I've always had a fascination with dinosaurs since I was younger but always thought the ladder would be far too hard for me to climb since I struggled alot with school.
But now I would like to know what it would take to become a palaeontologist i.e. what a'levels do I require?
What universities would you suggest and how can I gain a bigger knowledge on this subject?

A question often asked by students, and rarely answered adequately by careers advisors - my advisors at school didn't know what palaeontology was!

A-level wise, I would always heartily recommend maths.  Maths is a very useful A-level regardless of what you go into, and that is certainly the case with palaeontology.  New areas involving computer modelling (work I'm nvolved with) are obviously maths orientated, but even if you want to dig up fossils and describe them (a gross simplifaction), you will still need a competency with maths for statistical analysis.
Next up, Biology is always a good option.  Studying life in the past requires an understanding of life today.
Finally, it's a difficult one.  I did geology, because my local A-level college offered it, but to be honest, I think something like physics or chemistry would have been more useful (though also harder).  English doesn't go amis, as you'll be writing plenty as a scientist, and you'll need good writing skills.

Regards Universities, I don't think many people will argue with Bristol being one of the better options, with their 3 year biology and geology course or 4 year palaeontology MSci.  Portsmouth also have a respectable palaeobiology course, and UCL have a palaeontology oriented course as well I believe.  If you want to play it safe with regards to future career prospects, a good geology or biology degree from any other good university will be an entry path into palaeontology, and will give you a wider base for other careers if palaeo turns out not to be for you.

You are right though, the ladder is a difficult one to climb, and I know many people who spend a couple of years between courses whilst they wait for funding.

If you are worried about standing out from the crowd, don't necessarily look at masters in palaeontology once you have an udergraduate degree in the subject.  Instead, look at broadening your fields.  After the geo/bio BSc at Bristol, I then took a Masters in computer science, giving me a skill set much sought after (at the moment) in palaeontology.

Last edited by Peter Falkingham (3rd Mar 2008 13:55:54)