Primatologists are scientists who specialize in the study of primates. A primatologist studies primates, their behaviors, and the unique role they play on this planet. They spend time in the field, observing primates and researching them. This is a good career for somebody who is passionate about primates, who enjoys science and working in unusual habitats, and wants to use their knowledge to help people understand more about primates.
Why Become A Primatologist
As a primatologist, you study non-human primates such as chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons and more. Primates are an interesting order of mammals to study for many scientists. There is much to be learned by studying this group of animals.
Some primatologists work in zoos, museums, sanctuaries and other environments, closely caring for primates. Others may work in universities as professors, teaching students about primates and their behaviors. Primatologists may be involved in field work. This involves traveling to foreign countries and studying their subjects up close in the habitats where they live. Primatologists have many duties. They observe their subjects, trying to understand primate behaviors such as mating, reproduction, eating, sleeping, leisure and more. They work in laboratories, where they study the data they collected, as well as any samples. They assess the backgrounds of primates over time.
Primatologists often have specialties within the field. Some may study a particular species, such as gorillas or lemurs. Some primatologists may focus on animal reproduction and mating, or on sleeping behaviors, or how climate change has impacted primates. A primatologist must enjoy doing research, working alone with animals, and being observant.
Primatologists should possess the following qualities and skills:
Primatologist Work Environment
Often the work of primatologists finds them out in the field. They may travel to exotic destinations, where they can observe primates up close and personal. A primatologist must be comfortable working outdoors, in all kinds of weather. A primatologist may work for a zoo or museum, caring for primates. They spend a good deal of time alone, observing animals and collecting data. Primatologists often spend time in a laboratory or office environment, studying and analyzing their findings. Many primatologists are employed by universities. In this role, they may work as professors, teaching students about primates and their behaviors. They also do research at the university. This is a full-time position. Fieldwork may require a person to have an irregular schedule.
The median salary for wildlife biologists was $60,520 in 2016, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. This category includes primatologists.
Many primatologists work for either the federal or state governments. The government often has restricted budgets, and has a set budget for a particular role. Therefore negotiating or promotions may not be available. Some primatologists also work for private research facilities. Salary may vary depending on what industry a person works in. While some primatologists work for the government, others work for research universities. Others work for zoos and museums. These are just a few of the factors to take into consideration when thinking about salary.
Primatologist Career Outlook
Employment for wildlife biologists is expected to increase by four percent from 2014 to 2024. This is a much slower rate of employment growth compared to other occupations. The category for wildlife biologists also includes primatologists.
Most primatologists are employed by federal and state governments. A government’s budget is limited and it must decide how to wisely distribute its resources. Primatologists often rely on grants in order to conduct their research. Many of the more specialized science positions such as primatology may be cut or have freezes in hiring, or there may be a lack of grants available.
If you would like to become a primatologist, read below for more information.
Step 1: Undergraduate education. A bachelor’s degree is required in order to pursue a career within this field. There are many major programs that you can choose from, such as biology, wildlife biology, animal science, veterinary medicine, ecology, zoology, or another related field. You will take classes in science which will help provide a foundation in your studies. This will help you decide if a career as a primatologist is good for you.
Step 2: Internship. The primatology field is very competitive. Many primatologists have years of experience that they helped them gain their positions. In order to help you advance into your position, make sure you get as much experience as possible. Look for places that are offering internships or part-time jobs or volunteer opportunities. This might include zoos, museums, animal sanctuaries, universities, research centers, and more. Any place where you can work with primates will be useful in gaining experience.
Step 3: Graduate education. Advancement in this field will require graduate-level education. Most primatologists have a PhD. There are a handful of primatology programs at the graduate level within the United States. A graduate level education is especially useful for those interested in becoming professors at universities.