How to Become a Taxidermist (From Prey to Display!)

how to become a

If you’ve ever been fascinated by the art of preserving animals or wondered what it takes to become a taxidermist, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll explore the EXACT steps you need to take to launch your career as a taxidermist. We’ll discuss:

  • The skills you need.
  • The education and training required.
  • How to land a job as a taxidermist.

So, whether you’re a beginner with an interest in natural history or an art enthusiast looking to learn a unique craft, stay tuned.

We’re about to reveal the roadmap to becoming a taxidermist.

Let’s get started!

Steps to Become a Taxidermist


Step 1: Understand the Role of a Taxidermist

The first step to becoming a taxidermist is understanding what the role entails.

A taxidermist is a professional who preserves and prepares animals’ bodies for display or study.

This involves removing the animal’s skin, treating it to prevent decay, and positioning it onto a framework to give it a lifelike appearance.

The animal could range from pets, fish, and birds to larger mammals such as deer or even bears.

Taxidermy combines elements of art, science, and craft.

It requires a unique blend of skills, including artistic ability, a deep understanding of anatomy, and meticulous attention to detail.

A taxidermist must be able to recreate the animal’s natural appearance and posture accurately, which requires a keen eye and a steady hand.

Additionally, taxidermists must be comfortable working with dead animals and have a strong stomach as the process can be messy and somewhat graphic.

They should also have a basic understanding of laws and regulations related to hunting, trapping, and possession of wildlife, as these can impact their work.

Understanding all these aspects of the job can help you determine if taxidermy is the right career path for you.


Step 2: Gain a Basic Education in Biology or Zoology

Before you can start working as a taxidermist, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of anatomy, particularly that of animals.

This knowledge can be obtained by pursuing a high school diploma or equivalent, with a focus on biology or zoology.

Some taxidermists may even choose to further their education by earning a bachelor’s degree in these fields.

These courses typically include study on animal physiology, ecology, and behavior, among other related subjects.

This deep understanding of animals helps a taxidermist to recreate realistic and lifelike specimens.

In addition to formal education, aspiring taxidermists should also consider participating in dissection labs or anatomy courses.

These practical sessions provide hands-on experience and a tangible understanding of animal bodies, which can be invaluable in the taxidermy process.

Remember, a taxidermist’s job is not just about preserving animals; it’s also about capturing the essence of the animal in its most natural form.

Hence, a solid education in biology or zoology is an important step towards becoming a successful taxidermist.


Step 3: Learn Taxidermy Laws and Ethics

As an aspiring taxidermist, you must familiarize yourself with all the relevant laws and ethics surrounding the trade.

These laws can vary greatly by country, state, and even city, so it’s important to research those applicable in your area.

Laws typically cover areas such as what types of animals can be used, how they must be acquired, and how they can be displayed or sold.

In addition to legal considerations, ethical practices in taxidermy are vital.

You must respect the animals you work with by acquiring them legally and treating them with dignity.

Many taxidermists follow a code of ethics which promotes lawful hunting and fishing, the conservation of wildlife, and respect for the animal.

You can learn about taxidermy laws and ethics through various resources, including online research, taxidermy trade organizations, or by attending classes or workshops.

Understanding and following these laws and ethical guidelines is crucial not only to maintain a good reputation but also to avoid legal issues and to promote responsible practices within the field.


Step 4: Take Taxidermy Classes or Courses

While some individuals may learn taxidermy through apprenticeships or self-study, taking formal classes or courses is a highly recommended step.

Taxidermy courses will provide you with a structured learning experience, ensuring you cover all the necessary aspects of the art.

This will usually involve learning about the anatomy of different animals, the process of skinning, preserving, and mounting the animals, and the necessary tools and materials for the job.

In addition to this, most taxidermy courses will also teach you about the different techniques and styles of taxidermy, and the legal and ethical aspects of the profession.

Some courses may also provide business and marketing training, which can be useful if you plan on starting your own taxidermy business.

It’s important to research and find a course that suits your specific needs and interests.

This could be a local course or an online course, depending on what is available to you.

Some individuals may also choose to take specialized courses in certain types of taxidermy, such as bird taxidermy or fish taxidermy.

Completing a taxidermy course will provide you with a solid foundation of skills and knowledge that you can then build upon with further study or practice.

It’s also a good way to start building a portfolio of work, which will be important when you start looking for jobs or clients.


