How to become a marine biologist?

How to become a marine biologist?

Marine biologists investigate the behavior of marine organisms. Also, they study their interaction with each other and the environment. They explore beautiful reefs, dive deep into the blue, and witness life dwelling in extreme, unimaginable habitats. Here, let’s know how to become a Marine biologist?

As interesting as it sounds, more intriguing is how you can be the next marine biologist. If you have a passion to analyze the environment and different ecosystems that make it up, this career is tailor-made for you. This article sums up the requirements and procedures to become a successful marine biologist. 

Academic qualifications

You should have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in any of the following courses to become a marine biologist-

 Marine biology

 Marine biology and coastal ecology/oceanography

 Marine sciences

 Marine ecology

 Marine biotechnology

 Marine and Atmospheric sciences

 Aquatic ecology

 Ocean and earth science

 Fisheries

 Zoology

 Biology

 Ecology

 Other animal sciences

Subjects such as chemistry, statistics, English, and physics are also considered important. You should engage yourself in marine biology-related activities to discover your true passion for it. You can volunteer for various projects such as environmental clean-ups or animal counts.

You can get an entry-level job through a bachelor’s degree. The possible employment opportunities are in labs, government agencies, research organizations, etc. Internships and research opportunities help students in determining their areas of specialization and getting employment after college.

To boost earning power as well as career options, advanced degrees such as a master’s or doctorate (such as a Ph.D. in marine biology) are essential. Many a time, a master’s degree is required for research, consulting, and teaching jobs. You can consider a bachelor’s-master’s program to get the advanced degree in a lesser period. A Ph.D. will earn you high-level jobs such as research director, college-level instructor, or program term leadership. 

Here is the list of some of the finest colleges offering courses for Marine biology in the USA-

 Boston University

 Duke University

 University of Miami

 Texas A&M University

 Brown University

 Stony Brook University

 University of Maine

 University of New Hampshire

 California State University, Long Beach

 University of New England

Skills required 

Marine biologists may work in an office or at a local stream. Their job can even take them to remote places around the world. There are some skills that a successful marine biologist acquires during education while some are inborn. These skills are necessary to deliver your full potential as a marine biologist. The ideal personality traits of a marine biologist are as follows-

 They must have patience, observance, a questioning mind, scientific ability, and an appreciation of marine life. 

 Precision and skillfulness at interpreting and analyzing data are required.

 They should have the stamina and fitness to work efficiently at remote locations.

 The quality of teamwork is essential.

 They must be communicative. Their work sometimes requires public speaking and addressing policymakers.

 They should be comfortable with working on and in water.

 They must have an interest in working with and manipulating raw data.

Career skills required in this field are as follows-

 They should be successful in science coursework at the college level.

 Active listening skill is required. They need to give their full attention while people express themselves but not interrupt them.

 They should have a good command over science subjects.

 They should be skillful in using specialized tools, software, computers, and technology such as field collecting equipment (e.g., plankton nets) for sampling. They must know about automated measuring equipment. One such example is a salinometer. It measures the salt levels in the water.

 Robotic skills required to handle ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle).

 They must have the ability to make research protocols, create models and draw conclusions.

 They should know and follow basic safety protocols.

 They should document all details at an exacting level.

 This job demands working frequently in laboratory settings. Therefore, having strong lab skills such as composing risk assessment, standard operating procedures, sequencing is a must.

 They should be well versed with the technology related to this field such as Leading Environmental Analysis & Display System (LEADS), Oceanwise, PIPE-FLO, and Growing Blue. 

 They must be able to design studies for research purposes and have strong research skills.

 Their observations must be with attention to the details.

 They must be able to plan expeditions for research purposes.

 Honesty, collaboration skills, responsibility, and awareness are needed. 

Types of marine biologists

Depending on the type of specialization in marine biology, there are many types of marine biologists-

 Dive operations manager- Qualification required in PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor, marine biology or conservation, Aqualung/Apeks qualified service technician. 

 Marine biotechnologists- Bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in marine biotechnology required

 Marine ecologists- Qualifications include bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in marine ecology

 Marine ecology consultants- Bachelor’s degree in marine ecology for entry-level, master’s degree, and/or doctorate for advanced level

 Marine ecology professors- Bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate in marine ecology

 Fishery data managers- Bachelor of Fisheries/ Bachelor of Science in Industrial Fish and Fisheries/Bachelor of Fisheries/Bachelor of Science in Aquaculture required

 Environmental engineers- Complete Bachelor’s course in environmental engineering for entry-level, master’s degree for advanced level

 Marine biology technicians- Bachelor’s or master’s degree in marine biology is a requisite

 Research assistants- Bachelor’s degree in marine biology or any of its specializations

 Marine policy experts- Bachelor’s and master’s degree in marine sciences

 Reef restoration product managers- Bachelor of sciences in conservation biology, resource management and policy, natural/environmental sciences, or related field

 Oil spill response specialists- Complete a marine environmental technology program or a mechanical engineering technology program 

Postdoctoral fellow- After the completion of the doctorate program in marine biology or related field.

For jobs such as seagoing technician and scientific support, you do not need to have a bachelor’s degree.

