View Full Version : How does one become a marine Biologist?

09-03-2008, 05:26
I have always been intrigued by marine biology and was wondering if anyone can share the light on the route to becoming a marine biologist.

Local community college offers an associates in marine biology, but that is only a degree.. how does someone get into the field and actually work at it though?

09-03-2008, 06:21
As you say, the degree is just part of the picture. The point is you don't often see want ads for a marine biologist. Courses of study for work where knowledge of MB is a prerequisite such as aquaculture might be a way forward.

Good luck.


09-03-2008, 07:43
With a PhD.

09-03-2008, 07:49
Becoming a Marine Biologist (http://life.bio.sunysb.edu/marinebio/becoming.html)

Marine Biologist (http://www.lovelab.id.ucsb.edu/biologist.html)

Marine Biology---The Revenge (http://www.lovelab.id.ucsb.edu/revenge.html)

09-03-2008, 12:26
I did go to Uni for the formal qualification and then I worked on reef conservation initiatives in Africa and Madagascar. Conservation projects are a great way to gain field experience. Marine biology, like most scientific jobs, is not all glamour and everyone isn't working with Dolphins for example. Once I had to spend three months separating the roots from the shoots for a Seagrass study. I can tell you that was boring after the first hour. The diving has really taken over in the last few years though and the biology is a personal discovery. Remember, biology means the study of life and if you are a diver observing and learning about the Marine environment on you divers you are already on the way. As above, if you want a scientific post it is probably better to hold a Phd or at least a Masters degree. It's a long road but worth it in the end.

09-07-2008, 20:42
Just watch Seinfeld...

If George Costanza can do it... why not you?

YouTube - Re: (Seinfeld) Marine Biologist (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u8KUgUqprw&feature=related)

09-12-2008, 13:01
Well, I'm in grad school myself for a chemistry phd....but here's a path that I know of:
1) Take intro classes at your community college if you're not already in a University
2) Attend university and major in biology/chemistry, or geology.
3) Do well in your classes
4) Join a research group as an undergrad ASAP (this is very important)
5) Get a journal publication as an undergrad (this is optional, but extremely helpful)
6) Take GREs and apply to grad school
7) Get into grad school and spend another 5-7 years on research
8) Finish grad school, get your PhD, move on to either a Postdoctoral position or start working.

Note: just realize that this is what you truly truly want to do, because it will be a long and hard path to get there.
Also, note that for every hour that you dive as a marine biologist, there will be countless hours that you will be doing paperwork and reading. You need money to dive and do research, and that comes from grants that you apply for from the NSF/NIH.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, although I'm in a different field, the training experience is very similar.

09-15-2008, 14:05
Number 4 is the most important. Thats what I did, join a research group or internship. :D

09-15-2008, 23:05
Heh do what everyone above suggests and hope for the best, its a tough thing to get into. Figures I took on marine biology and ended up wanting to be a lawyer or consultant instead.

09-16-2008, 12:11
I have a friend who wanted to become one, she got her undergrad in it. Long story short, she could not find a job that worked out and now she is back at school to get her cert in billing and coding.

09-23-2008, 07:02
Marine Biologist (http://www.lovelab.id.ucsb.edu/biologist.html)

11-11-2008, 15:37
There is a minor fast track to it. Condense your degre program to focus on more marine environment courses and contact the local aquarium for an internship. Experiential learning can help to fast track and get you in the field.

12-03-2008, 15:52
I agree with the "shortcut" approach. Any practical experience you get, whether volunteering with an with aquarium, or any field or lab research program in biology or a related field, will help. Once you start getting some research experience initially, future positions come easily, especially if you can get someone famous to work with. =)

Then again, you might find yourself going other directions, at least temporarily. I'm currently working on a PhD in Biology (I like to call myself an Animal Community Ecologist) in Utah, studying scorpions in the Great Basin Desert. Not exactly a scuba diving mecca, but my field is flexible enough that it doesn't matter what organisms or environments I work with next, and sooner or later I'll make it back around to working in the ocean.

12-05-2008, 12:13
Once you start getting some research experience initially, future positions come easily,

Cal, we must be from different planets! Because even if I agree getting field experience helps, there is nothing easy about securing positions working in biological sciences.:smiley19::smiley19:

I did a masters in Oceanography and after almost 10 years working in my field (I'm lucky), I have friends who are still working as occasionals on temporary contracts.... Basically making ends meet on an annual basis...:smiley21:

With the proper education it is possible de make a careeer of it, but by no means does it come easily!

Cheers and good luck on your work with scorpions (sounds very cool!)!


12-30-2008, 12:56
There ar some introductory wildlife courses, AA degrees that can give you a taste. University of Alaska has a great one.
Also to get your feet wet and you live in a place that has an aquarium you can work there to get college credits and see if its for you.

03-09-2009, 14:07
I realize this is an older thread but I have just started exploring this same subject while considering a post retirement career. The short answer I am getting from such places as SeaWorld, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Mote Marine Research Lab is to be a marine biologist requires a PHd. What is being suggested to me is to be a research assistant which can be done from many different approaches including associates and bachelor degrees. Another track which I am following is scuba certification along with veterinary technician certification. When going these "easier" routes, volunteering is the best way to get a foot in the door and gain experience.

07-24-2009, 23:10
Sorry, this is a late reply, but I feel that no one has answered this yet!

As an employee of a marine research organization, my first thought is always to tell people to seriously rethink their interest in an actual research position. Yes, gathering data in the field is fun, but 95% of your job is going to be compiling data and running statistical software like SAS and Primer, things more associated with blah software engineers and statisticians than the glamorous figures on the Discovery Channel.

Still, if you're educated about what you're getting yourself into, you NEED to obtain at least a Master's degree in a biological field. A master's usually lets you work as a lab tech. If you want to do your own research, and get your grant proposals funded, you MUST have a Ph. D.

You can work temporarily in a lab as an undergraduate however, and many labs accept students from other schools or even recent graduates who haven't been able to move forward yet. If you're interested in working in marine biology, find out what specific area of marine biology you enjoy (like "jellyfish neurophysiology"), and contact a professor/researcher in that discipline. Let them know you're interested in their work, and see what happens. And most professors I know will take on just about anyone who will volunteer for them.

07-25-2009, 00:39
I wanna work in an aquarium taking data on the water, feeding the fish, and cleaning the tank. Do I still need a Masters to fully do that? Or as a recently graduate student, I could find some work around?