Careers Paths

Marine Biologists: Career and Employment Prospects

“Aquatic biology” is a term that many researchers use to describe the study of aquatic environments. You can work as a marine biologist in the public sector, the commercial sector, non-research, consultancy, business, and academia.

You can choose what field and industry you wish to concentrate on throughout your studies by knowing the average earnings paid nationwide and the career prospects for the various marine biology positions. In this post, we go through the duties of marine biologists, the educational requirements, the necessary abilities, the typical wages, and the employment outlook across many industries.

What exactly is a marine biologist?

Scientists who specialize in the study of aquatic life are known as marine biologists. A marine biologist studies how various marine animals interact with one another to better understand ecosystems, biology, and behaviors. Marine biologists can also look at how human interaction impacts marine biology in addition to researching how ocean life influences itself.

What is the work of a marine biologist?

A marine biologist can gather information and conduct studies for growth and conservation by looking at ocean life and how humans affect it. Marine biologists utilize their studies to publish significant facts and convey them to the general public as well as to scientific institutions.

Marine biologists have a variety of responsibilities, such as researching marine life and other living things, examining marine ecosystems and basic processes, and taking part in both broad and problem-based research teams. They may carry out fieldwork; operate in a lab, or do both. A marine biologist is a subset of an aquatic biologist that exclusively studies saltwater species as opposed to limnologists, who also study animals in freshwater.

Prerequisites for marine biologists

The academic prerequisites, training necessities, and abilities required for a career as a marine biologist are as follows:


The majority of marine biology occupations will require a Ph.D. degree due to the extensive knowledge of biochemical, genetic, evolutionary, and physiological processes required. You’ll also be able to select a specialty, such as deep-sea biology, vertebrate biology, or microbiology, after finishing a Ph.D. degree in marine biology.


The minimal qualification for becoming a marine biologist is a Ph.D., however, to advance in your career and acquire the skills required for a marine biology profession, on-the-job training is frequently also required.


One of the many skills a marine biologist must master is data analysis, computational research, arithmetic geometry, and physics. To thrive in your specialty and establish a successful career in your chosen industry, you might also need to master extra skills as a marine biology specialist. A Ph.D. school can teach you many of these abilities, but you can also learn a lot of them through work.

A significant portion of marine biology involves communication in addition to these technical skills. It may be necessary for marine biologist to present their findings to groups, the general public, academic institutions, management, and other scientists and biologists. Being able to speak efficiently can enable you to stand out from the crowd, advance in your profession, and obtain higher-paying leadership positions in marine biology.

Types of marine biologists

Job titles include:

  • Manager of dive operations and marine ecologist
  • Project director for reef restoration
  • Technician in marine biology
  • Research Assistant
  • Data manager for fisheries
  • Environmental scientist
  • Marine ecology professor
  • Postdoctoral Associate
  • Expert in oil spill response
  • Expert in marine ecology
  • Aquaculture biotechnologist
  • Expert in marine policy.

Even though the majority of jobs call for strong technical, analytical, and scientific abilities, specializing in a particular field is typically necessary for career advancement, whether it be in coastal zone management, coral ecology, crustacean biodiversity, fisheries biology, or water contamination.

Although most marine biologists have doctorate degrees in science or marine biology, the key to entering this field is to obtain useful experience through either paid or volunteer work. As there is fierce job competition, it is essential to take advantage of opportunities to expand your skill set and demonstrate your dedication.


Your responsibilities as a marine scientist could include the following, depending on your line of work:

  • Performing surveys of species, testing, and keeping an eye on contaminated marine life
  • Employing techniques like coring, geographic information systems (GIS), visual recording, and sampling to acquire samples and data
  • Using lab analysis to create new research hypotheses from sample data
  • Preservation of samples and specimens of unidentified species and diseases, as well as mapping marine overall population and movements
  • Educating the public, governmental entities, and commercial organizations about the most recent developments in marine science
  • Conducting environmental impact evaluations to determine the potential consequences of a potential venture or project on the environment, including effects on socio-economics, culture, and human health
  • Obtaining information about animal behavior and regional marine activities from interviews with local fishermen, divers, and others
  • Teaching or delivering lectures on marine activity management, planning, and policy
  • Planning, carrying out, and overseeing marine environment-related projects
  • Managing and keeping track of tasks, scopes, budgets, schedules, and deliverables
  • Senior-level supervision of ongoing and new initiatives inside or outside of an academic environment
  • Drafting grant submissions, negotiating contracts, marketing, and expanding your business
  • Keeping abreast of new research and technology, as well as taking training courses
  • Communicating with coworkers in the field, such as technicians, ship crews, and other research staff members.

