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Ichthyologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 26, 2019

Ichthyologists require significant formal education. Learn about the degree options, job duties and requirements to see if studying fish is the right career for you.

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Dedicated to the study of all fish species, an ichthyologist is knowledgeable about fish behavior and habits, their history, and their developmental patterns. Because many ichthyologists work in the field, a SCUBA certification might be needed, particularly for deep-sea and underwater research. The minimum education required for this career is a bachelor's degree in a field such as zoology or marine biology, with coursework often involving marine ecology and aquatic entomology.

Essential Information

Ichthyologists are biological scientists who study all types of fish. Since positions may require fieldwork, including being in or on the water for long periods of time, physical fitness and a curiosity about nature are important requirements for this profession. A bachelor's degree related to biology is the minimum education required for this career field, but many ichthyologists go on to earn master's degrees and/or doctoral degrees. These advanced degree levels allow more opportunity for specializing, and they open career options in research and academia.

Required Education Bachelor's degree at minimum; graduate degree is common
Other Requirements SCUBA certification necessary for some underwater field work
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% for all wildlife biologists and zoologists
Median Salary (2018)* $63,420 for all wildlife biologists and zoologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of an Ichthyologist

Ichthyologists may work for universities, museums, private companies and government agencies. They study all aspects of fish species, including natural history, behavior, reproductive habits and growth patterns. In addition to their studies, museum ichthyologists may take part in educating the public about fish species and conservation awareness. University scientists primarily conduct research and may also teach courses in ichthyology, marine biology or related areas.

Ichthyologist Duties

Out in the field, ichthyologists collect samples, measure animals and record data. Back in the laboratory or office, they analyze their findings and inventory specimens. During the course of their research, ichthyologists may discover new species of fish and may even have the privilege of naming the new species.

Scientists working in research universities spend time writing proposals to secure grants to fund their research projects. In addition to their teaching duties, they may also mentor students or participate in student projects. On occasion, ichthyologists may attend conferences and workshops to learn about developments or exchange information and ideas with other scientists.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't have data specifically for ichthyologists; however, the broader category of wildlife biologists and zoologists were expected to see employment increase by 5% during the 2018-2028 decade. The median annual salary for these professionals was $63,420 according to the BLS in May 2018.

Requirements to Become an Ichthyologist

As with most biological scientists, ichthyologists are required to possess at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant biological science, such as zoology or marine biology. Students may take such courses as marine ecology, aquatic entomology and history of vertebrates. Some schools also offer marine biology concentrations within the zoology major.

A bachelor's or a master's degree is sufficient for many positions in the field, including work as a technician, non-academic researcher and some lower-level teaching jobs. However, a career in academic research, graduate-level teaching or higher-level administrative positions usually necessitates earning a doctoral degree.

Ichthyologists research fish in large water bodies that span many nations. In order to conduct research in other countries, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists suggests that ichthyologists may find it helpful to be familiar with foreign languages. Also, being a certified SCUBA diver is useful for deep-water research.

An ichthyologist might work in a number of settings, including a laboratory, university, museum, or in the field, and many go on to complete a master's or doctoral degree program in order to advance their careers and focus on a specific area. Depending on the work environment, the daily duties of these professionals vary, ranging from report writing, promoting conservation efforts, collecting samples, and attending professional workshops. Since an ichthyologist might need to travel abroad in order to conduct field research, knowing a second language can be very useful.

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