More commonly known for their work with bugs, entomologists are a driving force behind many of the modern conveniences we enjoy today. They’re also an important pillar of our nation’s agricultural system.
Entomologists are responsible for solving problems that other scientists can’t; they look at insects and other arthropods (crustaceans, arachnids) as well as nematodes (roundworms) and mollusks (gastropods). These scientists apply their knowledge of biology to address critical issues related to pest control, environmental health, food safety, and crop production. The result? Potentially life-changing inventions like gene editing techniques and other beneficial technologies.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an entomologist and what it takes to become one yourself.
Entomologist Job Duties
Typical job duties for entomologists include the following:
- Collecting samples of insects, including larvae, eggs, or adults, for identification in a lab
- Monitoring insect populations through field trips using traps or other means to identify changes in infestation rates over time
- Collecting, observing, and studying insects and other arthropods in their natural habitat to learn more about them
- Identifying insects by their physical features and behavior patterns to determine their species, habitats, population dynamics, and possible threats to humans or animals
- Studying insect life cycles to determine environmental factors that affect the breeding cycle of the insect
- Researching methods for controlling or eliminating insect populations that pose threats to human health or safety
Entomologist Salary & Outlook
The median annual salary for entomologists is $50,515. The highest earners are bringing home over $89,000 per year.
The employment of entomologists is projected to grow faster than average over the next decade. This growth is due to the threat posed by insect-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Lyme disease as well as the growing importance of agriculture worldwide. These experts will be needed to develop strategies that minimize disease-carrying insects and find ways to reduce crop damage from insects.
Entomologist Job Requirements
The education, training, and certification requirements for an entomologist are as follows:
Education: Entomologists should have a bachelor’s degree in entomology, biology, zoology, or a related field of study. Some employers may prefer to hire an entomologist with a master’s or doctoral degree.
Training: In addition to their classroom education, entomologists must complete relevant internships or apprenticeships to learn their trade. Some organizations offer paid apprenticeships to those who are not yet fully qualified for the job.
Certifications & Licenses: Entomologists are not required to earn any certifications or licenses, but earning one can help them advance their careers. One of the most popular certifications is the Certified Entomologist. The Entomological Society of America offers this program to entomologists who have earned a master’s or doctoral degree in entomology.
In addition to education, these are some of the skills that entomologists require:
Observation skills: An ability to observe insects, plants and other natural phenomena with precision is essential for the job.
Research skills: This job requires field research as well as academic research skills.
Communication skills: Entomologists must communicate their findings to others through publications, conferences, exhibits, workshops, lectures, seminars, and training programs.
Patience: Researching insects can take a long time due to slow-moving organisms and other factors. It’s important for an entomologist to be patient while working on projects.
Detail-orientation: Individuals must be able to look at tiny bugs and accurately describe them. They also need high attention to detail for recording their findings.
Organizational skills: Entomologists must keep detailed records of their research findings and observations, and they must be able to organize these records in a way that makes them easy for other scientists to access.
Entomologist Work Environment
Entomologists work indoors in laboratories but also work outdoors collecting samples. The physical outdoor work environment of entomologists can be dirty, inconvenient, and dangerous. They spend much of their time outdoors while conducting fieldwork such as documenting insect activity or collecting specimens for research. These activities often require traveling into remote areas that may lack access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities.
This position is typically full-time and calls for long hours and patience.
Entomologist Career Advancement
Entomologists looking for ways to advance their careers can take on leadership roles within an organization or teach classes at a university. Some entomologists even become writers, speaking out about the importance of insect-borne diseases and prevention methods.
Entomologists may advance to become lead entomologists at government agencies, professors, or consultants. They may also go on to pursue higher degrees like a Ph.D. or attain certification in their field of expertise.
Advancement opportunities as an entomologist often come with increased education and experience. Those who want to advance should try to attend conferences and seminars, or work for a research company or university, where they’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with others in their field.
Here are three trends influencing how entomologists work. Entomologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Increased Importance of Insects
Insects are playing an increasingly important role in human health and safety, as scientists learn more about the benefits of insects as food sources and biological control agents.
As such, there is increasing interest in these creatures among professionals, both for study and use in the field. However, there is also a strong need for entomologists to address insect-related concerns among the general public—for example, how to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes or what to do if one comes into contact with fire ants.
As the human population continues to grow, so does the potential for invasive species to cause problems in natural ecosystems.
As one example, many plant species that were introduced into new environments by humans have led to negative impacts on local ecosystems, such as altering water quality and pollinating at unnatural rates.
This trend is likely to intensify in the coming years as climate change creates more hospitable conditions for these organisms to thrive in places where they previously could not survive.
Genetic Engineering of Insects
Genetic engineering of insects is an emerging trend in the field of entomology. Insects can be modified using genetic engineering to combat diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, which affect over one billion people worldwide.
While this practice is currently banned in many countries, including the United States, it remains legal in countries like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom where scientists are continuing to conduct research on insects for this purpose.
How to Become an Entomologist
1. Planning Your Career Path
If you’re thinking about a career as an entomologist, it’s important to consider the job outlook for your field. There are many different types of entomologists, so it’s important to determine which type you want to be: do you want to work with a specific insect or a general class of insects? How much time do you want to spend outdoors? Will you be responsible for educating the public about your research? There are opportunities to work in academia or industry; consider what kind of impact you would like to make on the world before making your decision.
The best way to learn more about these different jobs is to speak with professionals in the field. Reach out to a professor at your school or a professional in your area who can tell you more about their role and offer advice on how to get started. Another option is to reach out to local museums that might have informational sessions on this topic; many of them hold monthly events where scientists can come in and discuss their work.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for entomologists typically include a strong emphasis on research and field experience. You must also include all relevant education and working experience. While listing your work history, it’s important to focus on evidence of the skills that employers are seeking such as knowledge of taxonomy, identification techniques, and laboratory work.
In addition to highlighting these skills, you should also create a list of your extracurricular activities and hobbies that show off your interests in insects. The more specific you can be about the data you collected or contributed to, the better. If there were any publications from research projects where you contributed meaningfully, it is useful to list these along with the journals they were published in.
3. Applying for Jobs
Make sure you are making the right contacts in your community. Be sure to join local entomology societies or even join groups that may not be directly related to entomology but are related to biology. This way you can meet other people in the same field.
There are also opportunities to volunteer at zoos and aquariums to gain experience in the field. Volunteering can help make you more qualified for job opportunities. You may be able to intern at these facilities, which can also help you gain experience.
4. Ace the Interview
An entomologist interview will give you the opportunity to expand on your resume and cover letter. During the interview, you will want to make sure you are prepared to discuss your research experience. This may include the species of insects you’ve worked with, where you focused your studies, and any papers or other work that resulted from your research.
It’s useful to take some time to prepare by reviewing the organization’s website and other materials that might be available on its social media pages or through public records such as annual reports or news releases. This will allow you to provide informed answers regarding how your goals fit with their vision.