Education and Training Requirements

High School

Sociology courses will teach you the basics of research methods and observation techniques. If your school offers any anthropology classes, be sure to take them. Learning a foreign language can be helpful if you conduct field research. The foreign language you take in high school may not be the one you will need later, but learning a second language should make it easier for you to learn others. History and art classes will expose you to the cultures of different peoples of the world.

Biology and chemistry will be useful if you're considering ethnobiology, ethnobotany, or ethnopharmacology. If you plan to pursue a career in ethnoveterinary medicine, take classes in geography, cultural studies, biology, zoology, botany, and agriculture. Math and computer classes are also helpful.

Postsecondary Training

To teach at the university level, you will need a Ph.D. The particular field of study will depend on the line of work you want to enter. Anthropology classes, especially cultural anthropology, will be useful for study in just about any discipline. Classes in archaeology, linguistics, history, sociology, religion, and mythology can help prepare you to work with indigenous peoples. Some schools offer concentrations or courses in specific ethnosciences (e.g., ethnomusicology or ethnobiology). A few even offer degrees. For example, Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland, offers a bachelor of science in ethnobotany. 

If you want to pursue ethnoveterinary medicine, earn a degree in veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, biology, pharmacology, or botany, in addition to taking social science courses. To prepare for a career in ethnobotany, it is recommended that you get your degree in anthropology, botany, or pharmacology. Other important areas of study include chemistry, ecology, and medicine. Most professional ethnobiologists have doctoral degrees in biology or anthropology.

Consult relevant professional organizations, such as the American Society for Ethnohistory and the Society for Ethnomusicology, for lists of postsecondary programs in your area of interest.


Some colleges and universities offer certificate programs in ethoscience or ethnoscience specialties. For example, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey offers a certoficate program in medicinal and economic botany. Check with colleges and universities in your area about certificate programs in your area of interest  

Other Education or Training

Many professional association provide continuing education (CE) opportunities to ethnoscientists. The Society for Economic Botany, for example, offers workshops and seminars at its annual conference. Recent sessions included Modules & Mainstreaming Training in Ethnoecology, How to Write a Scientific Paper, and Ethnobotanical Research on Medicinal Plant Trade: A Discussion of Practical, Ethical, and Conceptual Issues. Other organizations that provide CE workshops, seminars, and webinars include the American Anthropological Association, American Society for Ethnohistory, American Veterinary Medical Association, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Botanical Society of America, Ecological Society of America, International Society for Ethnopharmacology, International Society of Ethnobiology, Linguistic Society of America, Society for American Archaeology, Society for Ethnomusicology, and the Society of Ethnobiology.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

No certification or licensing is required for ethnoscientists. Voluntary certification is available in some general life science specialties. For example, the Ecological Society of America offers professional certification at four levels: ecologist in training, associate ecologist, ecologist, and senior ecologist. The American Board of Clinical Pharmacology offers certification in clinical and applied pharmacology. Check with the professional association in your area of interest for more information about certification opportunities. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Any experience one can obtain in their specialty (ethnobotany, ethnoarchaeology, etc.)—via internships, volunteering, or a part-time job—will be useful for aspiring ethnoscientists.

Ethnoscientists need to have open minds, be accepting of other cultures, and be willing to learn from and work with people from other cultures. You won't be successful as an ethnoscientist if you have cultural or racial prejudices or believe that the Western high-tech, capitalistic approach is the only successful way of viewing the world. Many cultural groups of the world live lives that are far less technologically oriented than in the Western world. Ethnoscientists embrace those differences.

Ethnoscientists need a healthy curiosity and should enjoy research. They should be able to work independently and as part of a team.

Many ethnoscientists are away from home for extended periods and must be able to tolerate different climates, rustic accommodations, unusual foods, and other physical conditions. Adaptability is a key personality trait for ethnoscientists doing fieldwork.