What Can You Do With an Entomology Degree?

The Study of Insects at UC Davis

Attendees handle walking stick bugs at the Bohart Museum on Picnic Day.
Attendees handle walking stick bugs at the Bohart Museum on Picnic Day. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Insects are the most diverse group of animals. In fact, they outnumber all other life forms on Earth! If you are interested in learning more about the roles they play in the economy, environment or public health, consider majoring in entomology

The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology covers a wide range of insect science areas such as ecology, behavior, physiology, molecular biology and medical entomology. The environment is highly collaborative and tight-knit, offering numerous research opportunities across various disciplines. Dr. Shahid Siddique, an associate professor of entomology at UC Davis, praises the department for its diverse expertise, saying, “We have professors who work with ants, nematodes, bees, flies, mosquitos, you name it! This creates a comprehensive and supportive learning atmosphere for students.”

Entomology definitions

Jagveer Singh, a staff member, talks with elementary school children about California insects during a tour of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Jagveer Singh, a staff member, talks with elementary school children about California insects during a tour of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

What is entomology?

Entomology is the study of insects and their relationship to humans, the environment and other organisms. Though many people fear bugs, they are essential to understanding human health, local and global economies, and sustainable food and water supplies. 

Through entomology, researchers investigate the roles insects play in the environment and their interactions with humans, other organisms and ecosystems. Entomology also addresses practical issues such as pest management and crop pollination, making significant contributions to agriculture, biodiversity and public health research. 

What is an entomologist?

An entomologist is a person who studies insects. Like other wildlife biologists, entomologists research, care for and protect insects. As "bug scientists," they often work in the field or labs to collect and analyze data related to some of the most impactful organisms on the planet.

How do you become an entomologist?

To become an entomologist, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree, but most go on to get master's and doctor's degrees too. While you can learn a lot through self-teaching, you will need technical skills and research experience to start your entomology career.

The study of entomology

An entomology student takes photos of California wild bees and their tongues under a microscope.
Sol Wantz, third-year entomology major, takes photos of California wild bees and their proboscises, or tongues, under the microscope in the Williams Lab at UC Davis on April 29, 2024. Wantz is part of the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, aka Insect Scholars. (Alysha Beck/UC Davis)

What does an entomologist study?

Entomologists study insects and often need a graduate degree in entomology to be successful in their field. UC Davis entomology majors begin their entomology studies with foundational courses in insect biology. After understanding the basics, students can choose electives like ENT 158 — Forensic Entomology, the use of arthropod biological evidence in civil and criminal law.

“The minute you tell your friends you study entomology, they flood you with images of bugs, asking you to identify them,” said Allen Chew, a fourth-year entomology major. “It feels nice to be able to give them an answer for most things.” 

At UC Davis, entomology students can tailor their major to their interests by choosing courses in areas such as arthropod pest management, apiculture (bee biology and productivity), economic entomology or insect ecology. 

Typically, students will also minor in their specific areas of interest including: 

The entomology major also offers electives like ENT 153 — Medical Entomology, the ecology of arthropod-borne diseases and principles of their control. Entomology electives give students practical experience with conducting field research, drafting a project proposal and collecting data. Our entomology majors also pursue internships in government and business organizations to round out their studies. 

How can students study entomology beyond the classroom? 

The entomology department includes the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which serves as a valuable resource for student learning, and the UC Davis Bee Haven, which provides hands-on experience in bee biology and conservation. Students can also get involved with the Entomology Club, a department-supported organization that promotes community and engagement among students. 

For students considering an entomology degree, it is also important to explore various subdisciplines and gain hands-on experience through internships and research projects. “Get in touch with professors, get interested in their research, work in a lab and get hands-on experience,” says Dr. Siddique. “Look into all your options, and network to help you make connections for the future.” 

If you are interested in exploring more opportunities, the department holds public monthly seminars from experts in entomology and nematology

Entomology jobs

Glendon Parker, Adjunct Professor in Environmental Toxicology and Zachary Goecker, a PhD student examine hair samples in a lab in Meyer Hall.
Glendon Parker, adjunct professor in environmental toxicology, and Zachary Goecker, a Ph.D. student, examine hair samples in a lab in Meyer Hall. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

What jobs can you get with an entomology degree?

With an entomology degree, you can become a(n):

  • Agricultural inspector
  • Apiculturist (beekeeper)
  • Educator
  • Forensic scientist
  • Insect biologist
  • Integrated pest management consultant
  • Medical/veterinary entomologist
  • Museum curator
  • Pest control advisor

Before you begin your professional career, it is important to think about what aspect of entomology you want to focus on. “Really think about which fields within entomology interest you the most and reach out to people in these fields,” says fourth-year entomology major Jadyn Sacoolas. “Since the major is open-ended in terms of choosing your courses, it’s best to try to investigate what you want to focus on early on so you can explore these avenues in different lab jobs and other opportunities.”