Step 5: Practice Basic Techniques on Specimens

After gaining some fundamental knowledge about taxidermy, it’s time to apply and practice what you’ve learned on actual specimens.

It’s recommended to start with smaller and simpler animals, such as birds or small rodents.

Practicing on these types of animals will give you a basic understanding of how to skin, preserve, and mount them.

When practicing, you will learn how to handle tools like scalpels, tweezers, wires, and foam.

You will also learn how to clean the animal’s skin, remove fat and muscles, and preserve the specimen to prevent decay or insect infestation.

It’s essential to be patient and meticulous in this step, as taxidermy requires precision and attention to detail.

Keep in mind that your first few attempts may not turn out perfect, but with consistent practice, your skills will improve over time.

Don’t be discouraged by initial failures, as they are part of the learning process.

Always remember to respect the animals you’re working with and adhere to ethical guidelines and laws regarding the collection and use of specimens.


Step 6: Complete a Taxidermy Apprenticeship

After completing a course in taxidermy, the next step in becoming a professional taxidermist is to gain hands-on experience through an apprenticeship.

An apprenticeship will provide you with real-world exposure to the process and techniques of taxidermy under the guidance of a seasoned professional.

This is where you’ll be able to put into practice the theory and basic skills you’ve learned, and refine your craft further.

You will likely work on a variety of specimens during your apprenticeship, from small mammals and birds to larger animals.

In addition to honing your technical skills, you’ll also learn about the practical aspects of the job, like maintaining a clean and safe workspace, complying with wildlife laws and regulations, and customer service.

Apprenticeships can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the depth of skills you’re aiming to acquire and the complexity of the projects you undertake.

Some taxidermists may also choose to specialize in a particular area, such as bird or fish taxidermy, and seek apprenticeships that focus on these areas.

Remember, the objective of an apprenticeship is to gain comprehensive knowledge and skills in taxidermy.

It’s also a platform to build your portfolio, which will prove essential when applying for jobs or starting your own taxidermy business.


Step 7: Create a Portfolio of Your Work

As a taxidermist, your portfolio is an essential showcase of your skills and craftsmanship.

It’s an effective way to attract potential clients and show them the quality and variety of your work.

Your portfolio should include a range of species, such as birds, fish, and mammals, in different poses and settings to display your versatility.

Start by photographing each piece you complete from various angles to capture all the details.

Good lighting is crucial here, as it can emphasize the realism and intricacy of your work.

It’s recommended to use a professional camera if possible, but a high-resolution phone camera can also suffice.

Include before and after shots to demonstrate the transformation process, which can be appealing to potential clients.

If possible, also include images of your work in progress to showcase your attention to detail and dedication to the craft.

Having your portfolio accessible online, either on your own website or a professional social media platform, can significantly increase your visibility.

Remember to update it regularly as you complete new pieces.

Lastly, consider getting testimonials from satisfied clients to include in your portfolio.

This can help build trust with potential clients, providing them with assurance of your expertise and professionalism.


Step 8: Obtain Necessary Permits and Licenses

In order to legally practice taxidermy, you will need to obtain the necessary permits and licenses.

The exact requirements will vary depending on your location, but typically include a state taxidermy license.

Some states also require federal permits if you plan to work with migratory birds or certain species of wildlife.

To apply for these licenses, you will need to fill out the appropriate forms and pay any necessary fees.

In some cases, you may also need to pass a written examination covering topics such as identification of species, knowledge of state and federal wildlife laws, and taxidermy techniques.

It’s also important to regularly check for updates in licensing regulations and requirements as these can change over time.

Furthermore, it is essential to comply with all local, state and federal laws related to wildlife handling and taxidermy.

Failure to comply with these laws can result in penalties, including loss of your license.

In addition to obtaining your license, some states may require taxidermists to complete continuing education courses to keep their skills updated.

These courses can cover topics such as new taxidermy techniques, business practices, or changes in wildlife laws and regulations.

Remember that being licensed not only ensures that you’re operating within the law but also gives your clients confidence in your professional abilities.


Step 9: Join Taxidermy Associations and Forums

Being a member of a taxidermy association or an active participant in forums can provide many benefits for aspiring taxidermists.

These communities can offer unique opportunities to network with seasoned professionals, gain access to invaluable resources, and stay updated on industry trends and best practices.

There are various national and international taxidermy associations that provide certification programs, workshops, seminars, competitions, and publications.

