Interested in the study of biological oceanography? Consider pursuing a career as a Marine Biologist.
All marine life forms are studied by marine biologists, from microscopic organisms, to plant life, to large life forms – such as whales.
Marine biology includes the associated disciplines of physical, geological and chemical oceanography.
Fundamentally, biologists seek to understand the physical characteristics of animals, their behaviors, interactions between animals, and the impact of animals on their environments. Biology also includes the impact of humans on animal environments.
Marine biologists focus on wildlife found in the oceans and other saltwater environments (for example, estuaries and wetlands).
The titles “marine biologist” or “marine scientist” actually cover many jobs in the marine sciences. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) points out, “a marine biologist might be a biological technician, ichthyologist, fishery biologist, marine mammologist, systems analyst, or a mathematician.”
A romantic view of a marine biologist is of a professional working with dolphins or whales, conducting exciting experiments in intelligence and interaction.
Realistically, though, very few marine biologists are able to spend their careers exclusively studying whales or training dolphins.
Because job options are so wide-ranging, becoming a marine biologist can take as little as obtaining a biology degree or as much as securing a doctorate (PhD).
Here is a basic process for becoming a marine biologist:
Gain Recreational, Voluntary And High School Experience In Life Sciences
The best way to discover a passion for marine biology is to spend as much time as possible engaging in related activities. This includes volunteering for biology-related projects such as animal counts or environmental clean ups.
It is also wise to look for work experience in anything biology-related including aquariums, animal sanctuaries and zoos.
Take Science Electives In High School
Marine biologists study a range of sciences and must be able to do so at a college level.
Use time in high school to establish basic student aptitude for sciences.
Earn A Bachelor’s Degree In Biology
Students should study biology, chemistry, physics, geology and ecology, ideally earning a biology or marine biology degree.
At this stage, specialization in marine sciences is feasible, though not absolutely necessary.
Seek internships and research opportunities. These can help a candidate determine areas of specialization and get employment after college.
Choose a school with a good biology program. Universities that offer opportunities for specialization in marine biology are valuable.
Consider a school that combines a bachelor’s-master’s program in order to gain an advanced degree in less time (see below).
Get An Entry-Level Job In Marine Biology
Candidates will need a bachelor’s degree in biology.
This career stage can be a good time to gain specialized experience such as focusing on a species, region or even job function.
Possible employers at this level include government agencies, labs, research organizations and labs.
Obtain Advanced Degrees (Master’s And Doctorate), According To Career Goals.
Advanced degrees can boost career options as well as earning power.
A master’s degree is often necessary for teaching and for some consulting and research jobs.
A marine biology PhD is often required for high-level jobs such as college-level instruction, program team leadership or independent research director.
Marine biologists have a many possible careers and can work in an exciting range of environments. For example, marine biologists work in field research, teaching, hydrology, science writing and universities.
Work environments can include everything from research vessels to aquariums and zoos to laboratories, classrooms and offices. An individual with the title “marine biologist” might be managing a wildlife preserve, compiling data and computer models, or lecturing a classroom full of university students.
What Does an Average Day For A Marine Biologist Look Like?
A day in the life of a marine biologist will vary entirely upon their job. For example, a science writer’s day will look very different from that of a field researcher or manager of a wildlife preserve.
A field researcher marine biologist might devote workday time to the following:
Develop Study Concept
Conceive of and map out a concept for a study of marine animals.
List goals and parameters of study including what is to be studied, how long, how it will be studied, whether the animals will be in natural or controlled surroundings, how much the study will cost, and other specifics.
Collect Biological Samples, Specimens Or Data
How the data are collected will be determined by study parameters.
For marine biologists, sample collection may be underwater, collected over extended time periods.
To manage the data, samples must be organized carefully according to study parameters. Marine biologists could be marking samples to show when they were collected, how they were acquired, what they are, and any other salient information.
Biologists log the data they collect into computer systems and then engage in analyzing it. This can mean examining it to ensure it is complete, cleaning and correcting it, and modeling it with the goal of discovering useful information or suggesting conclusions.
Marine biologists are typically comfortable with desktop data analysis tools.
A researcher marine biologist will probably conduct a quantity of lab experiments. The goal will be to discover a fact or demonstrate a general truth.
The biologist will alter factors under controlled conditions to study the results. Experiments will be carefully documented and, if a fact is proven, repeated.
Checking Previous Experiment Results
Experiments can be ongoing, without immediate, obvious results. Marine biologists might be conducting many experiments at once.
Daily actions will include monitoring previous experiments and modifying them according to the study plan
Writing Research Papers, Reports
Scientists must communicate their findings effectively in order to demonstrate results.
Data driven research papers are vital to communicating findings and securing future funding for projects.
Scientists are often expected to present their conclusions or the results of their experiments. Effective presentations will include illustrations, salient facts and conclusions.
Presentations can be to review boards, students and community groups.
Are You Suited for A Career As A Marine Biologist?
Personality & Skills
Advanced Learning Environment
An entry-level job as a marine biologist usually requires a bachelor’s degree in biology at a minimum.
Marine biologists must be able to succeed in college-level science course work.
Biologists must be able to observe and note even small changes in animal behavior, characteristics or appearances.
The must be able to document details at an exacting level.
Field And Outdoor Skills
Marine biologists perform much of their research work outside, in close proximity to bodies of water.
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Marine biologists should be comfortable on and in water, know basic safety protocols, and be able to handle research equipment and tools.
Work environments may require periods of relative isolation, irregular schedules, and long hours.
Biologists must be good communicators. Their work may require them to write scientific papers, speak to policy makers, the public and to students.
Additionally, they may need to explain scientific data in terms non-scientists can understand.
Analysis & Assessment
Biologists must be able to understand raw data, create models and research protocols, and draw conclusions.
Marine biologists can make a good living, but are not paid higher than other highly educated professionals.
Field researchers especially may work long hours, spending significant quantities of time away from home, and even without human contact.
Certifications & Proficiency
The title “marine biologist” can apply to so many jobs, there is no specific certification required to use it. However, to obtain most entry-level jobs, a bachelor’s degree in biology is generally considered the minimum degree necessary.
To advance in the profession, and secure higher level positions, a master’s or doctorate are needed.
Entry-level job: Bachelor’s in biology or marine biology
Teaching, consulting: Master’s, marine biology
College-level teaching, independent research leader: Doctorate (Ph.d.), marine biology
It should be noted that an advance degree in biology is not a sure investment in job security.
There are many rankings for biology programs in the U.S. and not all reviewers agree. Prestigious universities offering marine biology degrees include:
Marine Biological Laboratory is dedicated to scientific discovery and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.