Last Updated on August 28, 2023
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you might follow one of the common career paths suggested below, or you might find a unique way to apply your skills, knowledge and experience. The same skills gained through learning Marine Biology also match up with the job skills that employers want:
- How to collect and analyze scientific data
- How to work effectively in teams to solve problems
- How to communicate and share your work and research with a variety of audiences
Career Paths in Marine Biology
…MAKING NEW DISCOVERIES ABOUT LIFE IN THE OCEAN
The learning never stops for many Marine Biologists: they continue learning till they are researching the cutting edge of knowledge in the field. Research is a team effort, so there are job opportunities at all levels: from introductory positions assisting with data collection to being faculty leading your own lab at a research university like the UW.
Sample job titles: Professor, Fish Biologist, Research Tech, Lab Coordinator, Field Scientist
Related majors/minors: Biology, Oceanography, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences
Recommendations: The long term career goal of most with this interest will be to direct and manage your own research. In marine sciences, this requires continuing your education in a graduate program. Advanced opportunities in undergraduate research such as the research apprenticeships at Friday Harbor Labs will help build your research experience before applying to grad school.
Graduate School: Master of Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, Biology, or Oceanography
…HELPING SOLVE THE WORLD’S MOST PRESSING ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS
Whether the issue is climate change, the world food supply, renewable energy, or pollution, our oceans are a big part of current environmental issues. Marine Biologists help address what humans put in or take out of the marine environment through effective conservation. They are needed in a variety of jobs to track populations of marine species, to predict and measure the impact of human activities through fishing, and development.
Sample job titles: Groundfish Observer, Aquatic Land Manager, Environmental Planner, Environmental Consultant
Related majors/minors: Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, Environmental Studies, Quantitative Science Minor
Recommendations: Using math and statistics to model populations is a critical tool in conservation, so consider a minor in Quantitative Science. Explore courses and programs in social sciences to understand environmental laws, policies, and economics.
Graduate School: MS or PhD, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, Master of Marine Affairs, Master of Public Administration, Juris Doctor (law)
…SHARING MY LOVE OF MARINE BIOLOGY BY TEACHING OTHERS
People of all ages love the marine environment, and they want to learn about it through aquariums, marine science centers and marine science summer programs for students of all ages. That’s where you come in: the ‘education’ career path requires that you match your deep scientific knowledge with an ability to creatively communicate to many different audiences.
Sample job titles: Aquarist, Education specialist, Outreach and education director, Marine science programs coordinator
Related majors/minors: Environmental Studies, Early Childhood & Family Studies, Education, Learning & Society Minor,
Recommendations: There is no substitute for time in the classroom, and you can start volunteering as a UW undergraduate through the UW Pipeline Project and Project COOL
Graduate School: Master of Education, Master of Teaching
…TREATING ILLNESS AND DISEASE IN PEOPLE OR ANIMALS
Marine Biology is a field of biology, and studying this field can be effective preparation for students wishing to pursue careers in health sciences. Some Marine Biologists wish to work with the care of animals through Veterinary Medicine, while others go on to work with human health. Some Marine Biologists research the potential biomedical applications of marine resources: our understanding of how
Sample job titles: Veterinarian, Medical Doctor (MD), Biomedical Researcher
Related majors/minors: Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry
Recommendations: While medical or veterinary medicine programs accept applicants with any undergraduate degree, you will still have to make sure you meet the minimum coursework requirements. For Marine Biology students, this means taking additional coursework in organic chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics. Undergraduate Advising at the UW manages excellent advising and resources for pre-health sciences students from any major.
Graduate School: Medical Doctor, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
…COMBINING MY INTEREST WITH ANOTHER FIELD
You might be surprised at the breadth of jobs available to people with an interest in Marine Biology: engineers work with the technology designed to explore the marine environment and psychologists can work with animal behavior. Some students go on to work directly with the cultivation and harvesting of aquatic resources for food by being aquaculturists.
Sample job titles: Ocean Engineer, Aquaculturist
Related majors/minors: Oceanography, Computer Science and Engineering, Engineering, Psychology
Recommendations: Consider the benefit of combining a major with a minor, even in very different fields. Engineering students might engage enough with the field through a marine biology minor to help them consider job opportunities in ocean engineering.
10 Jobs You Can Get With a Marine Biology Degree
Marine biology is the study of wildlife and ecosystems in the ocean and bodies of saltwater. People who study marine biology generally have a passion for science and the environment. You might enjoy a career in marine biology if you’re interested in marine life and enjoy working in settings outside of an office. In this article, we explore what studying marine biology entails and consider 10 jobs you can get with a marine biology degree.
What is a marine biology degree?
