Jobs in taxonomy do still exist. At the Smithsonian, for example.

In the comments I’ve noticed wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the apparent decline of taxonomic positions.

Yet, such jobs do still exist. For example:


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History seeks two systematic entomologists to conduct integrative, collections-based research programs focused on terrestrial arthropods or aquatic insects.  Each successful candidate is expected to develop an internationally recognized research program utilizing modern methods, which may include bioinformatics, in pursuing systematic research on Diptera, Heteroptera, Coleoptera, or another terrestrial arthropod or aquatic insect group, with relevance to phylogenetics, genetics, evolution, morphology, behavior, biogeography, biodiversity, ecology, or related fields. Frequent publication of highly regarded papers in competitive, peer-reviewed journals, curation of collections in specialty area, service to the scientific community in leadership capacities, acquisition of external funding, engagement in outreach activities, and mentorship of students are expected.

There are two positions: (i) Federal Civil Service (U.S. citizenship required) and (ii) Trust (private sector, U.S. citizenship not required, proof of eligibility to work in the U.S. required). Both will be filled at the GS-12 level ($74,872-$79,864 per year). Applicants who are U.S. citizens are encouraged to apply for both the Federal and Trust Funded positions (two applications required).

For application procedures go to and refer to Announcements 12A-RB-297507-DEU-NMNH (Federal) or 12A-RB-297508-TRF-NMNH (Trust), or contact Robinette Burrell, 202-633-6318, Applications must be received online by April 11, 2012 and must reference the announcement number. Applicants will be notified by email when their applications are received.

We encourage all qualified candidates to apply for both positions.

The deadline is fast approaching, though.

8 thoughts on “Jobs in taxonomy do still exist. At the Smithsonian, for example.”

    1. Hey Brigette, glad you stopped in! I showed my IB 109 students your Etsy website this morning- part of a series of slides on people doing insect-related art.

  1. Just wondering…how often do these positions open up and how secure are they? That has always been a big concern for me and my parents concerning a career path in entomology.

    1. IMO, these particular positions are as secure as any other federal job. One of them is apparently funded from a trust income and the other from the Smithsonian’s general funding, if I read it correctly. 80K won’t go all that far in the DC metro area (housing is spendy) but if it beats the alternative…

      When I was in grad school some time ago there were about 8-10 Taxonomist profs at my Ent. Dept. Currently there is ONE. Just check the leading schools to see if that’s typical. It seems like many insect taxonomists these days are emeritus, soon to retire, or do that work on the side but what do I know.

      There certainly is no shortage of new insect species waiting to be described no matter the group.

    2. An excellent question, Jason. Entomologists have high job placement and security compared to many other scientists. We qualify for all sorts of industry, government, and academic jobs, mostly because insects are so medically and agriculturally important that there are a great variety of both basic science and applied positions that require entomology.

      Even better for us, most entomology graduate schools are government subsidized or involve paid teaching contracts, so unlike law or medicine you’ll get your degree without any debt. I’d say we’re in a waaaaaaaayyyyy better position than young law students right now, for that reason and others.

      The situation for taxonomy is trickier, however, relatively few taxonomy positions exist for the number of people applying (the Smithsonian jobs advertised here will certainly draw dozens or hundreds of applicants). If you’re stuck on wanting to be a taxonomist, that’s a bit harder. That requires luck and persistence.

      But taxonomists don’t end up unemployed. They have enough skills where if they don’t land a museum or university job- or don’t want one- they usually end up in some other science-related line of work. Ted MacRae, for example, works quite productively for private industry. James Trager has a great job as a staff naturalist at a nature reserve.

      I complain about the job market for insect taxonomy all the time, but only because the exact ideal dream job doesn’t always appear where and when I want it.

      1. Great point about taxonomists not ending up unemployed due to the broad utility of basic entomological skills. Still, I get a little wistful when I see job announcments like the one at the Smithsonian pop up.

Leave a Reply