Marine Biologist: What Is It and How to Become

Marine Biologist: What Is It and How to Become

Are you passionate about the oceanic environment and fascinated by marine organisms? Do you want to make a difference in the world by studying and protecting these diverse and fragile ecosystems? If so, then a career as a marine biologist may be the perfect fit for you. Marine biologists are professionals who specialize in the study of aquatic organisms and the impacts of human activities on marine environments. This field offers a wide range of opportunities for exciting and rewarding careers in research, conservation, education, and more.

Becoming a marine biologist takes dedication, hard work, and a relevant educational background. In addition to coursework in biology, chemistry, and mathematics, it is important to gain hands-on experience through internships, field trips, and working with research groups. Many universities offer specialized programs in marine biology that provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to become successful in this field.

Once you have completed your education, it’s time to start thinking about your career path. There are many different specializations within marine biology, ranging from studying coral reefs to working as a research scientist in a marine research institute. You can choose to focus on a specific group of organisms, such as marine mammals or fish, or you can specialize in a certain area, like coastal management or environmental impacts.

Getting involved in professional associations and organizations related to marine biology is also a great way to network with others in the field and stay up to date on the latest research and job opportunities. These associations often offer conferences, workshops, and publications that can help you expand your expertise and connect with potential employers.

In addition to the scientific aspects of marine biology, it’s important to develop strong communication and writing skills. As a marine biologist, you will often be required to write reports, scientific papers, and grant proposals. You may also have opportunities to speak at conferences or present your research findings to others. Strong communication skills are essential for effectively sharing your knowledge and findings with others.

Finally, gaining practical experience through internships, volunteer work, and research projects is crucial for building your resume and increasing your chances of employment. Many marine biologists start their careers by conducting fieldwork, such as snorkeling or studying marine organisms in their natural habitats. Others may work in aquariums, research institutions, or government agencies. Having hands-on experience is highly valued in this field, so seize every opportunity to get involved and gain practical skills.

Article Citations

There are various online databases and platforms where you can find articles related to marine biology. Some popular ones include ScienceDirect, Google Scholar, and JSTOR. These platforms allow you to search for articles by keywords, author names, or specific journal titles. It is important to critically evaluate the articles you find and ensure they are from reputable sources.

When citing articles in your own research or writing, it is essential to follow the proper citation format. The most commonly used format in scientific literature is the APA (American Psychological Association) style. This style includes the author’s last name and initials, the publication date, the article title, the name of the journal, the volume number, and the page range.

Example citation in APA format:

Smith, J. D., & Johnson, A. B. (2021). The effects of pollution on invertebrate populations in marine ecosystems. Marine Biology Journal, 15(2), 125-138.

Citing articles not only gives credit to the original authors but also allows readers to find the articles themselves for further reading or validation of your research.

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Working Hours

The work hours of a marine biologist can vary depending on the specific field of study and the type of work being done. In general, marine biologists may work regular office hours if they are conducting research in a laboratory or office setting. However, fieldwork and data collection often require irregular working hours, including weekends and holidays.

Marine biologists conducting research at sea or in coastal areas may need to spend extended periods away from home. This can involve living on research vessels or field stations for weeks or months at a time. These trips are often physically demanding and can involve long hours of work.

In addition to fieldwork and research, marine biologists may also be involved in teaching or educational outreach activities. This can involve giving lectures, leading workshops, or conducting educational programs for the public. These activities may take place during regular working hours or outside of normal working hours, depending on the target audience.

How to Become a Marine Biologist

If you’re considering a career as a marine biologist, here are the steps you can take to pursue your passion:

  1. Get a formal education: Start by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in marine biology or a related field, such as biology or environmental sciences. Having a strong foundation in the sciences will be crucial for your future studies and research.
  2. Gain relevant experience: Look for opportunities to gain hands-on experience in marine biology. This can include internships, volunteer work, or research assistant positions. Getting involved in research projects or joining relevant organizations can also help you build your expertise and network with professionals in the field.
  3. Consider further education: Depending on your career goals, you may want to pursue advanced degrees, such as a master’s or Ph.D., in marine biology or a specialized area of study. These degrees can open up higher-level research and management positions in the field.
  4. Stay updated on the latest research: As mentioned earlier, it is important to stay current with the latest research in marine biology. Subscribe to scientific journals, attend conferences or workshops, and join professional organizations to keep up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field.
  5. Explore career options: Marine biologists can work in various fields and environments. Some may work in academia as professors or researchers, while others may work for government agencies or non-profit organizations. You can also consider careers in wildlife conservation, environmental consulting, or as a project manager in marine science.

