Paleontology is the study of evolution and prehistoric life, and their relationship with the environment. Paleontologists work to discover the cause of past events so that they can be better understood and prevented in the future. Undergraduate paleontology degrees are generally not offered by colleges and universities, so aspiring paleontologists are required to obtain a graduate degree before being considered a professional. Many colleges and universities in the United States offer these graduate programs.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago ranks at the top of the "U.S. News and World Report" list of best paleontology programs. The Paleontology and Earth History program offered through the Department of the Geophysical Sciences is a flexible program designed by students with the help of an adviser. Since there is no requisite set of core classes, students are able to devise a study plan based on their individual interests. Weekly seminars are held, and candidates complete independent and collaborative research projects. Students are also encouraged to participate in a journal club.
Topping a list by TheBestCollege.org of paleontology schools is Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Department of Geo-Sciences offers a Master of Science degree curriculum that allows students to study various Earth processes. Coursework in geochemistry, geophysics and geology help students understand the Earth's environmental and geological hazards. Students and faculty members organize an annual student research symposium that allows colleagues, faculty members and paleontology professionals to critique their work.
The University of California -- Berkeley
One of the nation's top paleontology schools, Berkeley offers a full graduate program through the University of California Museum of Paleontology that offers collections and facilities to students. Graduate degrees with a paleontology emphasis are granted by the Department of Integrative Biology, the Geography Department and the Earth and Planetary Science Department. Each member of the paleontology faculty is also a curator in the museum, providing students with access to hands-on expertise.
University of Michigan
With its own Museum of Paleontology, the University of Michigan has one of the top-ranked programs in the field according to "U.S. News and World Report." The museum enables paleontology students to be exposed to interdisciplinary study with access to faculty members and students affiliated with the Museums of Zoology and Anthropology as well as the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The school is also one of the few in the country to offer an undergraduate minor in paleontology.
- The University of Chicago
- The University of Chicago: Department of the Geophysical Sciences
- U.S. News and World Report: Best Paleontology Programs
- TheBestColleges.org: The 10 Best Paleontology Graduate Programs for 2014
- Virginia Tech
- Virginia Tech: Geosciences at Virginia Tech
- Virginia Tech: Paleobiology and Geobiology Research Group at VT
- University of California -- Berkeley
- University of California Museum of Paleontology
- University of Michigan
- Marcio Silva/iStock/Getty Images