Career Choice: Paleontologist

Career Choice: Paleontologist
  • Type: Career Type
  • Opening Intro -

    Paleontologists represent a geoscience subspecialty, professionals that study fossils including dinosaur remains.

    Most paleontologists have a bachelor’s degree, but a significant number have master’s degrees or a Ph.D.


Licensing on the state level may be required of geoscientists and demand for those with field experience should be good with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an 18 percent increase in the number of paleontologists needed from 2008 to 2018. The pay scale for paleontologists reflects the professional’s experience, employer and location.

Average Salaries

The mean annual wage for geoscientists, including paleontologists, was $93,380 as of May 2010 reports the bureau. The pay scale for this occupation ranged from approximately $43,820 to $160,910 per year or more. The median annual salary for geoscientists was $82,500. The middle 50 percent of these professionals could expect to earn $57,820 to $115,460 per year.

Top Employers

Of the 30,830 geoscientists employed in 2010, 7,730 worked for architectural and engineering companies, earning $80,460 per year. For paleontologists, employment was most likely through museums or universities operated by state governments or through the federal government which paid $62,880 and $95,580 on average, respectively.

State Pay Scales

The three states where geoscientists including paleontologists earned the highest wages were Oklahoma, Texas and Alaska, paying mean annual wages of $128,870, $125,070 and $103,880, respectively. The pay scale in Oklahoma ranged from $65,870 for those in the 10th percentile to more than $166,400 for those at the upper end of the pay scale. In Texas, the pay scale ranged from $57,810 to more than $166,400 per year. In Alaska, the pay scale ranged from $46,440 to $166,400 or more per year. Several states offered pay well below the national mean including South Carolina and South Carolina, which averaged $37,770 and $54,040, respectively. The pay scale in South Carolina ranged from $23,140 to $54,790. In South Dakota, the pay scale ranged from $38,360 to $71,910.

Metropolitan Area Pay Scales

Paleontologist pay was highest in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where these professionals averaged $146,050 per year. The greater Houston and greater Fort Worth areas of Texas followed, with wages averaging $135,460 and $127,910 per year. The pay scale for Oklahoma City geoscientists ranged from $78,180 to more than $166,400 per year. Those in Houston earned from $67,770 to $166,400 or more per year. In Forth Worth, these professionals earned $73,160 to $166,400 or more per year.


O-Net Online; Summary Report for: 19-2042.00 – Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; Geoscientists and Hydrologists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment Statistics; 19-2042 Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers

The Paleontological Society: Home

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