Are you considering a career as a marine biologist? Maybe you took an introductory class, and you found it very fascinating. Then you might be a good fit for this type of career path.
Before you make such a large life decision, make sure you know what a marine biologist does. With a better understanding, you’ll be able to make a better decision. Here’s a look at the duties of a marine biologist and how you can enter into this career.
What is a Marine Biologist?
If you become a marine biologist, you will be someone that studies marine organisms. This includes where they live, what they eat, and everything else that has to do with their natural habitats.
You will likely work in one of the many different areas. Marine biology is rather vast. For example, you might study large ocean animals, or you might work with microscopic organisms. It’s common for a marine biologist to do quite a bit of research and specimen collecting.
What does a Marine Biologist Do?
Marine biology is a research and learning field. It’s also an umbrella that holds many specializations underneath it. As a marine biologist, the short answer to what you will do is studying ecosystems and organisms of the ocean. However, your specialty will likely determine what you do a bit more.
Some of the most common responsibilities across this field include:
- Collecting samples in the field
- Reviewing literature and research
- Researching organisms in their natural environment
- Using instruments to measure and track organisms
- Working to help rebuild ecosystems
- Monitoring environmental compliance
- Analyzing the health of ocean environments
- Using computer modeling to predict future data
- Cooperating with the coast guard, when necessary
If you advance your career and you become a senior marine biologist, you will likely add some of the following responsibilities to your job description:
- Reporting the findings of the research
- Drafting scientific papers
- Guiding agencies to help monitor ecosystems
- Writing and submitting grant proposals
- Presenting research findings to stakeholders
- Educating the public
- Calculating schedules and budgets for specific projects
- Developing work projects
- Determining the laws and regulations for specific jurisdictions
- Your actual duties will depend on your position as a marine biologist.
- Necessary Education and Training to Become a Marine Biologist
You will need to complete specific education and training before you can work as a marine biologist. If you want to work in research, you will likely need a doctoral degree. Your path towards this type of career will start with the right undergraduate degree, however.
Most aspiring marine biologists will get an undergraduate degree in biology, animal science, or zoology. However, the major you choose can vary a bit, as long as you can move on to a Master’s of Science or doctorate in the right field. Then, with the right undergraduate degree, you can go into a graduate program in marine biology.
You can get an undergraduate degree in marine biology. This is very helpful if you want to go into a specialized ichthyology career. Make sure you choose the right undergraduate program and the right graduate school for your career choice.
As you work through your education, you will take biology, chemistry, math, statistics, communications, physics, and computer technology. These will usually be required courses to get a degree in biological sciences.
After completing your degree, an internship is likely the next step. You will need to complete an internship at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Participating in hands-on research in Florida, Hawaii, California, or the Caribbean over the summer is rather common for students in this type of degree program.
While becoming a marine biologist doesn’t require certifications, you may need a few. For example, if you plan to work underwater, you will likely need a scuba diving certification. This will come through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Other certifications may also be necessary.
Necessary Skills to Become a Marine Biologist
If you have the following skills, you will likely be well-suited to become a marine biologist:
- Observation Skills – Studying life in the ocean requires plenty of observation. You may need to stay patient and just watch as you are doing research. Noticing small changes is part of this type of career.
- Teamwork – Most marine biologists work with a team. You will need to be skilled at working with others out in the field and in the office.
- Critical Thinking Skills – Those with strong critical thinking skills will fit in well as marine biologists. You will need to question things and test everything before drawing conclusions.
- Stamina – You will need both physical and emotional stamina. The fieldwork can be rather demanding, especially if you work underwater. It can also require a researcher to spend time alone with native marine life around them.
These skills will help you enjoy a successful career as a marine biologist. But, of course, there are many other skills you will acquire throughout your education and training for this career.
Types of Positions Filled by Marine Biologists
If you want to work as a marine biologist, you can fill many different positions. Some of the common career options include:
- Oceanographer – There are four oceanography areas, including chemical, biological, physical, and geological. Each area offers different job opportunities.
- Marine Biotechnologist – A common career option, as a marine biotechnologist, you will help create products derived from marine plants and animals.
- Aquarist – If you want to care for marine life at an aquarium, this is the job for you. As an Aquarist, you will observe, feed, and maintain the living environment of the aquarium.
- Hydrologist – Another career you can enter into as a marine biologist is a hydrologist. You will analyze water resources. You will study the circulation, distribution, and physical properties of the underground and surface waters.
- Ichthyologist – A specialty studying all fish species is known as an ichthyologist. You will study the reproductive, developmental patterns, and behavior of fish.
- Marine Mammalogist – If you want to work with larger marine life, this is the position for you. Marine Mammalogists may work with whales, dolphins, seals, manatees, and other mammals.
Several other options are available for marine biologists. Getting the right education and training can lead to the right specialization for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Marine Biologists
How much does a marine biologist make?
As a marine biologist, you can earn a salary ranging from about $40K to $100K per year. The average salary is about $62K per year. Of course, your actual salary will depend on your education, training, location, and experience.
Is the career of a marine biologist a growing career?
This job field is expected to grow by about 8% over the next several years. It’s a little higher than the projection for all other occupations. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center doesn’t believe it’s growing quite as fast. They believe government jobs are currently limited, and growth will slow down in the next few years.
What is a common work environment for a marine biologist?
This is not a desk job in an office. Commonly, marine biologists are out in the field. It’s not uncommon to work underwater in full scuba gear. You may also do dangerous fieldwork, depending on your job.
Some work will be done in a laboratory setting, and some may be done in an office. However, the majority of your time will be spent doing fieldwork. It’s also common to work alone or with a large team in the field.
How many hours will a marine biologist work each week?
As a marine biologist, you won’t work a typical 9-to-5. Your workweek can vary quite a bit, depending on the job at hand. If you’re in the field, you might be working long or short hours, depending on the weather and other factors. Most marine biologists work at least 50 hours per week.
Who will hire marine biologists?
Many of the marine biologist jobs are found through governmental environmental agencies. However, this is just one area you can work within. Some of the other types of companies and organizations hiring marine biologists include:
- Conservation organizations
- Commercial fisheries
- Oil companies
- Public regulatory organizations
- Public university research teams
You can also go into teaching at a university or college.
Will a career as a marine biologist be dangerous?
Yes, this type of career can be dangerous. For example, you could be working with harmful materials or animals in the environment. However, there are many techniques and safety precautions you can use to ensure you avoid serious injury. The field isn’t known for serious injuries, but some activities can present a risk.
Will I need to travel to be a marine biologist?
You will likely need to travel to work in this field. For example, you could be traveling all over the world to study specific marine life. However, jobs in aquariums and labs don’t offer as much travel.