Average income

Marine biologists in the US get an average base pay of $47,357 annually. Following is a breakdown of marine biologists’ basic pay on average across the 50 states:

  • Connecticut: $47,238 annually
  • Alabama: $42,905 annually
  • Alaska: $46.149 annually
  • Arkansas: $42,382 annually
  • Arizona: $44,810 annually
  • California: $63,273 annually
  • Delaware: $44,594 annually
  • Colorado: $45,899 annually
  • Florida: $43,901 annually
  • Georgia $44,972 annually
  • Honolulu: $112,736 annually
  • Idaho: $27.276 annually
  • Illinois – $46,521 annually
  • Indiana: $42,967 annually
  • Iowa: $43,525 annually
  • Kansas – $42,764 annually
  • Kentucky: $42,048 annually
  • Louisiana: $43,073 annually
  • Maine – $42,830 annually
  • Maryland: $77.346 annually
  • Massachusetts: $48,857 annually
  • Michigan: $44,171 annually
  • Minnesota: $45,800 annually
  • Mississippi: $40.696 annually
  • Missouri: $44,619 annually
  • Rhode Island: $44,636 annually
  • Carolina: $43,129 annually
  • South Dakota: $42,028 annually
  • $43,481 yearly in Tennessee
  • Texas $45,611 annually
  • Utah: $42,651 annually
  • Vermont: $43,138 annually
  • Virginia: $46,598 annually
  • Washington: $48,233 annually
  • West Virginia: $41,337 annually
  • Wisconsin: $44,041 annually
  • Wyoming: $42,573 annually
  • Montana: $41,036 annually
  • Nebraska: $42,834 annually
  • Carolina: $25,256 annually
  • Nevada $44,198 annually
  • New Hampshire: $43,836 annually
  • New Jersey: $47.505 annually
  • New Mexico: $43,249 annually
  • Oklahoma: $42,372 annually
  • New York: $48,937 annually
  • North Dakota: $43,948 annually
  • Ohio: $44,075 annually
  • Oregon: $45,549 annually
  • Pennsylvania: $45,308 annually
  • For roles working as research field assistants abroad, starting pay ranges from £12,000 to £14,000, with £30,000 being the entry-level salary for consulting work.
  • Professional marine biologists are compensated in line with local wages while they are on the job. Ph.D. holders typically earn between £26,000 and £35,000 per year, while certain marine research organizations and laboratories pay on a scale similar to that of university lecturers, which ranges from £28,000 to £45,000 annually (the scale for postdoctoral research positions).
  • Non-governmental organization (NGO) CEOs make over £40,000 annually, while university deans make about £120,000 and those in high-level research roles can make up to £90,000.

The income statistics are simply meant to be a guide.

Hours of work

Your line of work will determine your specific working hours.

The typical number of hours per week for field work contracts is between 40 and 50, while unique project requirements and the tide may affect the actual number of hours. This can entail some early mornings and field trips that last all day.

Your hours are often more structured if you operate for a university, consultancy, or Charity, however, this may change if you collaborate with academics on specific projects.

Being in charge of your study allows you a great deal of flexibility in research activity, regardless of whether you’re a professor or a postdoctoral research associate. However, because research initiatives are frequently supported by grants, positions in this field are typically provided on short-term (12–24 month) contracts.

There is also the option of a part-time job.

What you may expect

Except you work for a consultancy, the dress code for fieldwork is casual and rather relaxed for many marine biology positions.

Even though most university jobs are office and lab-based, they occasionally involve short- or long-term international expeditions.

Employment options are numerous throughout the world.

To get the experience required to differentiate yourself from other applicants, you must be prepared to take advantage of chances through volunteering, internships, or other means.

Work in the field can be taxing. You can be doing scuba diving or operating at sea in bad weather.

Gender equality exists in the subject of marine biology.

Employment prospects

Biologists may expect a 5% growth in employment between 2018 and 2028, which is as rapid as the median for all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. For zoologists, wildlife biologists, and other types of biologists, the median annual salary in 2018 was $63,420. Even though a bachelor’s degree is typically required for entry-level positions in marine biology, many of these positions also call for a Ph.D.

Depending on their qualifications, training, and area of specialization, marine biologists can work in a wide range of marine biology subspecialties and industries. The careers available to marine biologists are discussed in the sections that follow.

The employment prospects for various marine biologist professions are broken down as follows:

Industry occupations

Your security can come from working in a large company’s research and development or ecological department, where there are stable hours and big teams. As a marine biologist, you can find employment in fields like biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, energy generation, manufacturing, construction, and resource exploration. Industry employments are reliant on economic conditions and market demand, but it might offer you a lucrative career in the sector or profession of your choice.

