Most people instinctively recoil upon hearing the name of any insect. The other common reaction is just annoyance. This is usually when it comes to bees and flies. However, these creatures are fascinating. Some people find them fascinating enough to study or even dedicate their life’s work around them. So shout out to all the lovers of creepy crawlies! This article is just for you. Let’s know How to become an entomologist?
A person who studies bugs is called an entomologist. The scientific study of insects is called entomology, and to pursue this as a profession requires certain qualifications and certifications. Like other walks of life, becoming an entomologist is no easy feat. However, anything is possible with dedication, confidence, and ambition. The basic certification an entomologist requires is a bachelor’s degree.
What does an Entomologist do?
An entomologist studies the biodiversity and life cycles of insects, plus their impact on the environment and mankind. They note insect behavior by careful observation and use different techniques, which can be experimental, chemical, or genetic.
- Some Responsibilities
They are responsible for doing surveys and playing an important role in
- Managing the population of pests
- Protecting beneficial insects
- Preventing the spread of harmful insects
- Protecting the public’s health from harmful insects
- Studying insects and their evolution
- Coordinating programs for public awareness
- Coordinating programs to educate people in institutes like schools and universities
They can study these insects in their natural habitats as well as experiment and observe them in laboratories.
How to Become an Entomologist
- High School – An Early Start
If you are sure about pursuing entomology, you can get an early start. This means attending all your science classes in high school. This is just to get a better base. Still, the bare minimum is completing a bachelor’s degree to become an entomologist.
The recommended courses in high school would be agricultural education and focusing on the sciences. These sciences can be chemistry, biology, math, botany, and earth science.
- Bachelor’s Degree
The minimum amount of education you need to become an entomologist is a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, anyone interested in this field will need to do a bachelor’s in Entomology. However, since some schools don’t offer this degree, other degrees have entomology courses to choose from.
Your options are:
- Bachelors in Entomology
- Bachelors in Zoology
- Bachelors in Biology
- Bachelors in Ecology
- Bachelors in Environmental Science
Or you can choose any degree that is related to insects and their impact on the environment.
- Hands-On Experience
As this field is quite competitive, a helpful tip for staying one step ahead of your peers is to gain experience. Many universities offer undergraduates summer programs and internships related to this field. You can even apply to government or private agencies. Practical experience is extremely useful as it provides a specific social network and work experience that employers often look for. This way, you’ll have associates, friends, and a network of entomologists who can help and guide you. They can also help when it comes to looking for a job.
A few examples of how or where to gain experience is:
- Participating in an internship that is relevant to entomology
- Doing voluntary work in museums
- Doing voluntary work with conservation organizations
- Joining entomological societies
- Joining conservation organizations
- Joining relevant study groups
- Subscribing to entomological journals
1-3 years are required of work experience in the field. This is the requirement for getting certified.
To find out more about career paths regarding entomology, you can check out the Entomological Society of America’s Brochure.
By joining an internship, you have an opportunity to learn a lot by working for private companies or college research departments. You could even work for professional organizations and national parks. These experiences will extend your education outside the classroom and give insight into how things work in the real world. Opportunities to work in the lab or on the field are great exposure if your internship offers this. In addition, practical tasks like identifying insects are favorable.
Moreover, joining a club or society on entomology can be beneficial too. Members of these clubs could attend seminars by notable entomologists or host programs for children regarding entomology. It may be a gateway to gaining employment and new experiences.
- Career Advancement
By gaining experience, entomologists can embrace bigger roles. For example, they can become leaders or get the responsibility of research. When they are experienced enough, they can take on bigger roles like team and project leaders, professors, or executives. Through this, they have more knowledge, contacts, and a chance to advance their careers.
- Master’s Degree
With a Master’s degree, you have a better chance of becoming an entomologist. This is because a lot of work in entomology surrounds research and experimenting.
To become an entomologist, you can pursue Masters of Science in:
- Medical Parasitology
- Medical Entomology for Disease Control
- Integrated Pest Management
Another option is to complete Masters of Research in Anthrozoology. The Entomological Society of America website has a list of programs that you can refer to as well.
- Advanced Degree / PhD
To attain a higher position and salary, you can apply for Ph.D. programs. An advanced degree opens up the door to better career opportunities. This is because higher positions usually require people with a graduate degree.
The degrees you can pursue are:
- Ph.D. in Entomology
- Ph.D. in Entomology and Insect Science
If you specifically want to work in research or academia, a Ph.D. is necessary (according to the BLS). With a doctoral degree, you learn a lot more. This can improve your skills and abilities as an entomologist. A master’s or doctoral degree can also qualify you for board certifications.
Your eligibility depends on your level of education and how much work experience you have as an entomologist. If you have a bachelor’s degree, your work experience must be for at least three years. For a Master’s, it’s at least two years, and Ph.D. holders must have at least one year to qualify.
