WCVE producer Steve Clark and entomologist Dr. Art Evans offer up suggestions for those considering earning a degree in entomology on how to find just the right university or professor to pursue their studies.
Here are some suggestions for pursuing a career in entomology.
SC: I’m Steve Clark with Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, and this is What’s Bugging You. After seven or eight years of this, you’d think I’d have enough behind me to be an entomologist, but actually I don’t want to quit this career. And every time I bend over to look at a bug I get dizzy. (laughing) So it’s not going to be me, but I understand there is a shortage of entomologists.
AE: Well, there was a posting on Time’s website about a shortage of entomologists, and that caught my eye. And I did read the article, and it was a very narrow article about the shortage of trained medical entomologists that were available to do mosquito surveys in southern Florida, looking for mosquitoes that might be carrying the virus that causes dengue, and chikungunya, and zika.
SC: So a medical entomologist is a whole different discipline?
AE: Well, it’s a subset of entomology, the broader science of entomology, that’s for sure. But over the years I’ve counseled students who are interested in looking for some career in the biological sciences. And I’ve met with people who had a degree in biology but felt they wanted to do something a bit more specialized. And every now and again I’m contacted by a very interested parent, raising a budding entomologist, and wants some tips and pointers on pursuing entomology as a career. The great thing about an interest in insects is you don’t have to have any formal training in it. You can just go out and do it. But if you want a career in entomology, you need to have that college education, and a bachelor’s degree is the absolute minimum for an entry level job. And if you’re interested in doing research or teaching at the university level, you have to have a Ph. D. I recommend that students get into the primary literature, read the entomological journals, and see what kind of research interests them, and more importantly who’s doing it and where are they. Then reach out to those people. Attend a conference. Contact the researcher and let them know you're interested in their work and go visit them. Personal connections make a huge difference in finding your way in any career, and entomology is no different.
SC: Even amateurs find a specialty and become really knowledgeable about that one particular insect.
AE: Oh, there’s some incredible people out there that are self-educated that have made extraordinary contributions to our understanding of insects and entomology. A lot of us battle with, “Well, if I turn it into a profession, will I ruin it for myself? I love entomology, but if it becomes a job, will I lose my passion too?” And for some people that’s a real concern. Fortunately for myself, that’s not the case. I do know professional entomologists that worked at a museum, or a university, or an industry for 30-40 years, and then they retired and completely walked away from it. That’s always amazing to me, because I’ll be working until the day I drop.
SC: For the fame and the fortune.
AE: Yeah, right, of course. That’s why anybody gets into entomology. No, it’s always been my passion, and I can’t imagine not doing it. That’s what I’m doing in my head in the evenings; that’s what I’m doing on weekends. It’s very rare that I step back from entomology altogether and just say, “I need a break.” Just ask my wife, you know. She’ll sometimes look at me when I’m sitting quietly and she’ll say, “You’re thinking about beetles, aren’t you?” (laughing) We’ll also post a link to that page that offers suggestions of how to pursue an education and career in entomology.
SC: Dr. Art Evans is the author of Beetles of Eastern North America. You’ll find photos, audio, and a link to Art’s Facebook page at ideastations.org/radio/bugs.
Photo: Whether or not you decide to pursue a career in entomology, taking a university entomology course will forever change your perspective of the natural world.