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Re: How to be a paleontologist

On Thursday, February 10, 2000, smichael@excite.com 

> Huh, I dunno about that Mary. I can think of at least
> one very famous paleontologist that didn't make it 
> through school. 

We can all recite instances of people who didn't go to 
college and were successful anyway, but of what 
generation are we speaking?  To get back to the 
original point of the paleontologist thread, the 
competition for jobs is fierce, and today a Ph.D. is 
absolutely imperative just for initial consideration. 
Those who made it without a degree would surely concede 
that they did it the hard way, but they also started 
out with the requisite brainpower to excel in the 

> I can also thing of a lot of famous and talented 
> museum staff (preparators, collections folks, etc.) 
> that have full time museum positions and publish on a 
> regular basis and don't have that "Dr" heading.
As Jonathan said in a previous post, there are other 
disciplines in the paleontology field which don't 
require a professional degree, but there are still
certain qualifications and experience needed.  Check
out any of the job announcements on Vrtpaleo or 
PaleoNet to see how many museum curator positions have 
high school diploma as the educational requirement.  

> The list would be very short indeed, and would be 
> missing some critical folks if degrees are the only
> thing that makes the paleontologist.

There is too much dilution of the term paleontologist,
from five year olds described as such to anyone who 
wants to call himself one.  Who would be these people's
peers in a review of their scientific papers?  Anyone
can study fossils, but an advanced academic degree 
implies that certain standards have been met. 

University, master's and doctorate programs mean more
than just time spent and papers pushed and chased.  
The broader curriculum of the undergraduate degree 
hopefully provides exposure to a good portion of
accumulated knowledge in a variety of subjects, with a 
dose of how to research, write, think logically, and 
discern relationships.  By the time one gets to the 
advanced degree stage, those skills should be in place
and provide a basis for further study towards expertise
and original research in the chosen area.  A Ph.D. is a
validation of one's credentials in that area.