Duties of a marine biologist

Marine biology is a broad-ranged career that comes with a lot of responsibilities. As a marine biologist, your field can land you into academic research, policymaking, charity, consulting, laboratory work, or fieldwork. The duties of a marine biologist include-

 Managing existing and new projects at the senior level outside or within the academic setting.

 Enhancing knowledge by attending training courses and learning about new technologies and research.

 Being the supervisor of students pursuing masters, Ph.D. and the lecturer of specialist subjects.

 Taking interviews of stakeholders, fishermen, and local divers about the local marine practices and animal behavior. 

 Cooperating with fellow research staff, colleagues, technicians, assistants, and crew members of the ship.

 Taking up surveys of endangered organisms through scuba diving.

 Determining and implementing strategies for the p protection and preservation of endangered marine organisms.

 Putting the organisms affected by pollutants to monitoring and tests.

 Scheming procedures for experiments. 

 Collecting and organizing findings.

 Helping policymakers by providing scientific information for the best management of the marine environment.

 Help in tracking and coordinating schedules, deliveries, budgets, scopes, and assignments.

 Composing contract negotiations, grant proposals, developments in business and marketing.

 Management, development, and implementation of marine environment projects.

 Raising awareness and education by talking with the public, commercial employers, government ministers, and fellow academics.

 Implementing data sampling and collecting processes such as geographic information system or GIS, coring techniques, visual recording, and sampling.

 Executing assessments for evaluation of environmental, cultural, human-health, and socio-economic impacts on a proposed project.

 With the help of conferences, academic publications, or outreach, educate people about all the latest advances in marine science to improve the methods used to look after oceans.

 Responsible for detailed reporting of water bodies for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which is a government body, commercial organizations, agencies, funders, etc. 

 Preparing samples of unknown species and diseases, preserving specimens, mapping the movement, distribution, and range of marine populations.

 Planning and conducting fishing expeditions and preparing research vessels in different areas such as tropical, polar, and temperate regions.

 Taking lectures on marine activity planning and management, policymaking. 

 Advocating on policymaking for marine ecosystems and organisms.

What you can anticipate

There are some factors which you should know before entering the field of marine biology. They are as follows-

 If you work for a consultancy, expect a formal dress code. Otherwise, it is usually informal or casual for almost all roles in marine biology and fieldwork.

 University work may take you to short-term or long-term expeditions abroad but mostly their tasks require working in a lab or office.

 You should be comfortable enough to grab different types of internship or volunteering opportunities. It is essential to stand out from the crowd as this field is very competitive.

 Fieldwork is a laborious job. You may have to endure bad weather conditions while working at an ocean or sea, diving underwater can extend up to seven hours a day.

 The field of marine biology is gender-equal.

 You will get a lot of opportunities to work in all corners of the world. It can be anywhere from Mexico, Hawaii, and Greece to Tobago, New Caledonia, and the Falklands.


Marine biology is an umbrella term. Therefore, your resume should be aimed at your course specialization, mentioning related skills and experience rather than only the broad phrase. Marine biology encapsulates all the characteristics of sea and ocean life as well as the related ecosystems. The objective to study marine biology is to comprehend the nature of changes observed in the ecosystem. 

A well-structured resume can make it easy for the employer to recognize your skills and area of expertise. As it is exigent to create a well-thought-out resume, we have some tips for you to make the task less arduous-

Format- The format should be a professional one. It must be able to spotlight your most significant accomplishments in front of the hiring manager. The ideal resume format for a marine biologist resume is as follows-

 Contact information

 Work history and experience (write in reverse chronological order)

 Education background

 Skills

 Resume summary (optional)

Optional sections- If you have any other exceptional attributes that are relevant to the job position you have applied for, mention them in separate sections at the bottom of your resume. Refer to the following sections as an example-

  Recognition and honors

  Idiosyncratic interests

  Conferences and seminars attended

  Recreational activities

 Remember that your resume should remain limited to a single page. It should act as an elevator pitch for you briefly describing why you are a perfect fit for the role. 

Work history and experience- This is the most valued division of a marine biologist’s resume by every employer. Remember to make it result-oriented. As stated before, having a voluntary or a recreational experience in life sciences such as working in animal sanctuaries or an aquarium will provide your career a boost. The more the work history and experience, the more are the chances of you getting hired. Write your work history (if any) in reverse chronological order. Represent evidence using specific facts or figures. You can mention some relevant experiences such as-

• Experimentation assistance (to a specialist)

• Research papers set forth

• Boat handling

• Scuba diving

Educational background- Mention the degree you pursued along with those concepts and specialized topics that are directly related to the job description. Some examples of specialized topics are as follows

 Oceanography

 Biostatistics

 Toxicology

 Aquatic animal biology

Write down the certification or licensure you gained while pursuing a practical job such as scuba diving or boat handling.

Skills- As a marine biologist, the skills required are mostly research-based. Jot down the skills relevant to the job as bullet points on the resume. Mention the specialized skills (skills that come from educational degrees) and your soft skills (non-technical skills that determine your nature at work) separately. Do not use cliches. Instead, make use of phrases and exact words.