You can enhance your skills and expand your knowledge by participating in these programs.

You might also consider attending taxidermy conventions to observe the work of other professionals and engage in constructive discussions about techniques and materials.

Online forums also provide a platform for taxidermists to exchange ideas, answer queries, and share their works.

These forums can be an excellent space for you to learn, ask questions, and get feedback on your work from a community of like-minded individuals.

Remember that building relationships and actively engaging with others in the field can be just as valuable as the practical skills you’ve learned.

Your participation in these communities can help you stay motivated, inspired, and informed as you progress in your taxidermy career.


Step 10: Start Your Taxidermy Business or Seek Employment

After acquiring the necessary skills, knowledge, certifications, and experience, you are ready to embark on your career as a taxidermist.

At this point, you have two main options: starting your own taxidermy business or seeking employment with an established firm.

If you choose to start your own taxidermy business, it is important to first develop a business plan.

This should outline your target market, marketing and sales strategies, financial projections, and the legal and insurance requirements for running a taxidermy business.

You will also need to secure a suitable workspace, which can be a home studio or a commercial space, depending on the size and scale of your operations.

On the other hand, if you decide to work for an established taxidermy firm, start by searching for job openings in your area.

Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your skills and experiences that make you a suitable candidate.

Be prepared to showcase your portfolio during interviews.

Regardless of the path you choose, continue honing your skills and keeping abreast of the latest techniques and trends in taxidermy.

Networking with other professionals in the industry can also provide valuable opportunities for learning and growth.

Remember, success in taxidermy, like in any other profession, requires a combination of technical proficiency, creativity, and business acumen.


Taxidermist Roles and Responsibilities

Taxidermists are skilled artisans who preserve, stuff, and mount the skins of animals.

They are capable of crafting life-like displays that are used in museums, educational institutes, or as decorative pieces.

They have the following roles and responsibilities:



  • Evaluate condition of specimen and decide on the most appropriate preservation method.
  • Estimate time and cost associated with each project.


Animal Preservation

  • Preserve, stuff, and mount animal skins using various techniques to maintain life-like appearance.
  • Treat skins with chemicals to prevent decay.


Artistic Design

  • Design displays and positions for animals that mimic their natural behavior.
  • Use hand tools to shape, form, and sew animal skins.


Repair and Restoration

  • Repair and restore damaged or old taxidermy mounts.
  • Refresh and update the appearance of older mounts.



  • Document the details of each project, including the type of animal, its origin, and the preservation methods used.
  • Maintain records of the chemicals and methods used for future reference.


Safety and Compliance

  • Follow safety guidelines when handling chemicals and equipment.
  • Adhere to local and international laws regarding animal preservation and display.


Customer Service

  • Communicate with clients to understand their requirements.
  • Provide updates on the progress of projects.


Continuous Learning

  • Stay updated on the latest techniques and tools in the field of taxidermy.
  • Attend workshops, seminars, and trade shows to enhance skills and knowledge.


What Does a Taxidermist Do?

Taxidermists are skilled artisans who work in the field of preserving animal skins and displaying them in a lifelike state, often for educational or decorative purposes.

They receive dead animals, typically from hunters, museums, pet owners, or nature centers.

The animals can range from small birds and fish to large mammals.

They then proceed to measure, skin, and clean the animals while taking care to maintain the integrity of the specimen.

Taxidermists use a variety of techniques and tools to prepare and preserve the animal bodies.

This often includes the use of chemicals to prevent decay and the addition of artificial parts like glass eyes or foam bodies to recreate the natural look of the animal.

They also mount and position the preserved animals in a way that reflects their natural habitat and behavior.

This may involve creating background scenery, such as rocks, trees or bodies of water.

In addition to these tasks, taxidermists may also be involved in repairing and restoring old or damaged specimens.

They may also provide consultation and advice to clients on the care and maintenance of their taxidermy pieces.

Taxidermists often work in their own studios or workshops, but may also be employed by museums, educational institutions, or taxidermy companies.

They must have a strong knowledge of animal anatomy, sculpture, and painting, as well as a high level of attention to detail to succeed in their craft.


