Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

So You Wanna Become a Palaeontologist, Kid?

By John Long

Some career advice for young people to get a start in palaeontology.

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As a boy aged 7 years, I collected fossils from various sites around Melbourne and dreamed of one day becoming a real palaeontologist. I knuckled down to study, scrapping through the compulsory maths, physics and chemistry units in matriculation (Year 12) in order to win a place in a university Science degree.

In early 1976 I was interviewed at Melbourne University by the late Prof Owen Singleton, a palaeontologist, about my future. I told him I wanted to become a palaeontologist, and was immediately told to give up the idea. I’d never get a job. I recall very well how I was sternly advised to study geology and find work as a geologist.

After completing all the available palaeontology undergraduate courses at Melbourne University at the end of my second year, I transferred to Monash University where I was encouraged to study vertebrate palaeontology by the new lecturer, Dr Pat Vickers-Rich, who had just arrived from the USA.

I graduated from there with a PhD completed in just under 3 years and was immediately awarded a postdoctoral position at the Australian National University, followed by another at The University of Western Australia and then a third at the University of Tasmania. After that I transitioned into an on-going position as the Curator in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Western Australian Museum. I finally managed to succeed in a...

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