Entomology is the study of insects. There are many different roles for entomologists.
They can work in:
Field Research - conducting scientific surveys of natural habitats and studying insect ecology, identifying, recording and monitoring insect species, and searching for new species.
Conservation - protecting, managing and enhancing insect life.
Laboratory Research - in a wide range of fields, such as taxonomy (classifying insects), fighting diseases that are spread to humans and animals by insects and developing insecticides.
Tasks vary depending on the employer, but the work could include:
Entomologists may work with other scientists and technicians, employees and volunteers from conservation organisations, and representatives from local and national government and industry.
Hours vary from post to post. Entomologists in research and higher education usually work about 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Those working in conservation and field research may work irregular hours, including weekends.
Research entomologists may spend a significant amount of their time in laboratories. Those in higher education divide their time between lecture theatres, classrooms, laboratories and offices. Entomologists working in the field or conservation spend some time outdoors and may have to cope with all weather conditions. Fieldwork can be physically demanding.
Special precautions, including wearing protective clothing, must be taken when dealing with dangerous species or toxic substances.
Salaries may start at around £16,000 a year.
There are only a few hundred entomologists in the UK. Employers include:
Competition for jobs, especially in conservation and fieldwork, can be intense, although there is demand for accomplished entomologists. Many jobs are offered on short-term contracts.
While knowledge of a small number of species may be sufficient for academic research, more applied roles generally require a broader understanding of one or more of the larger groups of insects. People with this level of knowledge usually have a good chance of finding work. Opportunities in agriculture are declining, as there are now fewer insect pests.
Vacancies are advertised in national newspapers, in publications like New Scientist, Nature and The Times Higher Education Supplement, and on websites like www.jobs.ac.uk and www.environmentjob.co.uk. Civil Service posts are advertised at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/civil-service.
It may be possible to enter at trainee or technician level with GCSE's/S grades and A levels/H grades, or equivalent qualifications. Subjects should include maths, science (including biology) and English. Geography and geology can also be useful.
However, most entomologists have degrees. At present there are no degrees in entomology, but entomology modules are available in some biology, zoology, biological sciences and environmental science degrees. To study for a first degree, candidates usually need at least two A levels/three H grades, and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3). Alternative entry qualifications include BTEC/SQA national qualifications.
For many careers, a postgraduate qualification such as an MSc or PhD is required. Postgraduate courses in entomology are offered by a number of universities throughout the UK.
Experience is as important as qualifications, so doing voluntary work in museums or with conservation organisations, for example, is a good way to learn skills such as insect identification, sample sorting and conservation techniques.
It is also useful to join entomological societies, conservation organisations or study groups, subscribe to entomological journals and hold collections (specimens or photos) of insects.
Graduates intending to work in research usually study for a PhD (which is a research project generally lasting around three years), assessed by academics with significant knowledge of the field.
It is possible to study for postgraduate qualifications while at work. Courses in various subjects such as applied parasitology or medical entomology are available. Entomology is offered as a module in environmental archaeology courses and in some environmental sciences, biodiversity and conservation courses. Forensic entomology may be offered as a module on courses in forensics.
Training in identifying insect groups is available through organisations such as the British Entomological and Natural History Society.
Some employers may provide on-the-job training.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
An entomologist needs:
There is no established career structure for conservation and field entomologists. Progression usually involves taking on more responsibility for projects and advising or managing others.
In universities, there may be promotion from researcher to lecturer, then to higher grades such as senior lecturer, principal lecturer, reader, professor, or head of department.
In industry, there may be a career structure with experienced entomologists being promoted to more senior positions.
Once established, there may be the opportunity to become a self-employed consultant.
Entomologists can work all over the world.
British Entomological and Natural History Society,
The Pelham-Clinton Building, Dinton Pastures Country Park,
Davis Street, Hurst, Reading RG10 0TH
British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV),
Sedum House, Mallard Way, Potteric Carr, Doncaster DN4 8DB
Tel: 01302 388888
Buglife - The Invertebrate Conservation Trust,
170A Park Road, Peterborough PE1 2UF
Tel: 01733 201210
Civil Service Recruitment
Natural England, 1 East Parade, Sheffield S1 2ET
Tel: 0114 241 8920
The Natural History Museum,
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD
Tel: 020 7942 5000
Royal Entomological Society,
The Mansion House, Chiswell Green Lane,
St Albans AL2 3NS
Tel: 01727 899387
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.