Studying Paleontology

As an interdisciplinary subject, paleontology lies between the geosciences and life sciences and deals with questions concerning the origin and development of life on Earth

Paleontologists research and reconstruct the evolution of life, environments and ecosystems on Earth using fossils, fossil communities, traces and other ancient discoveries. The main research areas are as interdisciplinary as they are diverse. They include, among other things, evolutionary history and processes of evolution, event research (extinction and climate events), and stratigraphic and systematic-taxonomic research. Phylogenetic reconstructions based on morphological, molecular or combined data can be used to research the evolution of various organisms. Biodiversity analyses are used to reconstruct past habitats and ecosystems. But also biogeochemistry, rock analyses such as carbonate microfacies, and conservation paleobiology are some of the specialist areas of paleontology.

Paleontology is at the interface between earth and life sciences. Its interdisciplinary approach contributes to the understanding of geological and biological processes on Earth, which have controlled environmental conditions throughout Earth's history, such as changes in climate, and will continue to influence them in the future.

The classic study of paleontology is possible as part of geoscience programs (Bachelor & Master). During your studies you can specialize in paleontology. Further master’s courses can focus on different areas (e.g. paleobiology or geobiology). The requirements for admission to the master’s program differ among the universities. As a rule, a bachelor's degree in geosciences or biosciences is required; a bachelor's degree in other subjects can also be accepted. Use the list of universities below to find more information. 

What can I expect from my studies?

The study program consists of lectures, seminars, geological mapping and excursions as well as university and professional internships. The basics in other disciplines such as biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics are also part of the training in the bachelor's degree. In addition, the scientific process, such as forming hypotheses, literature research, writing and presenting are taught. Writing research proposals and science communication are also part of some study programs. English language skills are necessary, as a large part of the specialist literature is only available in English. They can be acquired during your studies.

It is always helpful to take a job at your institute. As a student assistant, you have the opportunity to get to know scientific and/or practical work in your field in addition to supplementing your budget. It also facilitates networking with other student assistants as well as with scientists and technicians and makes it easier to integrate into the institute.

With a geoscience or life science degree with a major in paleontology, you acquire a solid education on the basis of an extensive scientific spectrum and good career prospects, and the joy of scientific curiosity is certainly not neglected. 

Career opportunities

Professional opportunities are diverse. Important fields of activity for paleontologists are research, collection and museum work, the private sector and geo-tourism.

Due to the public interest in climate change, a lot of research is currently being carried out in the field of paleoclimatology and paleoecology. These deal with the reconstruction of the climate and past ecosystems. Conclusions about the continuing development of the climate can be made with this research.

One of the most important areas of work in the private sector is exploration. This is the investigation and development of lagerstätten. In the hydrocarbon industry, drill cores are often examined for microfossils in order to classify the rock stratigraphically, i.e. to provide a relative date. The hydrocarbon-bearing horizons can then be found using the stratigraphic classification of the rock.

One of the most important tasks of paleontology is to collect information about the development of life all over the world and to process and evaluate it scientifically. This is done with the help of fossil remains. The work of paleontologists takes place in the field or on the ocean, in the laboratory, the library, the collection, and at a desk in the office. It ranges from the traditional classification of rocks and taxonomy to operating scanning electron microscopes and CT scanners to paleoecological modeling on the computer and beyond.

Study locations

Germany

Austria

Switzerland

If you have any further questions about your studies, please contact our student representative.

Student Representative

Universität Bonn
Steinmann-Institut
Nussalle 8
D-53115 Bonn
effi.drews(at)uni-bonn.de

Kontakt

Paläontologische Gesellschaft
Geschäftsstelle
Schumannstr. 144
63069 Offenbach am Main
Tel.: 069 / 403 585 77
Fax: 069 / 403 560 26
Email: geschaeftsstelle(at)palges.de
Internet: www.palges.de

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