If you love studying the origins and evolution of our planet, then you are probably considering pursuing a career in palaeontology. Palaeontologists research fossils and geo-formations to understand how the world has evolved over the course of time – if you love dinosaurs it would be the perfect for you.
To be successful, you need two things; enthusiasm for fossils and a passion for anything geological, the other is academic qualifications.
One common problem is that most universities do not offer a specialisation in palaeontology. The reason is simple, to become qualified you need a well-rounded understanding of the natural world. Students usually start with a science, geology or bio-geology degree and then select courses that allow them to become palaeontologists.
To help you out we’ve put together a list of the ten best universities for palaeontologists in the world. The universities have not been ranked in a specific order as students are generally required to design their own path and therefore, there aren’t a lot of consistent factors to compare the universities by.
1. University of Chicago
One of the places in the world to study palaeontology is the University of Chicago. It is a leading research centre, especially in Geoscience and offers various graduate degrees in the sector that you can shape to your needs.
Students can draw from a selection of courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and geoscience. The university also provides guidance to its students through advisers who are responsible for helping students select their courses.
2. University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley is one of the leading universities in the world, and its science department prides itself on having an exceptionally talented research team. The school is a pioneer in palaeontology and studying here would allow you to learn in a place where some of the most important discoveries in the field have been made. The Master’s of Science program offers a wide array of courses relevant to palaeontology.
3. University of Birmingham
Although most of the top universities in this field are located on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, there are plenty of excellent academic options in the UK. One is the University of Birmingham which offers a Master’s of Science in Applied and Petroleum Micropaleontology program. This palaeontology degree is aimed at students who want to gain both practical experience in the field as well as academic knowledge.
Modules focus mainly on microfossils and their role in global climate. What’s perhaps the best feature of this program is that it runs in collaboration with various geological consultancies and students can get valuable work experience on these projects. Of course, students here also have the opportunity to tailor their coursework based on their skills, goals and preferences.
4. University of Science and Technology of China
Studying in China may have never occurred to you, but the University of Science and Technology is one of the best scientific universities in the world. The University - which is an initiative of the Chinese government - focuses on helping China meet its technological and scientific needs. But it is not just about computers and engineering, it also offers a Master’s in geology that focuses primarily on palaeontology and stratigraphy.
5. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan is an acclaimed leader in environmental studies. It has an extensive selection of degree options in geological sciences. Programs include paleoclimate modelling, paleoceanography and palaeomagnetism. The curriculum includes 22 modules for postgraduate degrees and students are required to take field trips in and outside of the country.
6. Yale University
As one of the best universities in the world, Yale has a long-standing reputation of being amongst the leading research centres in the world. It’s Earth Science program can benefit any aspiring palaeontologist’s career, while also offering a wealth knowledge.
The program offered for palaeontology students includes modules on Geoscience, Geochemistry, Stratigraphy and other relevant courses. It also emphasises the importance of independent research.
7. Harvard University
As an Ivy League institution, Harvard is one of the best universities for palaeontology in the world. The two departments relevant to this article are; the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Modules include research of the origins of the earth, and the impact human evolution has had on the Earth and other species. Students are often required to take field trips to put their theories into practice.
8. University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh offers an MScR in Palaeontology and Geobiology that allows students to understand the key concepts and methodological approaches to their topic. The course also focuses on training and the use of specific theoretical, modelling, analytical and experimental methods.
9. Virginia Tech
With one of the world's oldest geoscience departments, Virginia Tech students are given access to some of the best research facilities available anywhere. The Department of Geosciences offers a graduate degree in geoscience which provides students with a thorough educational experience. Modules include methods in exploration geophysics, plant evolution, geological aspects of toxic waste disposal, Earth history and quantitative paleobiology.
10. Ohio State University
As a public school, the Ohio State University has been consistently ranked amongst the top schools for tuition investment. Students are often encouraged to participate in study abroad programs, internships and other scholar programs, while they are also given access to vast resources within the university.
The School of Earth Sciences receives substantial funding from the federal government to aid research into different solutions for global environmental concerns. The program which can be pursued by aspiring palaeontologists provides specialised and comprehensive training in the earth and environmental sciences. Modules include Earth history and evolution as well as global change.
Becoming a palaeontologist is a great career option if you’re someone interested in the origins and evolution of our planet. To ensure that you’ll be able to build a career for yourself in this field make sure that you receive qualifications from an educational institution that has exceptional research facilities.
What else do you think someone needs to become a successful palaeontologist? Let me know in the comment section below.