There are many different ways to become a taxonomist, and a lot depends on your career aspirations and the field in which you want to work. Most people start by getting a university degree in taxonomy or a related discipline, but this isn’t always necessary; sometimes these jobs can be gotten based on experience and self-taught knowledge. The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out what sort of job you want. A biological taxonomist who works naming and identifying extinct species or who studies plant variations usually has a very different portfolio and list of skills from a person doing language taxonomy who isolates root words and common origins; both of these, in turn, have little in common with the work of an information systems taxonomy specialist who spends time primarily with computer code. Formal education is almost always a good place to start, no matter your discipline, and talking to people who are already established in the field is also a good way to learn about specific job requirements and ways to break in.
Research Your Options
Taxonomy is basically any formalized means of classifying and sorting things that are closely and intricately related to each other. Originally, it only referred to the classification organisms and was limited to scientists and biological researchers. The most common form of taxonomy remains Linnaean taxonomy, a classification system in which substances are sorted into three main categories: animals, plants and minerals. The basic ranks of the animal section of Linnaean taxonomy are species, genus, family, order, class, phylum and kingdom.
With time, the definition expanded and came to be used in other fields, such as sociology, where it was applied by Emile Durkheim to classify different types of human relationships. Economists use variations of the field, too, to do things like sort risk and identify types of financial transactions and securities exchanges. Another very popular field is computer science, where specialists use taxonomy to sort code and organize data sets. Simply saying that you want to become a taxonomist is, on this broad context, rather vague. In order to really achieve your goals, you need first to define exactly what it is about taxonomy that interests you, then determine which field or discipline area suits you best.
Pursue a Degree Program
A university degree is almost always a good place to start. Some academic institutions offer degrees in taxonomy generally or degrees in taxonomy as related to a specific field such as biology, but not all do. It’s usually a good idea to get broad training in the field you want to work in, though, and in most cases a degree in something is all that is strictly required to be hired. Majoring in biology, economics, or computer science is often a good place to start, and taking courses in as many different areas as you can might also help you show that your education was broad and well-rounded. Both of these are things that can be useful to a job in the classification sciences.
Some familiarity with foreign languages is also important. Latin, or Romance languages based on Latin structures, are especially useful for biological and medical taxonomists. Many of the organization schemes in these fields use Latin terms. A good understanding of ancient Greek can be helpful for similar reasons.
Considerations for Online Training
Many different online schools and institutions offer online taxonomy degrees that can be very attractive to people with existing careers and limited time, as well as those who live in more remote areas far away from more traditional universities. These online degrees can vary in quality, however, so it’s usually a good idea to verify the type of accreditation you will receive upon completing a program. Earning a degree from a non-accredited institution may not help you get a job since it may not be recognized or accepted by employers.
Make Connections in the Field
Networking is also a really important part of most any job search, and getting to know taxonomists who are working in your area can be a good way to make connections that could lead to future opportunities. On a more immediate level, meeting people and seeing their day-to-day work can give you a feel for whether or not you’d be a good fit in the long terms, and can help you make sound career choices before even beginning.
Many professionals will give you an informational interview or let you shadow them for the day. If you’re in school, your career planning office might also have information about internships or apprenticeships you could do part time or over school vacations to give you a better sense of the job, as well as to build and grow your marketable skills.