Taxidermy? Yes You Can
Above is William Temple Hornaday, an early 20th century taxidermist. Taxidermy has been around for many years and we've seen and heard many people asking questions about the Taxidermy Industry. Is the industry growing? Are there schools I can go to and learn the skills? Can I support my family on a taxidermist's salary? These are all good questions, so after some research here are some possible answers to those questions.
There is no number to track as far as how many taxidermists there are in each state or even the number of legal species killed each year, and of course people in the industry will tell you that there never will be because of the nature of the industry and how localized many taxidermists are. However, if you look at the overall landscape of the industry with new supply companies forming, more ranches opening up across the states, and more specialized training through university classes, you could gather that the industry is trending upward.
The schooling trend alone is an interesting one to look at. Take Montgomery Community College's Taxidermy Course for example. Opened in 1977 they have helped hundreds of taxidermists over the decades and similar colleges are starting in on this trend. There are a multitude of community colleges that offer taxidermy training. The fact that there are so many options of schools to enroll in for this specific trade would lead you to believe that there is a desire for the trade of taxidermy.
Another industry tester is the salary estimations that have been reported. According to StateUniversity.com the average salary for a taxidermist in 2014 was $31,000 per year. But recent data from multiple sources including SalaryExpert.com and DATA:USA, which is a data team from MIT, shows that current median salary is around $43,000 per year. Obviously these are averages, but by these numbers and the continuing inflation of the retail prices for taxidermists each year, it's logical to think that taxidermy in the U.S.A. is growing in popularity and price.
Just like any career or profession you have to learn the skill and there are plenty of educational facilities you can access. One of the top hits online is the Central Texas School of Taxidermy which has locations in California and Texas. They offer a two-week course for $2,300 and a six-week course for right under $7000. Another popular choice is the Pennsylvania Institute of Taxidermy which is pricey at $22,000 for the course. However, it is a 2 year private course with in-depth personal training and teaching, and they've been doing it for over 30 years. You can also choose to take classes from specific instructors, like Joe Meder or Dan Rinehart's Taxidermy School. There are plenty of state specific taxidermy schools for you to choose from that are local.
If life is busy and you can't physically attend the school there are many online schools you can attend. American Taxidermy Online is a great one with instructor Dennis D. Rinehart out of Wisconsin. He offers class specific courses that are fairly inexpensive. There is also Taxidermyinsider.com run by the Stehling Brothers. They offer online courses for a monthly subscription of $35 and have over 50 hours of instructional video you can access anytime.
Hey if you want free, YouTube is a great source for tips and training. Taxidermists and tanneries have been posting videos for years and all you need is an internet connection and some time. Search everywhere on the internet to make sure your getting more than enough information.
The question a lot of people wonder is can I support myself and my family on this salary? A large part of that answer depends on how dedicated you are to the craft. Most people start doing Taxidermy as a hobby to supplement their income from their full-time job. There are, however, many people that are diving in and making this hobby into a full-time gig. As I stated before there are many schools that offer degrees in taxidermy and you can get much more hands-on experience through these schools. It's also encouraging to know that customers will pay good money for quality work, which is why it is important to always stay on top of your training and craftsmanship. You can be competitive with your prices in this industry but you need to do excellent work, that's what separates the hobby from the profession.
A report from SalaryExpert.com says that the average salary for taxidermist is around $43,000 per year. That number is equivalent to $21 per hour and again that is a median number. Entry level numbers from that same report are $28,000 per year, and entry level is typically 1-3 years of experience. Senior level, 8 plus years of experience, is $52,000 per year. These are all estimates but from these numbers you could make this your full-time job. For example, say you charge $400 for a deer head mount and you do about 150 mounts a year. If you can crank out around 3 per week that will leave you at about $60,000, but you also have to factor in the supplies and tanning work which is normally around %40 of your cost. In the end you would be making over $30,000 per year. And that's only deer mounts, there are hundreds of other species you can get into to up production.
Of course, this question is also effected by your location. The state of Texas has probably the highest concentration of taxidermists with game ranches abundant down there. Just in the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington, Texas region there close to 50 taxidermy studios. Whereas, a state like Connecticut has less than 20 taxidermists and who knows how many of those are full-time shops. If you're located in an area that is rich in hunting tradition, then you will likely be able to grow your business and clientele. Search out your state's Department of Conservation. They normally have harvest reports online and sometimes even county or area comparisons.
If you talk to taxidermists around the country though there is one thing that remains a constant and that is the quality of their work. Customers are paying hundreds and thousands of dollars for these pieces of art and it's only right to give them back something that was crafted with care and passion. Fellow taxidermist and former President Theodore Roosevelt said it best; "Let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out." If you love what your doing then is doesn't feel like work, so if you want to be a taxidermist . . . . . . Go For It!
<a href="http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/7943/Taxidermist.html">Taxidermist Job Description, Career as a Taxidermist, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job</a>