Academic professions

As a researcher, instructor, or teacher, you might think about finding employment in academia. The minimal prerequisite for these positions is a master’s degree, while much scholarly research or lecturing positions in marine biology calls for a Ph.D. In some situations, such as state universities and community colleges, teaching will be more important than research, whereas in other circumstances, such as a top university, research, and training may be considerably more important than teaching. An academic profession in marine biology could be gratifying for people who appreciate the training and advising of the upcoming generation of marine scientists.

Government occupation

In marine biology, you could choose to work for the government. Marine research funding from the federal government has been reduced, but there are still plenty of opportunities in state, local, and local governments. A government role may be a perfect fit for you if you appreciate working toward objectives that have the potential to benefit or influence society. There are lots of chances to specialize in a branch of marine biology you’re able to appreciate, even though you might need to move to find the ideal job for you.

Consulting occupations

Those with expertise in a branch of marine biology may find a gratifying profession as a research scientist who reviews data and presents conclusions at a consulting firm. To thrive in this highly competitive industry, you must have strong communication and presentation abilities in addition to in-depth knowledge of particular expertise.

Nonprofit occupations

Nonprofit marine biology organizations (NGOs) are often non-profit businesses that operate without receiving financial support from the government. Some marine biologists relish the opportunity to use their analytical and research abilities to address significant issues or challenges in certain marine biology subspecialties. In specialized sectors including microbiology, engineering, deep-sea research, and others, many charitable organizations require marine biologists. If you enjoy working as a team to accomplish a common objective and come up with solutions to a few of the biggest challenges facing the globe, joining a nonprofit organization may be a terrific decision.

Careers outside of research

Marine biologists have the option of finding employment outside of research. You might think about careers in water quality management, aquaculture, environmental education, engineering, tourism, public relations, and communication, or marine electronics when governments slash funding and organizations become financially strapped. Marine biology involves a lot of research, but there are other occupations you can pursue if you want to pursue something other than research.


You will require a degree with a marine biology emphasis, such as:

  • Aquatic biology
  • Oceanography, coastal ecology, and marine biology
  • Aquatic science
  • Earth and ocean science
  • Oceanography.

You will likely require a master’s degree in a field of study relating to the marine environment if your undergraduate degree was in a more general area of science.

Research-based careers in marine biology are prevalent; however, postgraduate training is frequently required despite the possibility of entering the field with an undergraduate degree in marine biology and immediately beginning volunteer work or a part-time job on a marine science project.

Tropical coastal management, aquatic ecology, and conservation are among the postgraduate degrees available, in addition to tropical marine biology master’s degrees. To avoid specializing too early, undergraduates who want to leave their job possibilities open can chose to pursue more broad science-based undergraduate degrees first and a master’s degree later.

PhDs can also be helpful, especially if you’re pursuing a career in ocean and geoscience, marine geochemistry, chemistry, oceanography, and behavioral ecology. Schools and marine research organizations offer Doctorate chances, and you might be able to study part-time while holding down a job. Finding a supervisor in the field of expertise that interests you is crucial.

Ph.D. studentships funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) are available. If you’re searching for financing, you should apply directly to the university or other research organization of your choice since these are grants given to those organizations.

Roles as a seagoing technician and a scientific support specialist may be filled without a degree.


Depending on your specialty, you’ll need:

  • Precision and meticulousness while documenting observations and outcomes
  • Good problem-solving abilities to solve issues
  • Research abilities, such as gathering and analyzing data and publishing findings
  • Talents in teamwork, whether operating in a research group in a lab or an exploration team at sea
  • Long-term observational skills, a systematic and analytical mind, and the ability to analyze and understand data
  • Excellent communication abilities for scholarly papers, news releases, grant applications, conference papers, ecological impact assessments, and making a good first impression in employment applications
  • Practical abilities, like boat driving, diving, and first aid training, versatility to handle potential short-term job contracts, living in different countries in basic conditions, and all kinds of weather.

Professional experience

To differentiate yourself from competitors, it is crucial to gain work or volunteer experience. If you’re thinking about a research career, find out what your lecturers, laboratory technicians, Ph.D. students, and college supervisors are working on and see if you can help.

Also, you might volunteer as a research associate to a professional and participate in conferences and paper presentations. Think about making contact with organizations like the Marine Biological Association and other marine ones.

Before specializing, think about submitting speculative applications to organizations that interest you, like aquariums, museums, or environmental consultancies, to develop a variety of abilities.

Try volunteering with regional wildlife trusts, marine conservation groups, neighborhood charities, ocean cleanup groups, and sanctuaries and rescue facilities if you’re interested in fieldwork (this also includes paid adventures abroad).