Resume summary- This is an optional section but can prove to be useful when the employer has a lot of resumes to look through. The hiring manager may miss some important details in the resume in a hurry. If you mention all the major points concisely as a summary, you can make sure that the employer will be able to access them easily.

Being adept at interview

Crossing this hurdle requires earnest preparation, self-confidence, and perspicacity. It is basically to check how well versed you are with the knowledge of your specific field in marine biology. Sometimes, you can be given a situation to test your abilities of judgment, conflict resolution, prudence, etc. If you do not know the answer to a question, accept it humbly and do not beat around the bush. Also, your practical knowledge is as necessary as the theoretical portion. 

Some common interview questions with answers are as follows-

Q) Tell us something about yourself?

A) Here, you need to tell basic details such as your name, hometown, academic qualifications, and your personality traits such as optimism, creativity, integrity, empathy, etc. Also, mention job-relevant professional traits such as solution-oriented, helpfulness, self-motivation, collaboration, etc. 

Q) Why is it your aim to be a marine biologist?

A) I have always been passionate about studying marine organisms, how their ecosystems work, and conducting research to find ways to protect marine life. Your team is doing great endeavors and I too want to be a part of it. 

Q) How did you get to know about this position?

A) I got to know about this position through a very close friend of mine during a corporate sailing event. I felt a wave of excitement run through my body as I have always been down to work with this prestigious organization and was finally getting a chance to prove myself. 

Q) How do you deal with conflicts?

A) I am a calm person and tend to take things the same way. First of all, I try to find the root cause of the situation. Then, I figure out the best possible ways of remediation to get the best outcome. At last, I make sure to take adequate steps for remediation. 

Some other interview questions are as follows-

 What are some skills that only you can offer us?

 Did you make any suggestions for your previous company that benefited them?

 How have you tried to increase your knowledge in marine biology in the past year?

 What do you do to keep yourself motivated at the workplace?

 What according to you is the most challenging part during boat handling at the sea?

 What were your past contributions in policymaking to ameliorate the marine environment?

 How do you manage to meet close deadlines as a marine biologist?

 Recall a time when you needed to make a good impression on the client. What possible things did you do?

 How would you manage if you became inundated due to a lot of work on your schedule?

 What should be the ideal lifestyle of a marine biologist?

 What kind of problems do you define as ‘unfixable’?

 What according to you is the Gordian knot that you had solved as a marine biologist?

 What attributes would you like in your supervisor?

 Why do you consider yourself the perfect candidate for this position?

Where can marine biologists find work and what is the expected salary?

Marine biologists can make their careers in a wide range of industries such as government agencies, universities, commercial organizations, international companies, non-profit organizations, and research institutes. Some common examples include-

 Aquariums and museums

 Wildlife trusts

 Marine environmental and consultation agencies

 Oil, energy, and gas exploration firms that entail marine energy

 Water and pollution control agencies

 Marine research agencies or laboratories

 Institutes involved in environmental research

 Not-for-profit organizations such as Greenpeace, Conservation International, WWF, The Nature Conservancy, etc.

 Charities and organizations for environmental conservation

 UK based universities such as Aberdeen, Southampton, Liverpool, Plymouth, Glasgow

 Aquaculture organizations and fisheries

 Public bodies

 Statutory agencies for the protection of the environment

 Engineering organizations

Research-based jobs are available as both short-term and long-term projects. They are provided as a fixed-term contract. Overseas jobs are common and the posting can be either a permanent or semi-permanent one.  

A marine biologist earns an average of $32,159 per annum. The earnings typically range from $24,166 to $71,561. These wages are estimated to be 30% below the national average. The salaries of marine biologists as per their seniority are as follows-

1. Top-tier marine biologist (90th percentile)- $34 per hour or $71,561 per year

2. Senior-tier marine biologist (75th percentile)- $21.52 per hour or $44,755 per year

3. Mid-tier marine biologist (50th percentile)- $15.46 per hour or $32,159 per year

4. Junior-tier marine biologist (25th percentile)- $12.69 per hour or $26,377 per year

5. Starting-tier marine biologist (10th percentile)- $11.62 per hour or $24,166 per year

On average, a marine biologist earns more than a wildlife rehabilitator but less than a commercial fisherman. But usually, their pay is almost the same as that of the related careers. 

What are some careers similar to a marine biologists?

There are a lot of fields that are similar to the field of marine biology. These include-

 Biotechnology specialist

 Fisheries biologist

 Animal control worker

 Biotechnician 

 Environmental consultant

 Geophysicist

 Animal breeder

 Marine illustrator

 Environmental technician

 Hydrogeologist

 Natural resource manager

 Scientist 

 Environmental lobbyist

 Marine scientist

 Exterminator

 Hydrologist

 Researcher

 Wildlife rehabilitator

 Explosive’s worker

 Aquaculturist

 Naturalist

 Commercial fishermen

This sums up all the important pointers you should know to become a successful marine biologist. Sometimes, the tides will be in your favor, and other times they won’t. The important thing is to keep moving forward despite any circumstances to achieve your goals in life.

How to become a marine biologist?

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