Whatever career path you choose, a passion for the marine environment, strong problem-solving skills, and a dedication to protecting and preserving our oceans and their ecosystems will be essential.

What does a Marine Biologist do?

Marine biologists may work in various settings, including research institutions, universities, museums, and government organizations. They may also work for private-sector firms that specialize in environmental consulting or conservation. The types of projects they may be involved in range from studying the impact of human activities on marine ecosystems to researching new strategies for protecting endangered species.

Work experience

To become a marine biologist, it is important to gain relevant work experience. This may include internships, volunteer positions, or part-time jobs in marine biology research labs, aquariums, or marine conservation organizations. This experience will give you hands-on experience working with marine organisms and help you develop the necessary skills and expertise for a career in this field.

How to become a marine biologist

If you’re interested in becoming a marine biologist, here are the steps you can take:

  1. Educational qualifications: Start by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in marine biology or a related field. This will provide you with a solid foundation in biology, ecology, and other relevant subjects.
  2. Specialize: Consider obtaining a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in a specialized area of marine biology that interests you. This will allow you to further develop your expertise and focus on specific research areas.
  3. Gain experience: Look for opportunities to gain practical experience through internships, research projects, or volunteer work. This will help you build a strong resume and make you more competitive in the job market.
  4. Build your network: Attend conferences, join professional organizations, and connect with other marine biologists. Networking can help you learn about job opportunities, collaborate on research projects, and stay updated on the latest developments in the field.
  5. Job prospects: Apply for jobs in government agencies, research institutions, environmental consulting firms, museums, and other organizations that employ marine biologists. Keep in mind that competition for jobs in this field can be intense, so it may take time and perseverance to find the right opportunity.
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Although the path to becoming a marine biologist takes time and dedication, it can be a rewarding career for those who are passionate about the oceans and the organisms that inhabit them. If you’re willing to put in the effort and have a love for marine life, this could be the right career for you.


Types of Marine Biologists

There are different types of marine biologists, each with their own unique role and focus. Some marine biologists work as researchers, studying the behavior, physiology, and ecology of marine organisms. Others may work as educators, sharing their knowledge and passion for the marine environment with others. There are also marine biologists who work in government organizations or aquariums, where they help manage and protect marine resources.

What to Expect

Being a marine biologist involves a combination of fieldwork and lab work. Fieldwork may include snorkeling or scuba diving to study marine life in their natural habitat or conducting surveys on boats. Lab work often involves analyzing samples, conducting experiments, and processing data. Marine biologists may also spend hours researching and writing scientific papers or funding proposals.


So you want to be a marine biologist


Before we dive into the qualifications and skills needed, it is important to mention that studying marine biology can be a challenging but rewarding career. Many marine biologists work in government agencies, research institutions, or aquatic conservation organizations. Funding for this field is often limited, so you need to be willing to secure grants and other sources of funding for your research.


To become a marine biologist, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree in marine biology or a related field. Some universities offer specialized programs in marine biology, while others may have general biology programs with a focus on marine studies. It is important to find the right school that offers the specialization you are interested in.

In addition to formal education, gaining practical experience is essential. Many marine biologists participate in field trips, research projects, or internships to learn more about their subjects and gain hands-on experience. This can include snorkeling, studying marine organisms in their natural habitats, or conducting experiments in laboratory settings.


The salary of a marine biologist can vary depending on factors such as location, level of education, and years of experience. According to the latest data, the median salary for marine biologists is around $63,420 per year. However, it is important to note that salaries can range from $37,590 to over $100,000 per year, depending on the individual’s expertise and responsibilities.


Marine biologists also need to be physically fit and comfortable working in aquatic environments. Strong swimming skills are often required, and the ability to perform tasks underwater is advantageous. Experience with scuba diving or other underwater activities is beneficial.

