How to Become a Marine Biologist

A marine biologist studies all organisms that live in bodies of water. Their research extends to both the vertebrates and invertebrates and flora and fauna. In order to become a marine biologist you will need to complete an undergraduate degree in marine science.

Education and License

According to College Navigator from the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over eighty schools in the United States that offer programs in marine biology. The minimum requirements are an undergraduate degree, though at least a master's degree is required for research positions. Many marine biologists in senior level positions will have PhDs and will have completed post doctoral studies in their field before beginning professional work as a marine biologist.

There is no license requirement for marine biologists; however, most positions will ask for at least an undergraduate degree to qualify for the minimum requirements.


Take courses in biology, but it would also be helpful to study animal behavior and environmental studies since these areas are also included in marine biology. If you are already in college, you should look for summer internship programs that include the opportunity to assist in research and gathering biological data.

Depending on the areas you are interested in, you should also look for opportunities to work or intern at zoos or aquariums, or for opportunities in natural history museums that have collections devoted to marine life. You could also look for work, either paid or volunteer, with ocean conservation associations, such as the Blue Ocean Institute or the Ocean Conservancy.

Look for opportunities to travel and work on boats. Many people who are interested in marine biology enjoy the romantic notion of the seas as depicted in movies, books and television but have very little experience in the water, especially on the ocean. It would also be helpful to learn to swim, as well as begin SCUBA certification, since many marine research projects will actually require that you get in the water.

Different Types of Jobs

Marine biology is part of oceanography which studies the environment of the oceans which includes all of the life forms within them, as well as the study of the environment of the ocean, including currents, waves and geography of the ocean floor. This field includes more chemistry, geology and physics than marine biology which investigates organisms.

A marine biologist could work in aquaculture, consulting and researching how to grow sea life for human consumption. The marine biologist would examine the seafood and fish that was raised in containment and indentify and contain pests, as well as consult on the ecology of the storage facility.

Marine biologists also work in conservation, describing the loss of sea life, both flora and fauna, due to pollution and human interference. As conservationists, they would be studying the biology of the oceans and the animals and plants within, describing patterns of behavior and loss, and explaining how the loss of ocean life can be curbed.

Some marine biologists find work in zoos and aquariums, working to improve the habitats and lives of marine animals within captivity. They may also work as animal trainers and animal behaviorists at the facility. Other duties will include public education about marine life, plants and animals, as well as presenting information on the ocean environment and conservation efforts.