What entomology graduate programs and internships are available?

Most graduates from UC Davis’ entomology program go on to professional graduate programs such as veterinary or human medicine, or they get advanced degrees leading to careers like biotechnology, conservation biology or academic teaching and research. 

Many graduates have also participated in internship programs with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and found careers in insect diagnostic laboratories, conducting insect surveys and developing entomological collections. Some entomology graduates may also choose to pursue careers in primary, secondary or college-level science education.

Other graduates have worked in agriculture in the area of insect pest management. In California, any professional who offers a recommendation on how to manage an agricultural pest must be licensed as a pest control adviser. Having a PCA license opens up many job opportunities for people interested in pest management sciences.

To become a PCA, you must take 45 quarter units of courses in specific areas of crop health, pest management and production systems, as well as 18 quarter units of general biology, chemistry or physical sciences. If this career interests you, be sure to tailor your studies to meet the California Agricultural Pest Control Adviser requirements

Do most entomology majors become entomologists? 

UC Davis entomology alumni have found careers in diverse fields, reflecting the broad applicability of their training. Many work in museums and academic institutions, with numerous graduates becoming professors. Others have secured positions in state and federal health and agriculture agencies, such as the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Here are some job positions UC Davis entomology graduates have taken since 2019:

  • Senior Research Assistant at Health and Science University
  • Senior Entomologist and Research Coordinator at Carroll Loye Biological Research
  • Assistant Research Scientist at Marrone Bio Innovations
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Biology at the American Museum of Natural History
  • Deputy Agricultural Commissioner for Sonoma County
  • Entomologist and Malaria Vector Control Technical Advisor

How much do entomologists make?

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data specifically on entomologists, it does place them in the zoologists and wildlife biologists category, which had an average salary of $70,600 in 2023.

According to ZipRecruiter, as of June 2024, the average salary for entomologists in California is $60,805. The top five highest-paying entomology-related jobs in California are:

  • Molecular Entomologist: $74,544
  • Plant Pathologist: $74,370
  • Senior Entomologist: $71,357
  • Research Entomologist: $68,478
  • Contract Entomologist: $62,373

Why major in entomology? 

PJ Singh checks the monarch egg hatchery in the greenhouse milkweed plots.
PJ Singh checks the monarch egg hatchery in the greenhouse milkweed plots. Singh is a third-year biological sciences major and is part of the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, aka Insect Scholars. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Here are some reasons why our students chose to major in entomology:

“I chose entomology because I am interested in learning more about how it can be applied to forensics. I hope to study forensic entomology more in-depth and use that knowledge to become a forensic entomologist.” 

- Halley Cuellar, third-year entomology major

“I chose entomology because interest in the material came so naturally to me. What started off as an interest in the visual beauty of insects developed into a deep curiosity for their biology and connection to humans. Now I hope to use my knowledge of insects to understand the different ways insects affect humans, from public health to agriculture, and apply that to my work. Additionally, I plan on educating those around me with my knowledge of the insect world to convey their importance in our natural and urban systems.” 

- Jadyn Sacoolas, fourth-year entomology major

“I chose entomology because I love insects. They are beautiful and interesting creatures, and studying them invites us to take a closer look. Entomology rewards those who are detail oriented, and finding wonderful things while looking under a microscope is kind of like a surprise gift.” 

- Allen Chew, fourth-year entomology major

Pursuing a degree in entomology opens up a world of diverse opportunities, rewarding those who are curious and eager to uncover the wonders of the insect world. Networking with faculty and staff members, utilizing department resources like specialized laboratories and museums, and staying curious and open-minded are key to making the most of your education in entomology.

A grad student grabs pinned killer hornets from their white display boxes to move them.

Entomology major

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View our entomology major

Entomology major Kaitai Liu looks down at an insect display he's holding.

Insect scholars

Learn how student researchers are gaining hands-on biology and entomology skills and protecting pollinators through the Insect Scholars Program.

Read about our Insect Scholars

A profile picture of Jaylynn Velhagen-Dizon smiling with a neutral blue background

Jaylynn Velhagen-Dizon (she/her) graduated from UC Davis in 2024 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in English (creative writing emphasis) and cinema and digital media. Originally from Southern California, she is a Majors Blog intern for UC Davis' Office of Strategic Communications, where she writes, edits and manages online content. Her work has been featured on Her Campus and in Open Ceilings literary magazine. Jaylynn's favorite part of campus is the Arboretum and Public Garden, where she enjoys bird watching and admiring the poppies every spring.


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