Essential Taxidermist Skills

  • Anatomy Knowledge: A taxidermist must have a deep understanding of animal anatomy. This includes skeletal structure, muscle groups, and the placement of veins and arteries.
  • Artistry: Taxidermy is a form of art. A taxidermist must have an eye for detail and the ability to recreate natural poses and expressions.
  • Preservation Techniques: The ability to preserve animal specimens is crucial. This includes knowledge of tanning, mounting, and molding techniques.
  • Knife Skills: Taxidermy involves a lot of careful cutting and trimming. Strong knife skills and a steady hand are essential.
  • Patience: The process of taxidermy can be time-consuming and requires careful attention to detail. Patience is a valuable trait in this role.
  • Physical Strength: Handling and positioning animal carcasses often require physical strength. Some jobs may also require taxidermists to go into the field to collect specimens.
  • Creativity: The ability to create realistic and aesthetically pleasing displays is important. This often requires a degree of creativity and artistic flair.
  • Communication: Taxidermists often have to work with clients to understand their requirements. Good listening and communication skills are important in this regard.
  • Business Management: If running their own taxidermy business, knowledge of business principles, marketing, and customer service skills are necessary for success.
  • Chemistry: A basic understanding of chemistry is required as taxidermists use various chemicals for preservation and cleaning processes.
  • Safety Knowledge: Taxidermists use potentially dangerous tools and chemicals. Knowledge of safety procedures and protocols is essential.
  • Zoology: Understanding animal behavior and habitats can help a taxidermist create more realistic displays. Knowledge of zoology can be very beneficial.
  • Painting: Many taxidermy projects involve painting to create a life-like appearance. Skills in painting and color mixing can be a great advantage.
  • Conservation Ethics: Taxidermists should have a strong understanding of conservation principles and respect for wildlife.
  • Documentation: Keeping accurate records of specimens, their origins, and any treatments applied is important for legal and ethical reasons.


Taxidermist Career Path Progression

The Foundation: Apprentice Taxidermist

The journey usually starts with an apprenticeship under an experienced taxidermist.

At this stage, you’ll learn the basics of the craft, including skinning, preserving, and mounting animals.

Here are some tips for success in this role:

  1. Attentive Learning: Pay close attention to the techniques and advice of your mentor.
  2. Practice: Take every opportunity to improve your skills and gain practical experience.
  3. Patience: Taxidermy is a meticulous art, requiring a great deal of patience and attention to detail.


The Ascent: Associate Taxidermist

As you grow in skill and confidence, you’ll progress to the role of an Associate Taxidermist.

You’ll handle more complex projects, hone your artistic skills, and start to develop your style.

Here’s how to thrive in this stage:

  1. Perfecting Craft: Continue improving your skills and understanding of animal anatomy.
  2. Artistic Development: Enhance your artistic sense to create more lifelike and visually appealing mounts.
  3. Client Interaction: Learn to interact effectively with clients to understand their needs and deliver satisfactory work.


Reaching New Heights: Master Taxidermist

After years of experience and developing a portfolio of impressive work, you might reach the level of a Master Taxidermist.

You’ll be recognized for your expertise and may start taking on apprentices of your own.

To excel as a Master Taxidermist:

  1. Mentorship: Pass on your knowledge and experience to aspiring taxidermists.
  2. Detail Orientation: Continue to pay meticulous attention to the smallest details to ensure high-quality work.
  3. Business Management: If you run your own business, focus on improving your business skills and building a strong reputation.


Beyond the Horizon: Specialization and Recognition

As your career advances, you may choose to specialize in a particular type of taxidermy, such as birds, mammals, or fish.

Gaining recognition within the industry through awards and exhibitions can also propel your career.

Here’s what to focus on:

  1. Expertise: Develop a deep understanding and proficiency in your area of specialization.
  2. Recognition: Enter taxidermy competitions and exhibitions to gain recognition for your work.
  3. Networking: Build relationships within the industry to find new opportunities and stay abreast of the latest techniques and trends.


Pinnacle of Success: Renowned Taxidermist

At the pinnacle of your career, you might become a renowned taxidermist, recognized for your exceptional skill and artistic sense.

You may even contribute to the field by developing new techniques or materials, and inspire the next generation of taxidermists with your work.


Taxidermist Salary

Entry-Level Taxidermist

  • Median Salary: $25,000 – $30,000 per year
  • Entry-level taxidermists typically have 0-2 years of experience and may have completed vocational training or an apprenticeship in taxidermy.


Mid-Level Taxidermist

  • Median Salary: $30,000 – $40,000 per year
  • Mid-level taxidermists have 2-5 years of experience and often handle more complex taxidermy projects, which may involve larger or more exotic animals.


