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Paleontologist Versus Archaeologist: What’s the Difference?

Paleontologist and archaeologist sound very similar and often get confused for one another. Although they have some commonalities and are often found working together, there are some distinct differences between these careers.

A paleontologist is a scientist that studies the history of life on Earth using fossils. They typically look at animal and plant fossils and relate it to the geological setting during that time. It is essentially a sub-specialty of geology. If you’re a paleontologist, your academic history most likely includes courses involving geology, fossilization, and sedimentation. A paleontologist is usually the type of scientist that you would see closely studying dinosaurs.

An archeologist is a scientist that studies human history using human remains and artifacts. They have a particular emphasis on studying past cultures. They are more closely a sub-specialty of anthropology. Archeologists don’t typically get involved with fossils, unless the fossils are of animals that an early human society was greatly impacted by. If you’re an archaeologist, your academic history would be similar to a paleontologist but instead focus more on human history.