soon as you have the opportunity. It's helpful for Ph.D. candidates to have research results published in a scientific journal. Ph.D. candidates can work with faculty on existing research to serve as co-authors for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Candidates can also have their research proposals published.

Parasitologists study parasites and look for ways to treat and prevent the diseases they cause. They have college degrees and excel working with others in research teams, and they earn a mean annual salary of $71,650.

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