Marine / Aquatic Biology

Marine biology is the study of the world's aquatic organisms and the ecosystems they inhabit. It is one of the most comprehensive and competitive areas of oceanography, overlapping with many other areas of study, from biochemistry and microbiology to psychology and anthropology.

Many different types of jobs relate to this discipline. Its practitioners are academic professors and lab researchers, scientists, supervisors, consultants, and more. Marine biologists may spend their time tracking ocean wildlife for conservation efforts or assisting oil companies with deepwater drilling. They may constantly travel to conduct fieldwork, or rarely leave their cubicle.

Similarly, the term 'marine biology' encompasses a variety of educational pathways. There is not one correct major or set of prerequisites; even graduate programs have relatively few core requirements. In general, the best strategy is to focus on gaining a solid science background at the undergraduate level and a strong research background at the master's level while deciding among different areas of emphasis.

There is no national agency that specifically accredits biology or marine biology departments in the United States. However, schools that offer marine biology or related programs should be accredited by an organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education.

Degrees in Marine Biology

Bachelor Degrees

To get into most colleges for marine biology, students need a 4-year bachelor's degree. The undergraduate level is a good time to begin volunteering at local labs, connecting with established scientists, and participating in internships.

Those who know exactly what they want to do can specialize at this level, but it could limit their career options later on. Those who don't know what they want to do yet shouldn't worry. They are advised to focus on a core science, and schedule in plenty of multidisciplinary studies.

The chief goal of the bachelor's degree for a future marine biologist is to lay a wider foundation on which a more specialized graduate education can be built. It's about learning how to do science, so students don't necessarily need Marine Biology degrees at this level. Instead, the top marine biology colleges prefer applicants with a major in one of the following core sciences:

- Biology

- Chemistry

- Physics

- Mathematics

Depending on their interests, other students opt for Psychology, Zoology, or Oceanography. No matter the major, they should be sure to cover subjects like:

- Organic Chemistry

- Biochemistry

- Microbiology

- Molecular Biology

Students who know for sure the area of marine biology in which they will ultimately specialize can begin taking background coursework to that end. Those who expect to become marine mammologists, for instance, might take:

- Ethology

- Invertebrate Zoology

- Animal Anatomy and Physiology

Of course, classes in marine or environmental science are helpful, but they are not essential. In addition to the above sciences, pick up courses in:

- English Composition

- Engineering

- Computer Technology

- Genetics

- Evolution

- Statistics

Some marine biology students enter the workforce after getting a bachelor's degree. It's not the most competitive option, but there are jobs out there for bachelor degree-holders.

Aquaculture, for instance - fish farming and management - is growing at the international level. Students only need a bachelor's to work for a private fish harvesting company as a Marine Logistics Manager. Other positions that may require only a bachelor's degree include:

- Fishery Biologist

- Aquarium Biologist

- Marine Engineer

Master Degrees

It is recommended that prospective marine biologists earn a master's degree to give themselves the greatest career flexibility and a competitive edge in applicant pools. Many entry-level jobs are offered exclusively to master-qualified professionals.

A master's plan typically last 2 years and requires a thesis for graduation. For most students, this is when more targeted marine biology coursework starts. Yet, like their undergraduate counterparts, master programs mandate few core requirements for aspiring marine biologists.

Marine biology is inherently broad and its practitioners need a good sense of the bigger picture, so students are free to choose a thesis topic based on their interests and faculty connections. Veterans in the field recommend focusing on unsolved questions and scientific problems more than particular animals or taxa.

Someone with a master's degree in a marine or related science could become an environmental consultant with the oil and gas industry, for example, or work for the NOAA processing satellite data from international monitoring stations.

What other kinds of jobs are available to master degree-holders?

- Ecotoxicologist

- Staff Marine Biologist

- Marine Archaelogist

Graduate-level Ecotoxicology coursework, for instance, might include:

- Environmental Chemistry of Pollution

- Risk Assessment for Environmental Health Hazards

- Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis

Doctoral Work

Students who anticipate an academic or independent research career move on to a 2- to 3-year Ph.D. program after earning a master's. It's possible to earn a Ph.D. without first earning a master's, but not recommended given the necessary preparation required for doctoral study and funding.

