Careers in Primatology

Pursuing a career in primatology will result in a career that is stimulating and rewarding. Primatology is a highly specialized field and the number of positions is limited, making the field very competitive. New caregiver and keeper candidates without prior training need to identify facilities willing to share the skills and knowledge required to care for primates. Through hard work and on-the-job training, it is possible to move to more advanced positions, but it is highly advisable to pursue a formal education. College coursework or training programs in animal behavior, laboratory animal science, biology, zoology, psychology, primatology and anthropology will be helpful, and a bachelor-level degree is often required. At zoos and some research facilities, there are often volunteer opportunities in which you can gain experience with primates and other animals. Paid internships and seasonal work may also be available. This will help in obtaining a permanent job. Salaries for positions in primate husbandry vary along with the position and responsibilities of the job.

Primate husbandry is a broad term which includes providing basic care (primate caregivers or keepers), basic veterinary care (primate veterinary technicians), supervision of primate facilities (primate supervisor, manager or curators), and increased environmental stimulation (environmental enrichment technician). These positions can overlap. For instance, many caregivers also provide some veterinary care and enrichment to the animals.

Enrichment technician provides primates under managed care with environmental stimuli on a daily basis. This individual may schedule enrichment items for each day, give out enrichment items like browse or toys, monitor the use of the enrichment items, monitor the behavior of the primates and assist with group introductions. The enrichment technician may work directly for the colony manager, veterinarian, or a behavioral primatologist. Environmental enrichment technicians are not on the staff of all facilities. They often have some training or experience in nonhuman primate behavior.

Primate caregiver provides all the daily care for the animals. This includes cleaning the enclosures, feeding the primates, checking on their health and behavior, keeping records, providing special care or medication for certain animals, and assuming other duties.

Veterinary technician provides medical care of the primates, usually under the direction of the veterinarian. The duties of a technician can vary greatly, but may include care for sick or injured primates, monitoring primates on medical studies, minor emergency treatment such as suturing wounds, assistance with surgery and maintaining the medical records of the animals. The primate caregiver and technician report to the supervisor, manager or veterinarian.

provides medical care for the primates. The duties of a veterinarian include care for sick or injured primates, physical examinations of primates, monitoring primates on medical studies, emergency treatment, performing surgery and maintaining the medical records of the animals. The veterinarian supervises the veterinarian technician.

Facility Supervisor or Manager has responsibility for the operation of an animal care area, including training of new employees, bookkeeping, recordkeeping, ordering supplies, monitoring budgets, maintaining high standards of animal care, and assuring compliance with applicable local, state and national laws regarding primate care and handling. Facility managers often take courses in business management, animal science and finance.