What to Expect
A typical day for entomology students varies, depending on whether they
are in an undergrad or graduate program. You might be reading through some
chemistry and physics textbooks or watching over a colony of ants in a lab.
Sarah Wallace's days as an undergraduate student at the University of Idaho
were a mix of classes, lab work and homework.
"New students should be prepared for an intoxicating barrage of information,"
says Wallace. "An understanding of basic chemistry, physics and math, boosted
by a healthy memory for vocabulary, are necessary to whittle through the coursework."
Undergrad students usually take four or five classes a semester, which
blend lectures, lab and fieldwork. Wallace recommends spending at least
one hour on homework for every hour spent in class.
Experiments and observation also play important roles in entomology
studies. Dan Cervantes took a master's degree at the University of Idaho.
He managed and monitored a colony of Hessian flies to ensure the department
had a supply of healthy insects for experiments.
"I have found there are no absolutes, and nothing can ever be expected
when doing research on insects," says Cervantes. "They may be tiny creatures,
but there is so much to learn about them."
Cervantes took two or three classes per semester and helped his professor
with lab work. As a master's student, he also spent time working on his thesis
paper. He says that while he was conducting experiments, he would spend
seven or eight hours a day in the lab and two or three hours on coursework.
Cameron Currie took a PhD in entomology. He says he experienced a lot of
perks. "I have had the opportunity to travel for my research to Panama,
Trinidad, Ecuador and Denmark," he says.
In graduate studies, there is a heavy emphasis on written and oral presentations.
Graduate students often teach junior-level classes as well.
How to Prepare
High school students can prepare for entomology studies by taking biology,
chemistry and math. Communication skills are also very important, and
often get neglected by students who are interested in the sciences.
"Writing is a very important skill that many students are weak in. Try
to take extra English credits if at all possible," says Currie. "Another optional
course I'm really glad I took was typing."