How to Become a Taxonomist in the US

How to Become  a Taxonomist in the US

Taxonomy is the classification of plants, animals and other living organisms. Taxonomists are the scientists tasked with studying all types of living organisms and classifying them according to their characteristics. If you have a background in biology and possess excellent research skills, you could become a competent taxonomist.

What Do Taxonomists Do?

The work of taxonomists primarily revolves around field and laboratory research. Their specific duties include:

  • Conducting fieldwork to collect specimens – This involves visiting the natural habitats of living organisms, or museums
  • Conducting laboratory experiments to study these specimen – Involves dissecting the animals and drawing sketches
  • Operating laboratory equipment such as electron microscopes
  • Giving presentation to educate other people on their findings.

Taxonomists may choose to practice as plant or animal taxonomists.

Work Conditions

Like many scientists, taxonomists work full-time. However, their work schedule is defined by long and irregular hours.

Although they spend most of their time conducting field or laboratory work, they often retreat to their offices to compile their findings

While in the field, they wear protective clothing, such as boots and hand gloves.


The following table highlights the average annual salaries for all biological scientists, including taxonomists:


Annual Wage

Technical consulting firms


Research firms


Government agencies


Colleges and universities


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Entry Requirements

To become a taxonomist, you must complete the following steps:

  • Complete high school –Strive to excel in math, English, biology and other science subjects
  • Earn a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, ecology, marine biology, forestry or zoology – At this level, you are not yet ready to work as a taxonomist, but you can secure research jobs that could be a stepping stone to taxonomy
  • Complete a master’s degree in a specialty field, such as plant taxonomy, animal science or entomology – With this credential; you are fully qualified as a taxonomist.

Some of the universities that are renowned for offering competent graduate degree in taxonomy include:

Important Qualities

  • Strong research skills
  • Strong outdoor skills
  • A good level of manual dexterity
  • Strong analytical skills
  • An awareness of environment-friendly research practices
  • A good level of manual dexterity
  • An interest in the living sciences
  • Good observation and attention to detail skills

Career Development

The career progression opportunities for taxonomists often depend on their places of work. The advancement avenues are similar though! Apart from gaining vast experience, you can follow these paths to enhance your chances of moving another step ahead:

Job Opportunities

The employers of taxonomists include:

  • Research firms
  • Museums and Zoos
  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Colleges and universities
  • Government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of agriculture or Environment Protection Agency.

After following the career advancement paths listed above, you can progress to become a research manager. Those working in universities as lecturers can become faculty heads. If you wish to be self-employed, you can establish your own research firm.

Although the BLS doesn’t provide job outlook statistics for taxonomists, their demand is low. It takes determination and a love for science to succeed in this profession. Good luck!


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