Paleontology Certification Program


The Paleontology Certification Program is a unique series of classes offered by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for those who wish to learn more about paleontology and develop skills in the study, preparation, curation, and collection of fossils. 

Learn the principles of paleontology and geology, including the origin and evolution of life, classification of fossils, and formation of rocks, as well as ethics and methods of paleontological lab work, field work, and research.

Courses are taught by experienced paleontologists and geologists, and sometimes even graduates of the Paleontology Certification Program.  Start with essential earth sciences courses, then follow your interests and complete five elective courses.

Courses may be taken solely for your own enrichment or to become qualified to participate in the Museum’s fossil research.  If you successfully complete Lab Methods in Paleontology, you may apply to volunteer in the Museum’s state-of the-art earth sciences lab, where teams of staff and volunteers collaborate to conduct cutting-edge research on dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.

Many program graduates have undertaken their own primary research and have published their results in scientific journals.

Although seven courses are required for certification, you may complete these courses at your own pace. The classes are offered on evenings and weekends. Fees vary according to the number of classroom sessions and field trips, but the average cost for each course is $130. Click here for current course offerings.

To receive advance notice of upcoming course schedules, sign up to receive the PaleoCert eNewsletter.


Questions? Contact us at 303.370.6303 or [email protected].


Required Courses

Students must be at least 14 years old to participate in courses. Courses with higher age requirements will be noted below.

  • Paleontology 101 
    • Paleontology 101 is the prerequisite for all classes unless noted in the class description.
    • Explore basic concepts of paleontology and geology, and get an introduction to elective course topics.
  • Reading Colorado: An Introduction to the Geology of Colorado
    • Learn the basics of stratigraphy, sedimentology, geological mapping, and dating techniques.


Choose five elective courses. The schedule for electives varies each year and a sample list follows below. Click here for current course offerings.

  • Curation of Fossils 
    • Learn the basics of identifying and caring for fossils.
  • Evolution 
    • Examine millions of years of changes in the history of life, and how they are explained by the process of evolution.
  • Paleontology of the Western Interior 
    • Explore the fossil treasures of the Rocky Mountain states.
  • Osteology 
    • Get an introduction to bone physiology and orientation.
  • Vertebrate Paleontology
    • Investigate the origins and evolution of vertebrates, from dinosaurs to mammals.
  • Invertebrate Paleontology
    • Examine invertebrates from the late Precambrian to the Cenozoic.
  • Paleobotany 
    • Learn how plant fossils help reconstruct ancient environments and climates.
  • Lab Methods in Paleontology
    • Learn and practice the techniques of fossil preparation, preservation, and conservation in this hands-on course.
    • Students must be at least 17 years old.
  • Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
    • Learn to interpret sedimentary rocks and stratigraphic sequences in this hands-on course.
    • You must complete Paleontology 101 and Reading Colorado before taking this class.
  • Field Methods in Paleontology 
    • Learn techniques of fossil collection while participating in active research. Location varies by year.
    • You must complete Paleontology 101, Reading Colorado, and Sedimentology and Stratigraphy before taking this class.
    • Students must be at least 18 years old.

After you complete Paleontology 101, Reading Colorado: An Introduction to the Geology of Colorado, and five elective courses, you will “graduate” and receive a Paleontology Certificate to recognize your achievement.

You won’t get a paleontology degree, but you will get the satisfaction of learning the basics of paleontology and geology, and being a part of the Museum’s active research. Impress your friends (and yourself!) with your new knowledge, and take your involvement a step further with volunteer opportunities at the Museum.

Volunteer Opportunities

  • Students interested in volunteering in the lab must successfully complete Lab Methods in Paleontology, then contact Karla Zelvis at 303.370.6028 or [email protected].
  • To apply for volunteer positions, please click here. Volunteer placement is a selection process and not all applicants are accepted into the program. The Museum reserves the right to place volunteers in the area Museum staff feel is best suited to your skills and the needs of the Museum.
2001 Colorado Blvd
Denver, CO 80205

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