Specialize in the study of birds.
picture of Ornithologist

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$36,000 – $93,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Ornithologists do?

An Ornithologist observes birds in their natural habitat. While the rest of us watch them in TV shows like “Sesame Street” or films like “March of the Penguins,” or read about them in poems such as Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” an Ornithologist does so much more.

As an Ornithologist, you’re a professional bird-watcher, but you’re more than a hobbyist with a camera and binoculars. A Zoologist who specializes in the study of birds, you’re a Scientist who’s paid to observe, identify, and classify different species of birds, including everything from finches, larks, and cranes to eagles, puffins, and pigeons.

Employed most often by zoos, museums, aviaries, and universities, you spend some days traveling to natural bird habitats, others observing birds in captivity, and still others studying birds in laboratories. Always, however, your job is studying birds’ biology, physiology, ecology, and behavior in order to learn more about how they live, learn, and relate — both to one another and to their environment.

A Conservationist, you’re deeply concerned about birds’ endangerment and extinction. Although your ornithological predecessors shot, trapped, and dissected birds so they could study them, you therefore prefer to study live specimens in order to simultaneously learn about and protect them.

Because research careers are hard to come by, you will often find work as an Author or Professor, writing about birds or teaching about them. Always, though, you’re one of very few people who can use the term “feathered friend” and mean it!

Should I be an Ornithologist?

You should have a master's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Trustworthy: You are known for your personal integrity and honesty.
  • Outside the Box Thinker: Your creative brainpower gets a workout as you come up with innovative ideas.
  • Persistent: You keep pushing through, even when faced with tough obstacles.

  • How to become an Ornithologist

    Most Ornithologists have a Master's degree. Start by getting your Bachelor's degree. Chart?chd=s:aaa59b&chl=|||bachelor%27s+%2848%25%29|master%27s+%2852%25%29|doctorate+%281%25%29&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,0,52
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