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Herpetologists are zoologists who specialize in the study of reptiles and amphibians, for example snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and frogs. Herpetology can be split into two broad categories:

- Basic herpetology: the study of reptiles and amphibians for its own sake

- Applied herpetology: the information gained in basic herpetology, applied to a particular situation

Basic herpetologists study the origin of these animals, their interrelationships with other species, how they are affected by the environment, their behaviour, growth and development, genetics and distribution. They sometimes also work in museums as taxonomists where they are responsible for naming and classifying species.

Applied herpetologists work as curators of reptile parks or in the reptile sections in zoos, and in other positions managing the breeding of reptiles and amphibians.

This work may also entail working in positions which require educating the public with regard to these species.

As this is a highly specialized field the advice of herpetologists is often sought by the media or by medical teams in the treatment of snakebite victims. This field does offer some entrepreneurial possibilities with regard to writing articles and appearing on nature conservation programmes on television, but it is unlikely that this would be a full-time option.

Satisfying Aspects
- working both indoors and outdoors
- being consulted for your knowledge
- working with nature in your field of interest

Demanding aspects
- possible eyestrain from using microscopes
- the dangers of dealing with poisonous creatures

A herpetologist should:
- love wild animals and have concern for their conservation, especially reptiles and amphibians;
- be concerned about conservation;
- have patience;
- be responsible;
- be committed to educating the public about these species;
- be willing to work long and unusual hours;
- obtain the highest possible qualification (competition for the limited availability of jobs is intense).

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics and Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences

Degree: BSc (Zoology) - all universities, followed by BSc Honours (Herpetology).

Post-graduate studies are essential for basic herpetology and senior positions in applied herpetology.

Diploma: N.Dip and N.H.Dip: Nature Conservation, eg CPUT, TUT, NMMU, UNISA.

Diplomas will only qualify you for assistant positions in zoos and reptile parks, most of which provide in-service training for university of technology graduates.

A BTech degree in Nature Conservation could lead to better positions

- Reptile parks
- Zoos
- Crocodile farms
- National Parks Board
- Museums
- Universities and universities of technology
- Manufacturers of snake-bite serum
- Self-employment, can open a reptile park, zoo or crocodile farm but all these ventures require considerable start-up capital.

The Zoological Society of SA
Department of Zoology
University of KwaZulu-Natal
P/Bag X01
Scottsville, 3209
Tel: (033) 260-5127 Fax: (033) 260-5105