A vast number of professionals go to work each day to study and work with animals, for a variety of reasons, including assisting in medical research. Those who work primarily with non-human primates are called primatologists. Primatologists are scientists that gather data about primates using various studies and experiments in an effort to understand evolution, behavior, or to further understand human pathology and biology. Their research can then be used to formulate theories or technology that assists medical doctors of all kinds.
What is a Primatologist?
In general, a primatologist is a scientist who studies non-human primates. However the field of primatology infuses a diverse group of careers. Some of these professionals, such as professors, hold academic positions in various settings and may teach, perform research, publish studies, or plan research programs. Primatology careers involving those with medical backgrounds are quite popular, and these professionals may conduct research, observe and/or interact with primates, order and analyze laboratory tests, provide medical care, and a variety of other duties.
A primatologist may be trained to perform one or more of the following:
Primatologists often divide primates into three groups for study, and may study one or more at any given time. These groups are dominant females, females and young, and peripheral males.
The study of primates has become a controversial issue within the scientific and medical communities, specifically surrounding inhumane studies and practices. Well-known primatologists include Jane Goodall and Frans de Waal, a pioneer in the study of emotions and empathy in primates, and author of numerous books on the subject.
Primatologists come from a very diverse range of educational backgrounds, including ecology, animal behavior, computer science, neuroscience, paleontology, and more. The specific educational path a future primatologist takes should be dependent upon the particular field of study he or she is interested in. For instance, those interested in medical research primatology positions may want to follow a medical education path, while those strictly interested in providing medical care for primates may opt for a degree in veterinary medicine.
It is recommended that all individuals interested in the field gain a strong educational background in biological sciences and evolutionary biology. Other important courses include statistics, communication, computer, and foreign languages, according to Primate Info Net. Because primatology is a multidisciplinary field, an educational path that strays from traditional educational paths may be necessary in order to gain the proper background for success in this field.
Undergraduate's Degree - While there is no required degree in order to become a primatologist, the field is quite competitive and employers are much more likely to choose those with an extensive educational background. Very few colleges or universities offer a degree in primatology, though some offer degrees that are very closely related. It is recommended that students focus on classes that are very closely linked with the field, such as anthropology, psychology, and zoology.
Graduate Degree - Those who want to take their education further, and seek better job security and placement options, should consider obtaining a graduate degree. There are a handful of high-quality primatology-related degrees offered throughout the US, which can be more convenient than piecing together an educational background that prepares individuals to become primatologists. Those interested in providing medical care to primates should obtain a veterinary medicine degree.
According to a recent survey from the American Society of Primatologists, most primatologists have backgrounds in anthropology, psychology, biology, and veterinary science.
The field of primatology is a difficult one to get into, primarily because the number of positions is limited and the job growth is less than that of most other careers. However, there are positions available within the field for those who are dedicated.
Primatologists work in a variety of settings, including academic settings, laboratories, zoos, and conservation centers, in the field, veterinary offices, and even government offices or institutions. In each of these settings, primatologists may perform a wide range of duties, from gathering and compiling data, to interacting with primates.
Employers interested in hiring primatologists value the following qualities:
To increase the chances of getting hired, those interested in the field of primatology should consider:
According to Environmental Science, the average yearly salary for a primatologist in most states ranges from $50,000 to $65,000. Some states feature a higher annual average salary, such as Maryland at $96,460 and the District of Columbia at $97,930. However, it is important to remember that primatology encompasses a huge range of careers, and the salary will be dependent upon the specific specialty of a primatologist.
A career in primatology can be extremely rewarding, no matter which specialty of primatology an individual chooses. While this career certainly can come with unique challenges and is often a controversial career choice, the need for compassionate and humane studies of nonhuman primates is great. Data collected from primatologists is often instrumental in developing medical technologies directly affecting humans, as well as other primates.