How to Become a Taxidermist

By Eric Hammer

So you want to become a taxidermist, huh? Taxidermy is the art of stuffing animals and making them presentable to be displayed on the wall. Remember that term well though - taxidermy is an art form. While many people tend to think that to become a taxidermist you just need to learn how to apply the right chemicals, it's much more than that.

Yes, you need to know how to apply the right chemicals to create the perfect stuffed animal (not to be confused with the cuddly kind). However, this job is much more an art form than a science. People typically study taxidermy for a significant amount of time and the people paying for their prize to be stuffed will expect to see quality results, therefore you can't go into this business lightly, thinking that it's all about the science.

How Much Can You Make?

According to salary expert, the average taxidermist tends to earn around $40,000 per year. Unlike most other jobs, taxidermy also seems to be one that offers little variation in salary depending on where you are in the country. Of course, if you were to start your own business, then the amount you earn is largely up to you and your own abilities.

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Keep in mind that if you wish to become a taxidermist, you'll need to know quite a bit about an animal's insides and how they operate in the wild. This is important both for posing the animal you stuff for a client and for understanding why certain poses may not work.

Speaking of poses, one of the specialties in taxidermy that some people do is to stuff animals and pose them in weird ways. For example, in Florida, it's possible to buy a real, stuffed alligator which has been posed with a tray in its paw so that it can serve as a rather odd coaster. While some people may find this particularly gruesome or macabre, others find it amusing and will pay extra to get taxidermy that looks like that.

In addition, while many people who want to become a taxidermist think about working with wild game and stuffing things like deer heads and bears, others will work in a completely different kind of taxidermy - stuffing a beloved family pet that has died. Again, some people may find it unsettling, but for others, the idea of having their family pet stuffed so that they can have it with them forever is perfectly logical and even acceptable.

Qualifications / Requirements

In order to become a taxidermist, in most states you will need to apply for a license. Check with your state licensing board as every state is different. However, as a rule of thumb, expect to need some course work and to have to pass at least a written test and possibly a practical exam as well.

First Steps

Start by visiting several taxidermy shops and talking to the taxidermists there. Ask what it's like and if you can watch quietly as they work on an animal being stuffed. See if this feels like something you'd like to do. It's definitely not for everyone. Even people who think they want to become a taxidermist sometimes decide it's not for them after they see the process in action. If you do like it, see if you can work as an unpaid intern for a period of time with a professional taxidermist and learn a little more about the profession. Then, take some courses in taxidermy at your local community college or in a specialist taxidermy school.

Resources

Check out these helpful resources to find out more about how to become a taxidermist:

Pennsylvania Institute of Taxidermy - A school where you can learn the art of taxidermy.

Taxidermy.Net - A web site devoted to taxidermy which includes an excellent forum where you can ask questions about the art of taxidermy.

eHow: How to Become a Taxidermist - A good if somewhat short introduction to becoming a taxidermist.


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