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What is a Herpetologist?

Field work is often part of a herpetologist's job.
Employment opportunities for a herpetologist include working at a zoo.
A herpetologist may study snakes.
Herpetologists often study turtles.
Some herpetologists study frogs.
A herpetologist may study salamanders.
A juvenile black rat snake, which a herpetologist might study.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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A herpetologist is a zoologist who specializes in reptiles and amphibians, including crocodilians, amphisbaenians, lizards, snakes, and turtles and tortoises. The word "herpetology" comes from the Greek herpeton that means "to creep." People who work in this field are also known as "herps," and "field herping" is the study and collection of these animals and their identification through guidebooks and other materials.

To qualify for entry-level jobs at zoos, government agencies, and field biology institutions, a person typically needs a bachelor's degree in biology or herpetology. Herpetologists who want to teach at the university level, or advance their careers in the field, usually need a master's or doctoral degree, though requirements vary depending on the type of career and the region. This field can be a difficult to work in, as entry-level jobs can be low-paying or unpaid entirely. Many people find work on the animal side of the profession while earning their advanced degree. Once a person earns an advanced degree, he or she can teach, work for government or non-profit agencies, assume more responsibilities at a zoo or animal habitat, or even consult on environmental issues.

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Those considering a career studying reptiles should check out their educational options in advance. Speaking with people already in the field; visiting museums, zoos, and aquariums; joining a regional or international herpetological society; and reading articles in scientific journals are all ways to find out more about herpetology as a career. Field observation is also important, and finding volunteer work or internships is a great way to see if it's a good career fit.

The working environment for a herpetologist can vary widely, and most end up combining their expertise with another field like education, consulting, or animal breeding. Some choose to be mainly involved in research and writing their findings in scientific journals, or work for wildlife agencies, zoos, or museums. Others may work more on the animal side of the profession, and may be animal breeders or photographers.

Herpetologists help in the conservation of reptiles and amphibians. They also help the medical profession with their knowledge of toxins and venoms or work in poison control centers. Many are involved in ecological studies, and work for colleges, governments, or non-profit agencies that are trying to understand why amphibian species are declining. Some people with an interest in this field also choose not to become professionals, but rather practice herpetology as a hobby in their spare time.

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Discuss this Article

anon190397
Post 18

I am 10 years old and I already know a lot about snakes. For example, out of 2,700 snakes in the world only 300 are venomous. I have always loved studing reptiles ever since I was four years old. Does anyone know where a good school would be for learnimg how to be a herpetologist because it is my long time dream is to be a successful herpetologist? I want this dream so badly.

anon123436
Post 15

I'm in tenth grade with good marks in science and math, and i would really love to help with the burmese python problem down in the everglades. what schooling should i look into?

anon104772
Post 13

I love snakes. these reptiles are a goal to me and i just want to serve these reptiles.

anon76703
Post 11

ok i'm in 11th grade but i have no way near the right grades to get into a great school, but I've wanted to become a herpetologist ever since i was five and i got my first lizard. I'd run outside and catch salamanders and snakes and i just would love to make this a career i could turn to because studying and breeding reptiles is what I'd love to do.

anon70658
Post 9

okay, so i'm twelve and want to become a herpetologist. what should i do while i'm younger that will help me in the profession?

anon70291
Post 8

i want to become a amateur herpetologist. how can i? i am in 10th grade.

anon70112
Post 7

i am in ninth standard and am interested in herpetology. i just want to know that which books i should read.

And like, i am more interested in snakes than others so can i be a herpetologist? I want to know what is the difference between snakes and vipers, and how many snakes are venomous to us? And are there any research centers in Delhi, India? help me i want to be a herpetologist only not any other.

Moderator's reply: See: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-viper.htm for your viper-related question.

anon54756
Post 6

I love animals, especially reptiles and snakes. i always wanted to be a herpetologist. ever since i saw Steve Irwin (R.I.P) and Jeff Corwin, it's been my dream and i want to accomplish that dream so badly.

anon50911
Post 4

how can I become a herpetologist in india?

anon29116
Post 3

Herpetologists are found all around the world.

anon24985
Post 1

Is there is any herpetologist in south asia specially in Pakistan and India? and please tell me that where are their research centers?

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