Senior Taxidermist

  • Median Salary: $40,000 – $60,000 per year
  • Senior taxidermists possess 5+ years of experience and may manage their own taxidermy business or lead projects in larger establishments. They are responsible for high-quality work and may mentor junior taxidermists.


Taxidermy Business Owner / Manager

  • Median Salary: $50,000 – $80,000 per year
  • These roles come with significant experience and often involve managing a taxidermy studio or business, overseeing projects, and making key business decisions.


Master Taxidermist / Museum Curator

  • Median Salary: $60,000 – $100,000+ per year
  • These high-level positions require extensive experience and deep technical expertise in taxidermy. They often involve creating museum-quality pieces, overseeing large museum or exhibition projects, or teaching taxidermy at an advanced level.


Taxidermist Work Environment

Taxidermists often work in various settings like natural history museums, hunting and fishing outfitters, taxidermy studios, and sometimes even in their own homes if they run a private business.

The work environment of a taxidermist is typically a well-ventilated studio or workspace due to the use of chemicals and paints.

The space is often equipped with a range of tools and materials, such as knives, wire, foam, glass eyes and a variety of furs and feathers.

Taxidermy requires a lot of detailed and intricate work, so taxidermists often spend long hours in a standing or seated position.

As it is not a typical 9-5 job, working hours may vary greatly and often depend on the complexity of the projects and deadlines.

Once experienced, a taxidermist may choose to open their own studio or specialize in a particular type of taxidermy, such as birds, fish, or large game.

They might also provide workshops or classes to individuals interested in learning taxidermy.


FAQs About Becoming a Taxidermist

What qualifications do I need to become a taxidermist?

While a formal degree is not necessarily required, having a high school diploma or equivalent is typically the minimum educational requirement to start a career in taxidermy.

Many taxidermists have some form of vocational training in the field from technical schools or community colleges.

These programs often cover anatomy, tanning, molding and casting, painting, and specimen preparation.

Workshops, seminars, and apprenticeships can also provide valuable hands-on experience.

Additionally, artistic ability, patience, and attention to detail are key skills for taxidermists.


How long does it take to become a taxidermist?

The time it takes to become a taxidermist can vary greatly depending on the individual’s learning pace and the depth of skills they wish to acquire.

A taxidermy course or certification program can typically be completed in a few months to a year.

However, mastering the craft often takes several years of practice and experience.

Many successful taxidermists continue to learn and refine their techniques throughout their careers.


Is taxidermy a full-time job?

Taxidermy can be pursued as either a full-time or part-time job.

Some individuals operate their own taxidermy businesses and work full-time, while others may do taxidermy as a side job or hobby.

The workload can fluctuate depending on the season and the specific services offered.

For example, a taxidermist who specializes in hunting trophies may be busier during hunting season.


Is taxidermy a dangerous job?

Taxidermy involves certain risks, such as exposure to chemicals used in the preservation process and potential injuries from sharp tools.

However, these risks can be minimized by following safety procedures, using appropriate protective equipment, and maintaining a clean and organized workspace.

Additionally, taxidermists often work with dead animals, so it’s important to have proper knowledge of zoonotic diseases and methods for disease prevention.


What is the job outlook for taxidermists?

The job outlook for taxidermists can vary depending on location and demand.

In areas with a high population of hunters, fishermen, museums, or collectors, there may be more opportunities.

As with many artistic trades, the demand for taxidermy is often tied to the quality of the work.

Taxidermists who can produce high-quality, lifelike specimens may have better job prospects and earning potential.



And there you have it.

Embarking on a journey to become a taxidermist is no small feat, but it’s undoubtedly rewarding.

Armed with the right skills, education, and determination, you’re well on your way to making a significant impact in the realm of natural history.

Remember, the path may be demanding, but the opportunities are boundless. Your creations could bring to life the wonders of the natural world, and change the way we perceive, appreciate, and conserve our planet’s biodiversity.

So, take that first step. Immerse yourself in the craft. Connect with professionals. And most importantly, never stop honing your skills.

Because the world is waiting for the wonders you can recreate.

And if you’re looking for personalized guidance on starting or advancing your career in taxidermy, delve into our AI Career Path Advisor.

This complimentary tool is designed to offer tailored advice and resources to help you navigate your career path effectively.

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