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What Is a Taxonomist? Key Roles and Duties

Taxonomists are professionals who specialize in classifying and sorting information based on an established system. Taxonomists work in a range of fields to identify and describe various concepts or organisms then sorting them based on similar characteristics and patterns. Scientific and information-based fields both have a strong need for taxonomists. This article explains the basics of taxonomy, outlines what assets a taxonomist brings to the workplace and explains how to get started hiring a qualified taxonomist.

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What is a taxonomist?

A taxonomist is an information scientist who studies how different ideas and entities can be categorized. They have extensive education in their industry so that they can make accurate and thoughtful classifications. For example, a biology taxonomistmight have an advanced degree in zoology while a digital taxonomist might have a background in library sciences or education. Taxonomists use a complex methodology to sort and classify information so that others can easily access and understand concepts in an intuitive, user-friendly way.

Related:Making an Organizational Structure for a Business

Types of taxonomists

There are several types of taxonomists who apply their methodology and education to different industries:

Natural science taxonomists

Natural science taxonomists are generally what people think of when discussing the concept of taxonomy. Taxonomists who work in natural science fields name and classify plants, animals and natural elements. They identify and name new species and diseases so that other scientists can discuss them appropriately during their studies. Natural science taxonomists can specialize in identifying things like soil types, atmospheric conditions, plants, animals and viruses.

Digital taxonomists

Digital taxonomists organize web content to make it easier for users to access. They help design and manage web pages, deciding which "child pages" flow into "parent pages" in the most logical way. For example, a digital taxonomist could help a business owner design the navigation for their online store. Instead of listing all of the product links directly on the main page, a digital taxonomist could identify what categories and sub-categories are related to customer needs.

Business taxonomists

Business taxonomists develop hierarchies and classifications of different jobs, responsibilities and economic activities. Business taxonomists often work in records management or human resources to create logical workflows and workplace reporting systems. They also analyze economic activity in different industries to facilitate research and policy-making decisions.

Related: What is Tax Abatement? A Guide for Business Operators

Computing taxonomists

Taxonomy is also a key profession in computer science, creating definitions for different computing and software systems as they develop. Computing taxonomists commonly work with search engines to make user searches more relevant based on the categories they search for and how each result relates to a keyword. They also describe how data travels through computing systems and networks to facilitatesystem administration. Computing taxonomists study human behavior and examine how people sort and tag their own digital information to find it more easily in the future.

Academic taxonomists

Educational and academic taxonomists create frameworks for teaching others and explaining academic concepts. They develop systems for categorizing and achieving learning goals in a hierarchical way, commonly known as "scaffolding." They also classify various academic disciplines using code systems and categories to help educational institutions organize their programming and enable students to access the most relevant educational tools and classes for their current skill level.

Related: What Are ER Taxes? A Guide to Employer Taxes

What does a taxonomist do?

Taxonomists spend a significant amount of time performing research in their field and looking at large data sets to discover patterns. Some of the key responsibilities of a taxonomist include:

  • Mapping the characteristics of concepts and organisms
  • Collecting scientific specimens
  • Creating organizational methods
  • Analyzing student or user behavior
  • Interpreting and analyzing data
  • Identify new and unique concepts
  • Apply established naming strategies to new ideas
  • Explaining the context of classifications to colleagues
  • Producing reports and articles

Taxonomists work independently when performing research and also collaborate with other professionals in their field to implement the organizational updates they develop after analyzing data. They can work in a lab or an office environment and in the field observing organisms in their natural habitat.

Benefits of hiring a taxonomist

Having a taxonomist at your company can provide data-driven strategies for approaching business success and customer relationships, regardless of industry. The key benefits of hiring a taxonomist are:


Taxonomists make information more accessible and user-friendly to colleagues and customers. They have the knowledge and expertise to understand what descriptions and titles are most helpful to people trying to use a company’s services. They gather the necessary context about your business’s specific operations and goals, then align them with how consumers usually look for similar solutions.


Having an established plan for organizing titles and information at your business can help you and your employees be more consistent. Taxonomists categorize information using established scientific systems, providing continuity even if a company restructures or hires new staff. By having a professional dedicated to categorizing information, the rest of the workplace becomes much more organized.

Solution-oriented workflows

Taxonomists make decisions based on user experience and solving problems. They can help your organization become more efficient by identifying the challenges people face when trying to access and organize information.

How to hire a taxonomist

Follow these steps to hire a taxonomist at your organization:

1. Craft a job description

Explain the specific type of taxonomy that you want to implement at your workplace in the job description. Describe the problems you need them to solve and the scope of their work.

2. Search professional associations

Taxonomy is a highly specialized profession and it can be challenging to find a candidate that has all of the qualifications you need and significant industry experience. While there is not a single professional association for taxonomists, reach out to professional associations in your field to get quality recommendations and leads.

3. Write specific interview questions

Because taxonomy is a highly specialized field, the interview questions should test a candidate’s knowledge. Here are some sample interview questions for a taxonomist:

  • Would you use polyhierarchy or monohierarchy when developing a taxonomy for our business?
  • What is your experience with data science?
  • What factors do you use when defining a species?
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