The Entomological Society of America calls itself the world’s largest entomological society. They offer the following certifications:
- Board Certification
To be a board-certified entomologist (BCE), the requirement is to pass two exams. The exams will be comprehensive. The first is a general one and the second one is a specialty exam. The second exam covers topics from industrial entomology, medical entomology, plant-related entomology, or pesticides. Generally, you must have entomology degrees completed at a graduate level.
- Associate Certificate
You need to pass only one comprehensive exam. Associate Certified Entomologists (ACEs) mostly work on pest control.
- Continue Studying and Education
This can be for several reasons. If you have a bachelor’s degree, studying more and completing your education in entomology will benefit you. You should aim to get a Master’s degree. A lot will improve your chances of getting a better job or being certified.
Another reason you need to continue educating yourself is especially if you’re a board-certified entomologist. You are required to have 120 participation credits every three years to meet the needs to be recertified. Continuing your education will help in that.
Continuing education is a requirement that can be completed by:
- Attending conferences
- Taking college courses
This will also help you stay up to date on industry trends, discoveries, and more.
Joining the ESA (Entomological Society of America) or other professional organizations can provide access to continuing education. There will be opportunities to present and publish your research. In addition, your network will expand when you meet other professionals. Nowadays, jobs are found by your contacts and based on your network, so knowing people helps.
- Choose a Specialization
There are various areas in which an entomologist can work. Entomologists study certain species sometimes, and they can specialize in a species of their choosing too. Some of those are mentioned below:
You can also choose to specialize in the subjects regarding insects that are listed below.
- Spread of disease in the insect population
Top Universities and Colleges
The top Universities for Entomology courses in 2021 are:
- University of California – Davis
TheThe large and public four-year university offers three entomology degree programs.
- Cornell University
This large and private four-year university offers three entomology degree programs.
- University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
This university offers two entomology degree programs.
- North Carolina State University at Raleigh
This university offers two entomology degree programs.
- University of Wisconsin – Madison
This university offers three entomology degree programs.
The names of other universities to pursue entomology are Purdue University-Main Campus, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, University of Florida, etc.
Types of Entomologists
There are many routes an entomologist can take when it comes to this field. They can specialize in:
- A particular species
- The use of insects for certain applications
- The use of insects in industries
There are various types of entomologists, and their responsibilities differ depending on their job.
- Agricultural entomologists
The study of this entomology revolves around how crops can be protected from pests. These entomologists have to find a way to do this without harming those species of beneficial insects, like bees.
They could develop new ways to control pests which would reduce the use of pesticides. For example, this could involve using species of insects to control each other. This is just an example of a project they could work on.
- Veterinary entomologists
Veterinary entomologists work on ways to protect the following from insect pests as well as the diseases they carry:
- Zoo animals
Moreover, this field somewhat overlaps with medical entomology.
- Research Entomologist
These entomologists are experts in the evolution, classification, and identification of insects. If you pursue this as a career, it means spending most of your time in the lab. This involves:
- Testing theories
- Developing hypotheses
- Studying specimens
- Drawing conclusions
- Looking for undiscovered insects
After collecting and analyzing your data, you can host lectures to educate entomologists or publish your findings.
- Medical entomologists
Medical entomologists are responsible for researching ways to prevent diseases that can spread from insects to people. An example of such a disease is the West Nile Virus which is spread mainly by mosquitos.
- Taxonomic entomologists
They look for insects that are unknown and undiscovered. They work in the field to discover new species to understand insects. This will help us understand their evolution and roles, which could further lead to new medicines.
- Forensic entomologists
Insects help in determining timelines and locations, which is what forensic entomologists use in solving murders. In addition, they study the insects that are associated with the dead bodies, which gives them insight into other things too.
A forensic entomologist’s duties can be:
- Inspecting insect stings or bites on victims of auto accidents. This is to find out if the insect caused the driver to lose control.
- Identify the insects in a homicide scene to determine the time of death.
- Work with law enforcement about what’s uncovered.
- Sharing findings in court
- Being an expert witness
They assist law enforcement personnel in investigating health code violations, car accidents, homicides, etc.
- Structural entomologist
These entomologists study the insects found in buildings like cockroaches. The research to find ways to
- Prevent these insects from entering
- Get rid of them if they’ve settled inside
This is a health issue people would face in their homes. This study could help in securing our homes and health.
- Forest entomologist
They protect forests and wild plants by studying the pests that attack them.
Other common specializations include:
- Insect pathology
- Crop protection entomology
- Industrial entomology
- Insect physiology
- Insect morphology
- Biological control
There are so many to choose from, and you can determine which way you want to go based on your area of interest.
