Level 3 Certificate in Reptile Studies

Reptiles are incredibly adaptable, with the ability to adjust their behaviours to cope with changes in their environment. They also show a range of indicative behaviours that may indicate suffering, including pain, stress and fear.


Currently, reptile research and studies are geographically and taxonomically biased. Developed countries within temperate regions are better represented, with the majority of research focused on lizards and lower groups in Squamata.


Reptiles are exotic and majestic animals that play an important role in our world. To ensure their survival, dedicated professionals conduct in-depth research and implement conservation strategies. This area of study is called herpetology, and it encompasses many aspects of these incredible creatures. From behavioural ecology to physiology, herpetologists are involved in a variety of fascinating tasks.

Whether you want to develop your career as a herpetologist or simply learn more about these fascinating species, there are plenty of courses available. These include a Level 3 Award in Reptile Studies, which will give you an in-depth understanding of the biology and behaviour of reptiles. You will also learn about the care and welfare of reptiles in captivity. This is an ideal course for anyone who wants to work in zoos, safari parks or for animal charities.

A herpetology degree will cover a wide range of subjects, including behavior, ecology, physiology, genetics and anatomy. Most herpetologists specialise in a particular order or suborder of reptiles, such as snakes, amphibians or lizards. Others may focus on a specific group, such as crocodiles or alligators. Some herpetologists also combine disciplines, such as ichthyology or mammalogy with herpetology. This allows them to gain a more complete knowledge of vertebrate biology.

Research opportunities

The conservation of reptiles, as well as other vertebrates (birds, mammals, amphibians) and invertebrates, is an international concern. Reptiles have the lowest rate of species-level extinctions of all vertebrate groups, but they remain at higher risk than mammals and birds due to habitat loss. Conservation efforts that benefit other vertebrate groups are likely to co-benefit reptiles, particularly those in forest habitats, where logging and agricultural conversion increase extinction risks.

KU Herpetology researchers use the Museum’s collections, field study and lab work to explore and understand reptile diversity at local and global scales. The Physiological Ecology of Reptiles Laboratory, for example, studies the interactions between free-ranging animals and their environment through experimental manipulations. The lab’s principal organisms are rattlesnakes, which are abundant and accessible in the California central coast and allow for a wide range of environmental conditions to be tested.

The Museum also hosts a growing number of research projects that are investigating the evolutionary origins and natural history of reptiles. Madagascar’s Pseudoxyrhophiine Snake Phylogenetics research led by assistant curator Sara Ruane, for instance, is using genetic and morphological data to discover the evolutionary histories of this remarkable group of snakes. Island Diversification research led by curator Rafe Brown combines field, molecular and lab work to explore and characterize the reptile biodiversity of the islands of Indonesia.


Reptiles are often popular pets but their unique anatomy, dietary and behavioural requirements mean that they can be quite complex to care for. A level 3 Certificate in Reptile Studies can help anyone interested in working with these animals, whether they are a Zookeeper, Conservationist or Safari worker. It’s also a great option for those who just want to increase their knowledge of reptiles and improve the quality of their own pet snake, turtle or lizard!

Herpetologists are zoologists who specialise in the study of reptiles and amphibians, for example snakes, lizards and crocodiles. They are experts in their field, which includes understanding how these animals are genetically different, the behaviour of their offspring and what effect environmental changes will have on them. They work for universities, government organisations and zoological parks and museums.

Wildlife conservationists are the people who work to prevent the destruction of animal habitats caused by humans and natural events like bushfires. Their job is to ensure that wildlife species can continue to live in the same environment and continue to prosper, which includes preserving reptile populations. They might work for zoological parks, the government or charity organisations and are involved in things like research, conservation, breeding and education programmes. Their skills include identifying and monitoring reptiles, tracking them and advising governmental bodies on conservation action.

Animal welfare

Reptiles are often kept in environments far different from those experienced in the wild and may be subjected to misguided husbandry that fails to meet their welfare needs. Although their slow metabolisms mean they can tolerate poor conditions for longer than mammals, this does not mitigate the suffering that many reptiles experience. For example, research shows that turtles and iguanas exhibit a spike in heart rate when gently handled, an indication of emotional stress that is overlooked by the average handler.

While zoological institutions have made progress in improving the welfare of reptiles, it is important that more research is carried out on positive aspects of reptilian welfare. This should include investigations into cognitive stimulation, which can help to highlight the capacities of these animals as thinking, feeling beings that can be affected by poor treatment.

Additionally, the lack of information on how to properly care for reptiles – especially for the majority of species in the pet trade – is a significant barrier to good welfare. For instance, a survey of pet owners found that only 12% included a heat source or a water/misting system in their enclosures. This is in spite of the fact that reptiles are ectothermic and need specific temperatures, humidity levels and lighting to maintain their health and wellbeing.