If you want to find out what makes gorillas, monkeys and baboons tick,
consider a degree in primatology.
You'll need to develop many skills to succeed in this field, and not all
of them are academic.
"Thirty-five years ago, an eminent ethnologist and animal behaviorist asked
me if I hunted. It was his opinion that if I had not done so, my chances of
success in tracking primates were non-existent," says James Paterson, a professor
of anthropology. "It's not really quite that bad, but hunting skills are
among the most useful for a field primatologist."
Primatology is usually offered as a specialty within an anthropology
degree, and usually only at the graduate level. That means you'll need
to take a bachelor's degree in a related field (like anthropology) first.
You'll need at least a PhD for most research jobs. "The jobs for someone
with a graduate degree in primatology are limited to university teaching,
some museum work, or work in a zoo or conservation agency," says Frank Poirier.
He is a professor in Ohio State University's anthropology department.
While anthropology is considered a social science, primatology students
still have to take a lot of classes in things like biology and anatomy.
To prepare for fieldwork, you'll have to make yourself into practically
a jack of all trades. "Linguistic capacity in the form of a foreign language
is beneficial. A tolerance for the less familiar wildlife is necessary
-- not good if you freak out upon your first encounter with a poisonous snake
or spider!" Paterson says.
It's not easy to find relevant high school courses.
"But at least students can have a course in anthropology, if such exists
at the high school, as much biology as possible, and a psychology course,"
Try camping, hiking, birdwatching and working in a zoo, adds Poirier. Paterson
recommends getting involved in sports, photography and auto mechanics.
Besides tuition and books, you may have to pay for things like a zoo membership
and a good pair of binoculars.
Occupational Outlook HandbookFor more information related to this field of study, see: Social
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