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Lepidopterist: Job Description, Salary and Career Outlook

A lepidopterist requires significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and job growth projections to see if this is the right career for you.

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Focused on studying moths and butterflies, lepidopterists research the nature, behavior and habitats of these insects, often within academic or scientific institutions. Other employment opportunities for lepidopterists can be found in conservation societies, museums and parks. The education needed to become a lepidopterist is significant and often involves the completion of a Ph.D. with a specialization in a particular aspect of lepidoptery.

Essential Information

Lepidopterists are biologists who study moths and butterflies. They can work in a variety of different environments and can earn degrees in a number of different fields, including biology, taxonomy and natural history. A doctoral degree is generally recommended for anyone interested in lepidoptery. The rate of job growth for wildlife biologists and zoologists is predicted to be slow over the next decade, with a great deal of competition for available jobs.

Required Education Doctoral degree in a relevant area
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% for zoologists and wildlife biologists
Mean Salary (2015)* $64,230 for zoologists and wildlife biologists

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Lepidopterist Job Description

A lepidopterist specializes in the study moths and butterflies. This scientist generally has a background in biology, chemistry, zoology, ecology or conservation work. Often, a lepidopterist has not only earned a bachelor's degree in one of these fields, but has also pursued postgraduate work in entomology, taxonomy, biogeography, botany or natural history, culminating in a master's degree and/or a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree in his or her area of specialization within the field of Lepidoptera. Due to the level of specialization, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) advises those interested in pursuing a career as a lepidopterist to strongly consider completing a Ph.D. (www.bls.gov).

Responsibilities

In addition to working within academia as professors and scientific researchers, lepidopterists are also employed as wildlife biologists, conservation scientists, entomologists and researchers in natural history and science museums, as well as in state and national parks, botanical gardens, conservation societies and natural habitats. These researchers may also work in laboratories affiliated with such institutions. There, the lepidopterists oversee all aspects of the lives of butterflies and moths.

Within these organizations, the work often includes conducting research on insects (both living and dead), studying the ideal conditions for moths and butterflies and comparing the lifespan and behaviors of the subjects in the environment. Researchers also analyze changes in the lifespan and habits of these creatures, while hypothesizing reasons for these changes and testing these hypotheses.

Salary Information for Lepidopterists and Career Outlook

According to the BLS in 2015, a lepidopterist can expect to earn the same average wage of other zoologists and wildlife biologists, around $64,230 per annum. Due to the level of specificity of the work, the BLS also indicates the growing necessity for a doctorate degree. In addition, the BLS noted that applicants face a high level competition for this work, particularly within academia and public institutions. Nevertheless, those interested in such a career will most likely witness the growth of opportunities in the private sphere, leading to an overall projection of 4% growth in wildlife biology from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov).

Prior to applying to a Ph.D. program in lepidoptery, which is generally needed to enter a career in this field, students should have a background in subjects such as biology, zoology, ecology, taxonomy, botany and entomology. They should also be comfortable performing experiments on living and dead insects in order to better understand the nature of the species. The BLS reports that wildlife biologists can expect to see a 4% increase in employment opportunities between 2014-2024, and that aspiring lepidopterists face heavy competition in this very specific field.

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