Nematologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 28, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a nematologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

Many nematologists, or experts in roundworms, work in a laboratory, however it is also possible for these professionals to find work within private industries, government agencies, or academics. Fieldwork is sometimes required, where a nematologist will gather data and samples for later study in the lab. A strong background in math and chemistry is essential for success in this career.

Essential Information

Nematologists study roundworms, which feed on microscopic forms of life, such as bacteria. These worms can affect animals, plants, and humans. Nematologists' work often goes hand-in-hand with that of ecologists, agronomists, entomologists, marine biologists and other molecular biologists.

Many nematologists specialize within their field. For example, a nematologist might focus on biochemical aspects of nematode genetics, the control and impact of plant-feeding nematodes or nematodes that need identification within marine biology environments. These specializations can lead to vastly different daily duties. Nematologists might find employment with private industries, commercial laboratories, government agencies or colleges and universities.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in biological sciences
Other Requirements Good mathematical and chemistry background
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 5% for zoologists and wildlife biologists*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $63,950 for soil and plant scientists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of a Nematologist

Regardless of their specific field of study, nematologists often work in laboratories. They might research a nematode in its environment, then collect samples and return to the lab for testing. For example, nematodes are commonly found in soil, where they can attack crops. Nematologists must collect these worms and identify them, thus distinguishing them from other types of worms, such as earthworms, which typically are not harmful to plants. Armed with this information, nematologists can research ways to lessen the negative effect that roundworms might have on a crop's yield.

Finding such a fix could potentially impact farms worldwide where similar problems exist. This could have a great financial and/or health benefit.

Education Requirements for Nematologists

Students might start to develop their knowledge of nematology through high school courses in math, biology and chemistry. Participating in lab sessions in high school also can be beneficial. At the collegiate level, obtaining a bachelor's degree in a biological science is a good starting point.

Advanced education often is required to learn specifically about nematology. Therefore, obtaining a master's or doctoral degree is recommended, particularly for those interested in research or academic positions. Though nematology degrees are rare, several universities offer related degree programs and have nematology laboratories on campus.

Undergraduate Programs

On the bachelor's level, a biological sciences degree program typically includes four years of study. Major options to consider include entomology, ecology and marine biology. Courses in a biological sciences degree program might include:

  • Molecular biology
  • Physics
  • Plant genetics

Graduate Programs

Core concepts of nematology are taught as part of many Master of Science in Entomology programs, as well as related programs. Courses specific to nematology might include:

  • Nematode ecology
  • Nematode anatomy
  • Graduate nematology seminar

On the doctoral level, formal degree options in nematology are rare, so education may come as part of a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in plant pathology, entomology or another biological science. Courses that may be available in nematology include:

  • Nematode morphology
  • Nematode taxonomy
  • Systemics of nematodes

Salary Information

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide information specifically for nematologists, soil and plant scientists were projected to earn an average annual wage of $70,630 in May 2018, while all other biological scientists were projected to see an average wage of $83,600.

The minimum education required to become a nematologist is a bachelor's degree in a field such as biological science. Appropriate undergraduate programs for aspiring nematologists include plant genetics, molecular biology, or physics. To specialize in this field, a master's degree is typically necessary, where nematology-specific courses such as nematode ecology or nematode anatomy are available.

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