What is Primatology?
What is primatology? In its simplest definition, Primatology can be defined as “the study of non-human primates” (primate species include apes, gorillas, lemurs, chimpanzees, orangutans, and baboons).
It is a diverse academic discipline whereby one studies the primate family, biology, anthropology, and psychology. Researchers in Primatology can concentrate exclusively on non-human primates or choose to study human primates to investigate infections and diseases or study primate species as part of intricate ecologies.
What Does a Primatologist Do?
Primatologists’ studies vary from discovering human-like behaviors, exploring primate psychology, or studying their cultural patterns. Some Primatologists can also work in labs evaluating the biological evolution and development of chimpanzees and other human-like primates.
Primatology experts can get involved with many different roles, ranging from working in zoos and similar settings, taking care of the animals there. In contrast, other primatologists study primate behavior in their natural (wild) habitat.
A primatologist can work in various environments depending on their focused area of study, from offices and lab settings to park reserves and fields. Even traveling to different places where primatologists can study their primate of interest closely in the wild.
Primatology expert working in the field should be capable and equipped to face adverse weather conditions and harsh geological environments. Primatologists working in the field should be physically fit and be willing to spend a fair amount of time alone. Also, field-work may require long hours and irregular schedules.
How Much Does a Primatologist Earn?
In The United States, the average annual salary of a primatologist is US$57,710. The government employs most primatologists in the United States, but some also work for private research ventures. The median annual salary for a similar position in Europe and Australia is roughly £45,000 and AU$60,591, respectively.
How to become a Primatologist?
In the field of Primatology, employers require at least a bachelor’s degree in zoology, wildlife biology, or a similar field, but most want to see a master’s degree or Ph.D. Other closely related areas that offer proper understanding and experience include geoscience, biology, ecological chemistry, and anthropology.
A good education for this field would be a mix of primatology, zoology, data sciences, etc. Along with traditional lecture classes, students learn from research in labs and hands-on training.
If you want to become a primatologist, there are a variety of degree levels available. The track to becoming a primatologist starts with a strong science course background, specifically biology, at the high school and college levels.
If you have a particular interest in primatology, yet you don’t want to commit to a full-length course, then a certificate program is a great starting place to embark on a new career or passion.
Many universities and institutes throughout Europe, the United States, and Australia offer coursework for certificate programs. Course duration ranges from 6 months to a year. Coursework usually comprises a detailed introduction to diet, healthiness, behavioral activities, breeding, and conservation of primates.
The approximate Fee structure of the certificate program varies from US$500 to US$5,000.
Bachelor’s Degree in Primatology
At this stage, students focus on multi-disciplinary knowledge relating to primates. Most undergraduate programs require students to complete on-field practice and coursework from connected subjects such as anthropology, biology, philosophy, and psychology.
As primatology undergraduates, students get a chance to conduct basic scientific research.
Once a bachelor’s degree in primatology has been obtained, a student can choose to aim at either an advanced degree like a master’s degree or even a doctorate or can alternatively join the workforce in the field of animal caregiving.
Advancement in the field of primatology requires a post-graduate degree explicitly. University professors and lab researchers often have extensive work experience, as well as a Ph.D. Familiarity with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and data analysis software is recommended.
For entering a master’s program, a good honors degree in anthropology, biology, ecology, psychology, or a proper related discipline is a must. However, a few universities allow students who are not graduates with a related specialization, provided you do exceptionally well at the application and interview stage. You can demonstrate that you have the passion and capacity to work at an advanced level in this field.
A master’s program in primatology will emphasize independent study. Students are expected to undertake a significant piece of their unique research. One will need to develop logical, practical, and analytical skills to plan and present a viable project proposal successfully. Some programs would require students to produce a research paper suitable for submission to a (peer-reviewed) scientific journal.
The Masters in Research (Primatology and Conservation) at Oxford Brookes University England and “MRes – Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation” at The University of Roehampton are a few examples of masters-level programs in the United Kingdom.
In the United States, however, the graduate program in primate behavior at Central Washington University provides the only opportunity for students to earn an MS degree in Primatology.
The time for a master’s level program ranges from 1 year to 2 years. Approximate costs for a one-year master’s program in primatology are about £10,000 in the UK and US$20,000. in the USA, the tuition fee varies significantly for international students.
PH.D./ Doctorate in primatology
Usually, a Ph.D. involves two to five years of study in which the student is required to submit a substantial piece of original research (thesis). Some Ph.D. programs accept a selection of (published) research work, while some require coursework details to be submitted.
Institutes like the Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan, University of Zurich, Switzerland, offer renowned Ph.D. programs in primatology. At the Ph.D. level, the candidates either choose a primate species to specialize in or work on special projects such as researching brain size evolution, the evolution of primate social relationships and cognitive abilities, etc.