Marine biology programs allow students to get a glimpse of ocean life.
Of course, students also spend a great deal of time in labs, in libraries
and at the computer.
Many people apply to college programs and space is limited. "Average
students are rarely accepted. Emphasis is on excellence," says Christopher
Taggart. He is a biology/fisheries oceanographer, as well as an associate
professor of marine biology at a university.
Donna Wolcott says that the average grade point average of applicants to
her school is 4.07 (that's 80 percent or above). She is an associate professor
of marine biology at North Carolina State University.
Students interested in marine biology usually have to pursue at least
a master's degree. Many go on to do a PhD. Research scientists and professors
in academic institutions often require a post-doctoral degree.
Specializations can be based on a particular species, organism or ecosystem.
For example, students may choose to study a single species of clams. Or they
may choose to study all of the clams in a particular region.
Take all the science classes you can in both high school and your
first year of university.
Working or volunteering in the field is also a good idea. That could include
working at your local pet shelter, fish and wildlife office, pet store or
Taking a course in statistics is also an asset, notes Taggart.
"Math, physics, biology, chemistry, Earth systems, at least two years
in a foreign language, and anything that strengthens writing and speaking
skills -- [all these] are great assets," says Wolcott.
Many programs suggest getting scuba certification, although it's not essential.
When choosing a school, think about what aspect of marine biology interests
you most. Do you want to study plants or animals? Are you interested in
the effects that pollution and global warming are having on the oceans? Different
schools specialize in different areas.
Some programs have a co-op option. Co-op programs put students to
work in the field, usually at a research center that's located close to the
ocean. Co-ops can be a valuable part of your resume when you begin looking
for work or research grants.
Tuition varies, depending on the school and type of program. For PhD programs,
tuition will be higher. However, most PhD students receive funding to help
pay their costs.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Biological
Careers in Oceanography, Marine Science and Marine Biology
See what options you could have in the field
Marine biology tours
Marine Biology Career
A Q and A with a marine biologist