The Copepoda is a clade of pancrustaceans containing 14,485 species that are extremely varied in their morphology and lifestyle. Not only do copepods dominate marine plankton and sediment communities and make up a sizeable component of the freshwater plankton, but over 6,000 species are symbiotically associated with every major phylum of marine metazoans, mostly as parasites. Unfortunately, our understanding of copepod evolutionary relationships is relatively limited in part because of their extremely divergent morphology, sparse taxon sampling in molecular phylogenetic analyses, a reliance on only a handful of molecular markers, and little taxonomic overlap between phylogenetic studies. Here, a synthesis tree method is used to integrate published phylogenies into a more comprehensive tree of copepods by leveraging phylogenetic and taxonomic data. A literature review in this study finds fewer than 500 species of copepods have been sampled in molecular phylogenetic studies. Using the Open Tree of Life platform, those taxa that have been sampled in previous phylogenetic studies are grafted together and combined with the underlying copepod taxonomic hierarchy from the Open Tree of Life Taxonomy to make a synthesis phylogeny of all copepod species. Taxon sampling with respect to molecular phylogenetic analyses is reviewed for all orders of copepods and shows only 3% of copepod species have been sampled in phylogenetic studies. The resulting synthesis phylogeny reveals copepods have transitioned to a parasitic lifestyle on at least 14 occasions. We examine the underlying phylogenetic, taxonomic, and natural history data supporting these transitions to parasitism; review the species diversity of each parasitic clade; and identify key areas for further phylogenetic investigation.