Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Getting a Palaeontology Job in Australia

By John Long

Australia’s funding system disadvantages students attempting to turn their palaeontology studies into a career.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In September 2015 this column looked at how school students interested in fossils can get into a degree and formally study palaeontology. But how does one get a real job and secure a career in the fossil business?

It’s certainly not easy, but neither is it impossible. Each year we see a good number of students apply to study palaeontology at universities around Australia. This year Flinders University is offering its first major in vertebrate palaeontology, the branch that offers sexy research topics on fish, mammals, dinosaurs and other backboned critters. This begs the question: how does a student get that first foot onto the career elevator?

The first step is getting a postdoctoral position. The Distinguished Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) given out by the Australian Research Council (ARC) are very hard to win. In the most recent round only 17% of applicants were successful. Usually only researchers applying in their fourth or fifth years after their postgraduate degree win them, simply because they need a few years as an active researcher to rack up the necessary publications to be competitive. That’s the catch.

The only other way is for the student to excel at their research and get offered a postdoc by their supervisor. They need to publish some highly significant papers. To do this the student must be given a really good research...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.