Primatology is a diverse and challenging discipline. People follow many different career paths in working with nonhuman primates, and they may hold a variety of jobs in the field. Depending on your training, your path might lead to a research laboratory, a zoological garden, a conservation agency, an exotic animal clinic, or an educational institution. Your work may require hands-on experience in a zoo or field (natural habitat) project, or you might find yourself working at the cellular level at a research facility.
In most cases, you will match your training, experience, and job goals with the available positions. To learn more about the different types of "jobs" one may hold within the field of primatology, visit the Choosing a Career in Primatology part of this site. You will find write-ups by people currently working in various disciplines. They talk about preparation, the work itself, and their commitment to their work.
Those just starting out and exploring the possibilities of careers with primates should look for opportunities to work with animals, such as at the local zoo or through summer field programs and internships. In seeking a position, there is no substitute for experience, personal recommendations, or contacts. Through school and as you gain work experience, there will be mentors and colleagues who can help you with recommendations and employment suggestions. These people can offer valuable assistance if you do not lean on them too heavily. Refer to Making Contacts in the Field of Primatology for suggestions on getting started.
A key place to look for employment opportunities is Primate-Jobs, a website of the Wisconsin Primate Research Center. This site includes a range of listings including university, zoological gardens, volunteers and other venues. In addition to browsing available job postings, people seeking positions in primatology can fill out a Positions Wanted Submission Form. Some prospective employers scan this list to find qualified applicants, although you should never expect jobs to come looking for you.
Other places to look are the ASP Newsletter, American Zoo and Aquarium Association Communique, Animal Keepers Forum and the newsletters of various disciplines which relate to primatology -- the Monitor on Psychology (American Psychological Association), for example. Those with Ph.D.'s or with more experience should also check Science, Nature, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other broad science journals. Consult the Related Jobs list.
As in other fields, when you apply for a position which involves working with nonhuman primates, you should:
Ultimately, you should devote as much time to preparing for a career in primatology as you do to seeking out a position in the field. Proper planning, education, training, and experience will serve you well in the long run. Many people want to work with nonhuman primates -- particularly in a natural habitat -- thus, you need to be motivated and ready.
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Wisconsin Primate Research Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Last updated: May 2, 2002.
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