Some students earn a Ph.D. without ever studying Marine Biology at all. A marine biotechnologist, for example, could have a master's or a doctorate in Molecular Biology and bring that expert knowledge to bear on aquatic environments without ever taking a Marine Biology class.

Marine biology jobs that require a Ph.D. include:

- Bioinformatician

- Professor of Marine Biochemistry

- Senior Coastal Engineer

Seminars for a Coastal Engineering doctorate, for instance, might cover:

- Ocean Fluid Dynamics

- Water Wave Mechanics

- Engineering Mathematics

We found 56 schools offering marine biology degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 56 Marine / Aquatic Biology Colleges in the U.S.

Top Marine Biology Schools By Total Enrollment

1
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 49996

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree
2
University of California - Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 36890

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
3
Rutgers University - New Brunswick/piscataway
New Brunswick, NJ  |  Total Enrollment: 35236

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
4
University of Maryland - College Park
College Park, MD  |  Total Enrollment: 33189

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
5
University of Georgia
Athens, GA  |  Total Enrollment: 31288

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
6
California State University - Long Beach
Long Beach, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 30918

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's
7
University of South Carolina - Columbia
Columbia, SC  |  Total Enrollment: 23728

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
8
Texas State University - San Marcos
San Marcos, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 22423

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Doctor's
9
Auburn University Main Campus
Auburn University, AL  |  Total Enrollment: 21860

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
10
University of California - San Diego
La Jolla, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 20197

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate

Browse All 56 Colleges With Marine Biology Programs


Title City State Enrollment
Auburn University Main Campus Auburn University AL 21860
Bemidji State University Bemidji MN 4118
Brigham Young University - Idaho Rexburg ID 8949
Brown University Providence RI 7723
California State University - Long Beach Long Beach CA 30918
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Cheyney PA 1496
Coastal Carolina University Conway SC 4653
College of Charleston Charleston SC 11129
College of William and Mary Williamsburg VA 7530
Drake University Des Moines IA 5126
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania East Stroudsburg PA 5811
Eckerd College Saint Petersburg FL 1572
Fairleigh Dickinson University - Metropolitan Campus Teaneck NJ 9382
Florida Institute of Technology - Melbourne Melbourne FL 4248
Hampton University Hampton VA 5743
Hawaii Pacific University Honolulu HI 7553
Jacksonville University Jacksonville FL 2049
Mansfield University of Pennsylvania Mansfield PA 3113
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale FL 18587
Palm Beach Atlantic University - West Palm Beach West Palm Beach FL 2295
Roger Williams University Bristol RI 3750
Rutgers University - New Brunswick/piscataway New Brunswick NJ 35236
Saint Francis University Loretto PA 2129
Saint Pauls College Lawrenceville VA 518
Samford University Birmingham AL 4379
Savannah State University Savannah GA 2166
Southampton College of Long Island University Southampton NY 2595
Spring Hill College Mobile AL 1484
Stony Brook University Stony Brook NY 19924
Suny Maritime College Bronx NY 776
Texas A & M University at Galveston Galveston TX 1363
Texas State University - San Marcos San Marcos TX 22423
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Pomona NJ 6312
The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa AL 19277
The University of Texas at Austin Austin TX 49996
The University of West Florida Pensacola FL 8479
Troy University Troy AL 12541
University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks AK 7132
University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles CA 36890
University of California - San Diego La Jolla CA 20197
University of California - Santa Cruz Santa Cruz CA 12144
University of Connecticut Storrs CT 19393
University of Georgia Athens GA 31288
University of Hawaii at Hilo Hilo HI 2874
University of Maryland - Baltimore Baltimore MD 5337
University of Maryland - Baltimore County Baltimore MD 10759
University of Maryland - College Park College Park MD 33189
University of Maryland - Eastern Shore Princess Anne MD 3297
University of Miami Coral Gables FL 13963
University of New England Biddeford ME 2684
University of North Carolina - Wilmington Wilmington NC 10100
University of Rhode Island Kingston RI 14362
University of San Diego San Diego CA 6943
University of South Carolina - Columbia Columbia SC 23728
University of West Alabama Livingston AL 1924
Western Washington University Bellingham WA 12307