To be a successful entomologist, you’ll need certain skills and qualities. Those include:
- Good Observation skills
Entomologists working in the field need to be aware. They have to note down details about the insect’s appearance, behavior, environment, and more, so they need to stay alert.
- Comfortable with insects
This whole field revolves around insects. You will have to deal with handling insects and their by-products when you’re not studying them. You shouldn’t be jittery or squeamish around them for your own sake. On the other hand, this is what your life’s work will be about, so you should at least be comfortable!
- Good Communication skills
When it comes to the sciences, scientists have to be good at explaining what they mean to the next person to understand. Entomology, being a science, requires entomologists to be good at communicating and writing. This is so that they can explain their findings to the relevant person, such as an academic or student, policymakers, or others.
- Critical thinking
This field requires being able to conclude from the data they’ve collected. This data is collected by doing research, making observations, and performing experiments.
According to the U.S Department of Labor Statistics, employment in fields similar to wildlife biology will grow 2026 by 8%. This is close to the overall employment growth that all occupations have, which is 7%. Therefore, entomologists having a graduate degree would already be having more opportunities but will continue to have the greatest number of employment opportunities as time goes on.
Entomologists can choose to chat and observe the growth of insect populations. They can teach at universities or research methods regarding pest control. Some choose to educate the public about insects. They can do this at zoos or through a university.
- Working Options
They can work in different sectors and areas like:
- Research Groups
- Military agencies
- Public health organizations
- Biotechnology firms
The federal government hires them for various reasons. An example is that entomologists inspect ports for foreign pests. In addition, they are involved in researching insect-related hazards that would affect the public’s health.
The military hires entomologists to help with parasite prevention and pest control on their military bases. They also use pest control services to protect crops and forests.
Doctors need entomologists and entomology. This is because one out of six people is suffering from an insect carried disease. Doctors need entomologists to help them understand this so they can treat patients effectively.
Work schedules vary based on the worker and their employer. However, some are more or less similar all around.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists mostly work full time. Their hours may differ. Educators may observe the 9 am to 5 pm routine but mainly work during the school year.
On the other hand, researchers usually have to work long and irregular hours. This especially refers to when they have to do fieldwork. For example, entomologists are commonly known to work more than forty hours a week, especially when researching.
Importance of Entomology
Insects have been on this planet for many years. They play a huge role in the environment as well as our lives. But, unfortunately, they carry diseases that can cause serious harm to people, animals, and plants. By studying and understanding their biology, we can understand more about the disease and control its spread.
Furthermore, insects are the evolved solutions to many of the chemical and physical problems we face. We are only able to figure it out by studying them and experimenting. Entomologists and engineers have started looking into insects for solutions in chemistry and material science.
This field helps us realize the importance of bugs. They are economically and agriculturally an asset to us. They are pollinators that are crucial for the environment and indirectly for humanity. They take part in important processes like decomposition. They are under observation for their population and physiological processes. For example, the common fruit fly is a model species in genetics.
We discover and learn so much from them. They are everywhere, and we will always come into contact with them. We have only discovered over a million species of insects. Still, there have been estimations saying that there may be as many as ten million species.
Salary of Entomologists as of 2021
Entomologists make about $72,397 on average annually. This means $35 an hour. This is just a general value generated by the data collected on Zip Recruiter. The annual salaries range from $24,000 to $178,000 however a majority earns between $58,000 and $72,500.
Some states are known to pay more, and for entomologists, some of these states would be:
- Irvine, California: Earn 67.9% more
- Atlanta, Georgia: Earn 65.8% more
- Raleigh, North Caroline: Earn 49.2% more
Key: The percentage increase is how much more these places pay as compared to the national average.
The study of bugs has helped mankind evolve and progress in this world. By understanding the species we coexist with, we learn about how they function and what they do. As a result, we can protect ourselves from harmful ones and utilize the helpful ones.
Besides that, these creepy crawlies aren’t as creepy as most people classify them to be. We often forget that both moths and butterflies lie in the same category in the end. Insects are more than what they appear to be. They are the answer to a lot of unanswered and unasked questions.
There is so much more yet to discover.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who is the most famous entomologist?
William Morton Wheeler is the most famous entomologist. He is an American who was recognized for his authority on social insects like ants.
- What does entomology mean?
It means the study of segmented things. Another way to describe it is as the branch of zoology related to the study of bugs.
- What do entomologists wear?
Usually, entomologists wear what we wear, which are normal things like a casual T-shirt and jeans. However, their attire varies when it comes to working in the lab or working in the field.
When dealing with chemicals or harmful insects, safety precautions are taken. Entomologists wear lab coats and use other equipment if necessary. They wear field clothes when working outside because they have to set traps etc. Sometimes they are even required to wear uniforms, but that depends a lot on the work.
- How do they catch insects?
Entomologists have their equipment for when it comes to trapping insects. The simplest way to catch them is with a butterfly net.