A marine biology degree is a course of study that focuses on plants, animals and organisms that live in bodies of saltwater. In undergraduate study, students who major in marine biology can earn a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology once they graduate. Students who want to advance their careers and apply for more specialized positions might also pursue graduate study in marine biology. This can earn them a Master of Science in Marine Biology or even a Ph.D. in Marine Biology.
While studying marine biology, students might also focus on related topics like environmental science or biochemistry to expand their knowledge of scientific understandings about wildlife.
What does it take to earn a marine biology degree?
Earning a marine biology can take at least four years at the undergraduate level and additional time at the graduate level. In an undergraduate marine biology major, students can complete coursework in subjects like marine ecology, conservation and management, marine physiology and marine evolutionary biology. They might also study related subjects, such as oceanography or the biology of a specific species or animal group. Most marine biology programs involve a combination of classroom study, independent research and field experience that allows them to visit the ocean and observe wildlife in its natural habitat.
10 jobs in marine biology
Here are 10 jobs you can get with a marine biology degree:
National average salary: $39,926 per year
Primary duties: A horticulturist is a scientist who studies plant species and observes how they grow. Horticulturists can work in plant production to breed new plant species, but they might also work in sustainability or management and find new ways to use plants for human use. Horticulturists in the marine biology field might specialize in observing species of kelp, seaweed or other plant life that exists in the ocean.
National average salary: $39,945 per year
Primary duties: A research technician is a scientific professional who assists scientists during experiments by conducting lab tests. Research technicians also maintain lab equipment by ensuring that it’s clean and up to date, keep records of test results and findings and help scientists with research. A research technician who works with marine biologists might help with collecting and testing plant samples or analyzing data about changes in the ocean that can impact plant and animal life.
National average salary: $49,963 per year
Primary duties: A laboratory technician is a scientific professional who performs tests in a laboratory. Laboratory technicians can perform experiments and analyze their results, operate laboratory equipment to conduct scientific testing and maintain a clean, organized lab. Laboratory technicians in the marine biology field might use lab equipment to test water or plant samples and help marine biologists with the experiments and research they do in a laboratory.
National average salary: $65,443 per year
Primary duties: A microbiologist is a scientist who studies microorganisms, such as bacteria, parasites and viruses. Microbiologists who work in marine biology might specialize in observing algae, fungi or other types of microorganisms that live in the ocean and saltwater lakes. A microbiologist can conduct research projects, perform laboratory experiments and collect samples and data from observations in nature.
National average salary: $68,535 per year
Primary duties: A marine biologist is a scientist who studies wildlife that lives in the ocean. Marine biologists can take water or plant samples for laboratory testing, observe marine animals in their natural habitats and conduct research projects on environmental phenomena that occur in bodies of water. A marine biologist might also specialize in a specific animal species or group, such as fish, marine mammals or cephalopods.
National average salary: $74,249 per year
Primary duties: A natural resource technician monitors the quality of natural resources, like land, water and air, and recommends actions that promote sustainability. Natural resource technicians can collect samples from the field, conduct surveys about natural resources and analyze how local natural resources are impacted by businesses and energy. In marine biology, natural resource technicians might focus on ocean environments or plans that can spread awareness about protecting bodies of water.
National average salary: $76,472 per year
Primary duties: An environmental planner assesses the potential impact on the environment for upcoming building projects. Environmental planners can apply their knowledge of environmental laws and regulations to the recommendations they make about whether a building project should be completed or how it can be conducted in the most sustainable way. An environmental planner who is trained in marine biology might focus on structures being planned for construction in areas near the ocean or saltwater lakes and offer advice about how to minimize the affect on local marine life.
National average salary: $76,878 per year
Primary duties: An environmental consultant advises businesses and organizations about how to minimize their environmental impact. Environmental consultants can advise their clients about how to adjust their current business practices to be more sustainable, recommend new procedures that promote sustainability and identify projects or tasks that might impact the environment. An environmental consultant who has an education in marine biology might take on clients who have businesses near or that operate in the ocean to ensure all plant and animal life remains protected.
National average salary: $81,345 per year
Primary duties: A biologist is a scientist who studies animals, plants and their environments. Biologists typically focus on an area of scientific study like human medical research, plant ecology or a certain animal group or species. Biologists who work in marine biology might specialize in studying a particular species of plant or animal and can work in laboratories to perform tests and analyze data or in nature to gather observations of wildlife in their natural environments.
National average salary: $96,307 per year
Primary duties: A scientist is a professional who uses research, experimentation and factual evidence to reach conclusions. Scientists who work in marine biology might operate as field scientists and gather data by visiting ocean environments to observe marine animals and plants in their environments. A scientist can design and conduct their own experiments, or they might work with a team of scientists on a shared research project or experiment.