Steps to Becoming a Marine Biologist

Discover the facts about a career as a marine biologist. Here you'll learn what it takes to make it in this field, including the job duties, the salary and the educational requirements. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Marine biologists dedicate their time and energy to researching, cataloging and studying organisms that make their homes in the marine habitats. They do this to help us better understand and manage the animals with whom we share the earth. Our chart gives you a brief overview of the career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Biology, marine biology
Key Skills Critical thinking, outdoor survival, swimming
Job Growth (2016-2026) 8%* (all zoologists and wildlife biologists)
Median Salary (2019) $51,332**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Do Marine Biologists Do?

If it lives in the ocean, you can bet there's a marine biologist who's studying it. Marine biologists research the plants and animals that inhabit the oceans, studying their characteristics, behaviors, adaptations and habitats. They observe; they conduct experiments; they take samples and they make assessments, all in the hopes of understanding their place (and our place) in the world. Some may do this to help rescue a species from the brink of extinction, others may do it to manage food and resources for humans, and still others may do it to find cures for diseases or new advances in technology.

What's the Path to Becoming a Marine Biologist?

The path to becoming a marine biologists starts with a curiosity for the natural world. If you love the oceans, dive in and explore as much as you can. Research and get involved with oceanic rescue and volunteer organizations. Look for institutions of higher learning that offer degrees in marine biology or at least a related field like science or biology. During your undergraduate studies and after, find internships, fellowships and jobs that give you extra experience to add to a resume. If you want to pursue higher level work and specialize (on, say, the mating habits of dugongs), a Master of Science or a Ph.D. may be a wise step.

Who Hires Marine Biologists?

If you've got your passion and your degree in hand, where do you find work as a marine biologist? Universities and colleges often fund research and studies, so they are a good place to start. Federal, state and local governments also hire biologists and marine biologists for resource management. Private companies and non-profits often look for marine biologists to conduct research that might lead to a new breakthrough drug or a way to help save an organism or ecosystem from extinction.

What's the Projected Employment for Marine Biologists?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculated the number of jobs in the zoology and wildlife biology field in 2016 to be 19,400. By 2026, the BLS projects that number to be 20,900. That's a rate of employment rise of 8% over the period of 10 years, which is in line with the national average (7%) for all other occupations, according to the BLS.

How Much Are Marine Biologists Paid?

According to Payscale.com, the median salary for an entry-level marine biologist in 2019 is around $49,000. For marine biologists with a little more experience under their belts (mid-career), the median salary was approximately $52,000.

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