What Do Entomologists Do? (And Why They're Important)
Updated February 3, 2023
The study of insects is an important field of science that allows people to learn more about the natural world, how it functions and how it affects life. Entomologists are scientists who study insects and use their research to advise the scientific community, the public and organizations. Learning more about an entomologist's duties can help determine if this job suits your interests and professional goals.
In this article, we explain what entomologists do and share other important aspects of this career path, including entomology specializations, job titles, benefits, work environments and education requirements.
What does an entomologist do?
An entomologist studies insects and their relationships with other organisms and the environment. Their work contributes to many other scientific fields, such as pharmacology, epidemiology, agriculture, veterinary science and forensics. Other primary duties of an entomologist may include:
Planning experiments: Entomologists develop hypotheses and plan experiments to test them. Their experiments can involve observing insects in a laboratory or their natural habitat.
Gathering data: Throughout their experiments, entomologists gather data by collecting or observing specimens. Their data may include quantitative observations, like the number of an insect's eggs, or qualitative observations, such as a description of an insect's behavior.
Reviewing industry research: These scientists remain aware of the latest entomology discoveries by reading scientific journals and attending conferences. This knowledge allows them to conduct additional research on new insects and refine their data collection techniques.
Publishing reports: When an entomologist completes an experiment, they can publish their findings in scholarly articles. Other scientists can use this information to understand insects and their habits better.
Advising other professionals: Entomologists often use their findings to advise professionals in other industries. For instance, they might offer insect control solutions to agricultural companies.
What specializations are available in entomology?
Many entomologists choose a specialization to focus on an area they're interested in, qualify for higher-level positions and increase their earning potential. These scientists often specialize in certain species like:
Other entomologists have even more specific specializations that allow them to become subject matter experts. For instance, an entomologist might only study the reproduction habits of butterflies or focus on developing efficient classification systems for ants.
What careers are available in entomology?
Entomology is a broad career path with job opportunities in many areas and industries. Here are some options to consider when pursuing a career in entomology:
Insect morphology: Insect morphology studies the physical form of insects. In a career related to this field, you may identify species with parasitic behavior and create classification systems.
Insect physiology: Insect physiology careers involve the study of the biological mechanisms and chemistry of insects. Many scientists specialize in the digestive, circulatory, respiratory or nervous systems.
Crop protection entomology: Crop protection entomologists research methods for managing insects that field crops. They use their findings to recommend products to farmers.
Medical entomology: Some insects can transmit diseases to humans. As a medical entomologist, you can study these diseases, develop cures and prevent them from spreading further.
Industrial entomology: As an industrial entomologist, you can help companies create insect-derived products. For instance, you might develop production methods for honey or silk.
Structural entomology: Structural entomology involves the study of insects in human homes and commercial buildings. Your work can help people prevent termites and cockroaches from invading their establishments.
Forensic entomology: Forensic entomologists study insects that invade decomposed cadavers. Their findings help investigation teams determine the cause, time and location of death.
Biological control: Those with a career in biological control regulate pest populations using natural predators. They may release a species to control an insect population threatening public health.
Teaching: Entomologists with doctoral degrees often pursue careers as college professors. They may oversee entomology degree programs, give lectures and manage research labs.
Related: 17 Jobs in Biological Sciences
Who benefits from entomology?
The study of insects is important because it offers benefits for everyone. It affects the global food supply and the health of people and the planet. Here are some of the primary beneficiaries of entomology:
Farmers: Understanding how insects affect plant and animal life allows farmers to protect their crops and livestock from insect-borne illness.
Homeowners: Learning about insects and how to prevent infestations safely allows homeowners to protect the comfort and integrity of their homes.
Animals: Entomology allows scientists to control insect populations that can have a negative effect on animal health.
The environment: Entomologists use their knowledge to learn about and control insects' relationships with their habitats, including plants, animals and other insects.
The world: By protecting the environment and the food people and animals eat, entomology benefits the entire world.
Work environment for entomologists
Entomologists have flexible work environments that allow them to spend time indoors and outdoors. They typically work in a laboratory or office conducting controlled experiments or analyzing results. When it's time to observe insects in their natural habitats or collect specimens, they visit rainforests and grasslands. Some entomologists even travel to exotic locations to study rare species of insects. As an entomologist, you may find positions at the following locations:
Entomologists often have full-time positions and work during normal business hours. This consistent schedule can help you achieve an optimal work-life balance and care for your family. If your position involves strict research deadlines or travel, your work hours may be more irregular.
Education and training requirements for entomologists
Most entry-level entomology positions require you to have at least a bachelor's degree. Pursuing an entomology degree can help you prepare for your career by providing specialized classes on insect behavior. Employers may also favor candidates with a degree in other science-related fields. Try choosing a major like biology, zoology or environmental science if entomology isn't an option. Choose science courses like chemistry, physiology and ecology, and take statistics and computer technology classes to develop your analytical research skills.
If you want to pursue a higher-level position and increase your earning potential, consider pursuing additional education. A master's or doctoral degree in entomology, medical parasitology or integrated pest management is an appropriate qualification. You can also increase your credibility by becoming a Board Certified Entomologist or Associate Certified Entomologist through the Entomological Society of America.
Tips for becoming an entomologist
Here are a few tips for becoming an entomologist:
Apply for internships. Consider researching internship programs through your college. You may have the opportunity to develop your skills in common entomology work environments, such as a lab, zoo or museum.
Join a professional organization. By joining a professional organization, you can learn from other entomologists and demonstrate your commitment to the industry. Employers often value memberships with the American Entomological Society and the Entomological Society of America.
Apply for positions that align with your interests. Entomology is a broad field with many specializations. By determining your interests and analyzing job descriptions, you can apply for a position that aligns with your career goals.
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