Furthermore, staying up-to-date with the latest research and advancements in the field is crucial. Reading scientific journals, attending conferences, and joining professional associations can help you stay informed and connected with other professionals in the marine biology community.

Employment Opportunities in Marine Biology

Marine biologists can work along coastlines, studying the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems. They may conduct scientific studies, manage projects, or work as part of a team to monitor and protect marine life and habitats. In addition, marine biologists may be involved in the monitoring of fisheries and the development of sustainable fishing practices.

Others may choose to work in university settings, where they can teach courses in marine biology, conduct original research, and publish their findings in scientific journals. Many marine biologists also work in museums and aquariums, where they educate the public about marine life through exhibits and workshops.

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If you are considering a career in marine biology, it is important to think about what type of work you would like to do and what areas you are passionate about. The field of marine biology encompasses a wide range of topics, including the study of invertebrate and fish species, marine ecology, marine biotechnology, and environmental impacts on marine ecosystems.

To become a marine biologist, it is often necessary to pursue a higher education. Most professional positions in the field require at least a bachelor’s degree, while more advanced research or management positions may require a master’s or doctoral degree. Coursework in marine biology often includes a combination of biology, chemistry, and environmental sciences.

Overall, the field of marine biology offers a variety of employment prospects and allows individuals to make a positive impact on the environment. If you are interested in the ocean and its inhabitants, and you enjoy scientific studies and research, becoming a marine biologist may be the right career path for you.

Job Description of a Marine Biologist


  • Conducting research and studies on marine life and ecosystems
  • Collecting and analyzing samples, such as water, soil, and marine organisms
  • Monitoring and assessing the impacts of pollution on marine habitats
  • Identifying and studying marine species and their behaviors
  • Developing and implementing conservation plans to protect marine life
  • Writing scientific reports and publishing research findings in journals

Education and Certifications

To become a marine biologist, a high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement. However, most employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in marine biology or a related field. Continuing education in the form of workshops, courses, and certifications is often needed to stay updated on the latest scientific advancements and techniques.

Those who are unsure about studying marine biology at the undergraduate level can choose to major in biology or other relevant sciences before pursuing a master’s degree in marine biology. Specializations in specific areas, such as fisheries management or marine ecology, are also possible.


Marine biologists can find job opportunities in various organizations, including universities, research institutions, environmental consulting firms, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. They may work as researchers, scientists, or managers, depending on their experience and area of focus.

Some of the top employers for marine biologists include organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). These agencies often conduct research, publish studies, and develop policies related to marine biology and environmental conservation.


What does a Marine Biologist do?

A Marine Biologist studies marine organisms, their behavior, and their interactions with the environment. They conduct research, collect samples, analyze data, and monitor marine ecosystems. They also study marine life in laboratories and in the field, and may specialize in specific areas such as marine mammal research, coral reef ecology, or fisheries management.

How to become a marine biologist?

To become a marine biologist, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in marine biology or a related field. It’s important to take courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. You should also gain practical experience through internships or research opportunities. Graduates often pursue a master’s or doctoral degree for more specialized knowledge and research opportunities. Additionally, joining professional organizations, attending conferences, and staying updated with advancements in the field can be beneficial for your career development.

What qualifications do I need to become a marine biologist?

To become a marine biologist, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in marine biology or a related field. Some employers may require a master’s or doctoral degree for more advanced positions. In addition to formal education, practical experience through internships or research projects, strong analytical skills, and a passion for the marine environment are often desirable qualifications for this field.

What are the employment opportunities for marine biologists?

Employment opportunities for marine biologists can be found in various sectors, including government agencies, research institutions, conservation organizations, aquariums, and universities. They may work in research positions, conservation roles, as educators, or in management positions. Some marine biologists also work as consultants or freelance researchers.

Is becoming a marine biologist right for me?

Deciding if becoming a marine biologist is right for you depends on your interests, skills, and goals. If you have a strong passion for marine life, enjoy scientific research, and are committed to environmental conservation, then this career path may be a good fit for you. It’s important to consider the physical demands of fieldwork, potential travel requirements, and the competitive nature of the job market in this field.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.