Marine biologists study the behavior, ecology, and evolution of marine life. They do this by studying the seaweed that grows on coral reefs, the fish that live in thosereefs, and the sea turtle that nests on them. Marine biologists also study how climate change is affecting marine life and the environment.
Marines are one of the most diverse and well-rounded units in the United States military. They can be found serving in various combat roles from amphibious assaults to mountain artillery. And they have a lot to offer the marine biologist. Marine biologists study marine life, which includes both living and extinct marine species. They also work on developing Marine Mammal Studies Units, which are programs that focus on studying marine mammals in their natural habitats. They use their knowledge of marine ecosystems to help develop new methods of environmental management and conservation.
What does a marine biologist do?
A marine biologist is someone who studies marine life-forms and their place in the ocean environment. This can include marine animals as different as fish and whales, as well as plants like kelp and sea grass, or even algae, coral and microorganisms. Marine biologists undergo years of education so they can thoroughly research marine life and report on their findings.
Once you complete your educational requirements, you can work in several different settings. The most popular employer for marine biologists is the government, with jobs available in many states or through the Department of the Interior. You may also find work at places like aquariums, private research facilities or universities.
As a marine biologist, you’ll likely work full-time, both in the field and at an office. You’ll spend this time observing and researching your specific interest in marine biology.
How to become a marine biologist
Here are some important steps to take if you’d like to pursue a career in marine biology:
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree
Getting a bachelor’s degree will allow you to get an entry-level position within marine biology. For your degree, you can either enter into a program specifically for marine biology or a related program, such as zoology.
During your undergraduate degree program, you will learn generally about marine biology and gain hands-on experience. Most bachelor’s degree programs require you to take practical laboratory classes, apply for internships and seek research opportunities. Through these, you will learn more about the profession and gain some guided experience.
Once you receive your bachelor’s degree in marine biology, you’re ready to perform entry-level jobs as a marine biologist, such as a biological laboratory technician or a research assistant for a private company to help them develop products. However, if you want to do more advanced work, you will need to continue your education.
2. Earn a master’s degree
A master’s degree is the next step in continuing your education to become a marine biologist. In addition to studying marine biology, you can also study similar subjects such as marine conservation or biological oceanography. You should consider what you specifically want to study in your career and choose a master’s program that aligns with those goals.
A typical master’s degree takes around two years to complete, but in some cases, you can do it in as little as 15 months. During your studies, you may have the opportunity to begin specializing on a specific organism, species or ecosystem. As a part of your master’s program, you will conduct extensive research and also perform hands-on learning in your area of focus.
After you receive your master’s degree, some jobs available to you include environmental scientist, zoologist or natural science manager.
3. Receive your doctorate
Many marine biologists would like to conduct their research and teach at a university. If this is one of your goals, then you will need to get your doctoral degree. Some schools offer marine biology doctoral programs, but you can also pursue a doctorate in a related subject like oceanography.
A doctorate requires extensive study and a final dissertation. Exams are a regular part of your doctorate program, just like they were for attaining your bachelor’s and master’s degrees. You can expect to spend at least three years within a doctoral program, or possibly even up to five years.
Related: When a Professional Degree Will Help You Advance in Your Career
4. Additional training
Broadly speaking, formal training isn’t required to become a marine biologist. However, for some jobs, you will need additional training. For example, if you want to work out on the ocean, you may need training on how to operate a boat or how to handle the technical equipment on board.
Marine biologists can receive this additional training in a few ways. You could take an internship, both during your studies and after. You could also work on research projects with established marine biologists who can provide training for you. Finally, there are volunteer opportunities available where you can gain valuable skills.
5. Choose your career path
Your career path depends on where your interests lie and how much education you have pursued. You should consider what areas of marine biology interest you the most, then explore the opportunities available within that specialty.
For example, if you would like to work with dolphins, then you likely only need a bachelor’s degree to get a job as a dolphin trainer at a zoo or aquarium. But if you want to study the effects of climate change on dolphin habitats and behaviors, you will need a doctorate to acquire funding to conduct your own research.
Here are some other viable career paths for marine biologists:
Frequently asked questions
Here are some common questions about the marine biologist profession:
How much do marine biologists make?
The average salary for a marine biologist is $43,916 per year. Salaries in the field range greatly — between $20,637 and $88,243 per year. The amount you can earn will depend on your location, the field you wish to study and your education level. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.
Do marine biologists need special certifications or licenses?
There are no special certifications you need to become a marine biologist. However, since many work out on the open ocean, it’s recommended that you get open water diving certified, which is a step beyond scuba certification.
Another thing to consider, if you want to work out on the ocean, is that you may need training on how to operate a boat and how to handle the technical equipment that comes on board. An operator’s license may be required.
What kind of courses should I focus on in high school and college?
Some beneficial topics you can focus on during high school and your undergraduate years are science and math classes. You should aim to keep your knowledge base broad to help you figure out if marine biology is the right career for you. Graduate schools often favor candidates with a strong educational foundation in many subjects.
How should I choose which schools to attend for marine biology?
There are many schools that offer programs in marine biology. The best thing you can do is consider all the relevant factors before making a decision. Research the programs offered, look at the coursework you’ll be studying, analyze the cost of the program, and see if it’s close to where you want to live.
A lot more goes into picking a school than just the programs available, so be sure you’re considering all the factors before making a decision.
Are there any organizations for marine biology?
In recent decades, marine biology has emerged as one of the most rapidly growing areas of research in the natural sciences. With the advent of CT scanners and digital images, new ways of studying marine life are becoming available at an ever-increasing rate. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of reliable information about marine biology resources in many parts of the world. This blog will aim to fill this gap by providing a comprehensive overview of marine biology resources in the global area, as well as providing information about marine biology events and talks.
Yes, there are a number of organizations that marine biologists can join, including:
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Fisheries Society
Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography
Marine Technology Society
National Association of Marine Laboratories
The Oceanography Society