Abstract Interest in studying insect-parasitic nematodes was originally focused on their potential as biological control agents of insects and other arthropod pests. Now, after 30 years of intense basic and applied research, realization of the practical use of insect-parasitic nematodes, particularly of entomopathogenic nematodes and their symbiotic bacteria, has spurred developments across a far broader scientific front. We are now entering a new era of discovery in which tools of molecular genetics are being increasingly used to address a range of biological questions. The knowledge gained from these efforts will directly benefit the practical application of insect-parasitic nematodes as more effective biopesticides. Moreover, these studies will advance these nematodes as unique and intrinsically interesting biological model systems not only for basic research but also in applied fields such as plant health, human medicine, pharmaceutical bioprospecting, and genetic engineering. In this review, the past and current state of insect-parasitic nematode research is summarized. Future research priorities and goals are identified and discussed.