Marine Science Careers

Research what it takes to become a marine scientist. Read about education requirements, job duties, salary and employment outlook to see if this is the career for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Marine Scientist Do?

Marine science encompasses many different branches of ocean-related sciences, including marine biology, oceanography, marine archaeology, marine law, fisheries and teaching. While what you do will depend largely upon the career of your choice within this field, you will likely study marine plants and animals as well as marine environment and habitats, make plans to improve marine environments and follow a financial plan. In some cases, you may be in charge of hiring a team which will require you to create and monitor their schedules while also working closely with other people on a regular basis.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of what you need to know about entering two of these professions.

Marine Biologist Oceanographer
Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree; research, teaching: PhD Entry-level: bachelor's degree
Research, teaching: PhD
Education Field of Study Bachelor's/master's: marine biology, fisheries, zoology
PhD: marine biology with specialization
Bachelor's: Physics, chemistry, engineering, oceanography
PhD: Oceanography
Key Activities Research saltwater flora &/or fauna & their habitats Research ocean physics, chemistry, circulation & their effects on weather, climate, seacoasts
Licensure Required NA Licensing requirements vary by state; all states require licensing for engineers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%* (for all zoologists and wildlife biologists) 10%* (for all geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers)
Average Salary (2016) $64,230* (for all zoologists and wildlife biologists) $105,720* (for all geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What is Marine Science?

Also called oceanology, marine science is the study of the ocean. That explanation, however, only skims the surface of this complex, interdisciplinary topic. Marine science includes the three main branches of oceanography, marine biology and ocean engineering, along with a plethora of other ocean-related fields, such as aquaria, marine archaeology and coastal policy-making.

How Can I Learn About Marine Science?

Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available at many colleges and universities, many of them located in coastal settings. As an undergraduate student, you'll learn about oceanography, marine biology, geophysics and mathematics. You'll complete field and lab work for hands-on experience with ocean waters, soils and marine life. Upon graduation, you'll be prepared for many entry-level marine science jobs.

If you decide to pursue graduate studies in marine science, you'll probably participate in a research project. For example, you might study tides and waves to better understand the ocean's relationship to atmosphere and weather, or work to develop ecologically sound methods for commercial fishing. Alternatively, you may choose to pursue further education in teaching or in aquatic veterinary medicine.

What Careers Are Available?

Marine science research jobs are available for a variety of technicians and engineers. These positions are commonly sponsored by universities, private industry and the federal government. You could explore the U.S. Navy for jobs in ocean engineering or defense technology. You might choose to be a marine policy expert working for a conservation group to create guidelines for the sustainable use of oceans and shorelines.

If your interest is technology, you might want to design underwater instruments that withstand saltwater and marine animals such as barnacles. Other possible job titles include:

  • Eco-travel guide
  • Marine lawyer
  • Ship's captain
  • Science reporter
  • Fisheries scientist
  • Petroleum engineer

While each of these positions is a marine science career, you should be aware that additional education may be necessary. For example, a maritime lawyer must complete a Juris Doctorate degree program and pass the Bar examination in order to become a practicing lawyer.

What Salary Could I Earn?

Marine biologist and oceanographer are just two of the career possibilities in the marine science field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2015, the average annual wage for wildlife biologists, including marine biologists, was $64,230, while oceanographers, referred to as geoscientists by BLS, made $105,720. Other career salaries for the same time period include $92,540 for postsecondary marine science teachers and $136,260 for attorneys in general, including marine attorneys.

What are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some other possible careers closely related to this field both in education and salary include microbiology and conservation science. Microbiologists will study microorganisms focusing on their effect on the environment while also researching a variety of projects related to the treatment of infectious diseases. You will also be required to work in or run a laboratory and write reports and documents based on your research. On the other hand, conservation scientists work to preserve our natural resources and protected lands while keeping up with government guidelines. You will be expected to work well with others, make plans for conservation and evaluate land quality.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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