Participate in related organizations or groups while pursuing your degree. Note down all of your volunteer activities, including field trips, and any holiday jobs you’ve done.

It may also be an excellent way in to make relevant relationships via Twitter, LinkedIn, employment fairs, volunteering, and your university department.


Employers of marine scientists include academic institutions, international organizations, private businesses, public sector organizations, and nonprofits.

Some examples are:

  • Marine energy companies that are also engaged in the exploration for oil and gas
  • Organizations for aquaculture and fisheries
  • Engineering firms
  • Consulting services for marine environmental surveys
  • Environmental consulting and marine conservation
  • Corporations that control water pollution
  • Statutory environmental protection organizations; a list of government organizations and agencies in charge of protecting the environment may be found at Law & Your Environment – Regulators and Authorities.
  • Public organizations like the Marine Management Organization
  • See the list of national governmental bodies involved with the oceans as well as the maritime law at the UN’s Directorate for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea to find marine research institutions and organizations.
  • Conservation International, The Natural Conservancy, WWF, (located in the UK), WildAid, and Greenpeace are examples of non-profit organizations.
  • Universities: Some of the top universities in the UK for marine biology are Southampton, Plymouth, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Liverpool. Marine science technicians, research scientists, fellows, professors, and lecturers are among the positions available.
  • Environmental research organizations
  • Aquariums and museums
  • Charities and organizations dedicated to environmental protection
  • There are wildlife trusts in every county; for further information, go to The Wildlife Trusts.
  • The principal organization in the UK for funding and coordinating research, education, and exchange of information in meteorological, geological, biological, agricultural, and aquatic science is the environmental research Council (NERC).

To carry out a short- or long-term research study related to a fixed-term contract, some businesses, particularly university institutions or governmental organizations, may hire marine biologists.

There are numerous possibilities for employment abroad, whether it’s a permanent or semi-permanent position abroad or if a large component of your position is traveling to research locations abroad.

Search for open positions at:

The websites of large corporations as well as those of universities and marine institutes may provide job listings. Vacancies are also handled by specialized environmental recruitment organizations.

Professional growth

Since marine biology is a topic that constantly changes, it is essential for employees to continually expand their technical, practical, and research skills. It also demonstrates your dedication, enthusiasm, and drive.

Organizations like the Institute of Marine, the Marine Biological Association, and Science and Technology provide training sessions and workshops.

Employers offer different types of training, so before applying for a job, you should research the types of training they offer and the possibilities for professional growth.

If you are lacking a Doctorate, there are ways to conduct research and earn one. You must submit proposals for research grants, deliver research and articles at conferences, and obtain publications in peer-reviewed journals to pursue a career in research.

Also, you may keep up with marine news and advancements by reading periodicals like The Marine Biologist, following marine scientists on social media, and reading online publications like Science Daily and New Scientist.


Several subfields of marine biology lack a well-defined organizational framework for career advancement, thus success will require an equal amount of dedication, diligence, and making the right contacts in your chosen industry. At the beginning of your career, flexibility is key, and you may have to make several lateral moves to advance your career and build contacts. Your rate of professional advancement will be directly impacted by your ability to generate and seize opportunities.

If you want to work in academia, getting a doctorate is typically the first step. Then you might work as a research assistant, lecturer, fellow, or professor before rising to the deanship, which is the top position.

Before being qualified to apply for a lecturing job, most marine biologists must complete a series of short- to mid-term contracts; your achievement depends on your research, teaching, and publications. Depending on how innovative your research is, how well-known you are international, how well you can generate cash, and how quickly you can build a research group, the time it takes to become a professor can be rather short.

Frequently Asked Questions about Marine Biologists

  • What are marine biologists’ prospects?

Marine biologists’ occupation is predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to increase by just 5% between 2020 and 2030, which is approximately as fast as the median for all U.S. professions (

  • What is a marine biologist’s line of work?

Your responsibilities as a marine biologist may involve completing species inventories, testing, and monitoring aquatic organisms exposed to pollution, depending on your line of work. Utilizing techniques like coring, geographic information systems (GIS), visual recording, and sampling, processes are used to acquire samples and data.

  • Is it possible to earn an income as a Marine Biologist?

In the US, the average yearly compensation for marine biologists is $66,877. Salary levels for marine biology disciplines might vary, with more technical positions that call for years of experience frequently paying better.

  • What drawbacks do marine biologists experience?

Having to compete for desirable jobs and possibly running the risk of getting hurt when working at sea are a few negatives. When government subsidies that support scientific research are reduced during an economic crisis, job security may also be a problem.

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