What Training Is Necessary for a Career As a Marine Biologist?

Marine biologists study all types of organisms that live in salt water. As a marine biologist, you might find yourself working with anything from plankton to porpoises. Read on to learn what marine biologists do and what it takes to become one. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Marine Biologist Training & Career Overview

Most aspiring marine biologists complete a degree program in marine biology or a related science field, and seek out training or internship opportunities to prepare for the field. The term 'marine biologist' is often used indiscriminately for jobs that apply to the scientific observation and study of marine life. Some of the specific job titles that you'll find included in marine biology are:

  • Marine mammalogist
  • Ichthyologist
  • Marine biotechnologist
  • Aquaculture microbiologist
  • Marine ecologist

Important Facts About Marine Biologists

Median Salary (2019) $51,480
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 8% growth ('for zoologists and wildlife biologists')
Key Skills Problem solving, critical thinking, writing and communication
Work Environment Office, laboratory, and outdoors depending upon area of interest ('for zoologists and wildlife biologists')

Source: Payscale.com U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Marine biology professionals working with the National Sea Grant College Program urge you to keep your education on a broad-based foundation rather than specializing early (www.marinecareers.net). This field offers a wide variety of options, and delayed specialization will give you more career opportunities. Some people begin with a bachelor's degree in marine biology, but others dive in from educational backgrounds in chemistry, biology, biological oceanography, and even mathematics. Whether or not you choose to major in marine biology, there are courses that will help you when you begin your career. Some of the studies include subjects such as:

  • Chemistry
  • Zoology
  • Ethology (animal behavior)
  • Oceanography
  • Communications

Training Opportunities

You can actually begin your training in marine biology very early. Summer camps at marine biology and marine study centers are open to kids as young as 12 years old. There are also summer programs for high school students that teach things like sailing, SCUBA, and marine exploration. Another option is to do volunteer work at a local aquarium. Many offer opportunities to work as docents and interact with both the public and hands-on displays like tide-pool exhibits. Some aquariums even allow you to work with the marine life in display tanks, provided you have adequate training.

When you get to college, you can begin looking into internship positions. Many of these internships will allow you to participate in focused studies and research, such as working with sea turtle rehabilitation and dolphin studies. If you go on to graduate studies, internships available may include teaching marine biology subjects at summer camps.

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