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Marine Biologist

Information About Becoming a Marine Biologist


There's more to being a marine biologist than training whales and dolphins. So, what is a marine biologist? What do marine biologists do, and how much do they make? How does one become a marine biologist? Learn the answers to these questions and more below.

1. What Is Marine Biology?

Marine biologist on boat working with laptop computer, Australia
Lonnie Duka/The Image Bank/Getty Images

To learn about being a marine biologist, you should first know the definition of marine biology. Marine biology is the study of plants and animals that live in salt water. There are thousands of marine species, and marine biology may include the study of any of them, from tiny plankton to huge blue whales.

Tools used to study the biology of marine organisms include sampling tools such as plankton nets and trawls, underwater equipment such as video cameras, remotely operated vehicles, hydrophones and sonar, and tracking methods such as satellite tags and photo-identification research.

2. What Is a Marine Biologist? A Definition

The term marine biologist refers to anyone who studies or works with animals or plants who live in salt water - from the tiniest microbes and plankton to the largest whales, and every species in between.

3. Marine Biologist Career Profile

This article describes in more detail what a marine biologist does, where they work, and what they get paid.

As described above, the term "marine biologist" is very general - an actual marine biologist likely has a more specific title. Titles include "ichthyologist" (someone who studies fish), "cetologist" (someone who studies whales), marine mammal trainer, or microbiologist (someone who studies microscopic organisms).

Marine biologists may work at colleges or universities, government agencies, non-profit organizations, or privately-owned businesses. This work may occur "in the field" (outside), in a laboratory, in an office, or a combination of all three. Their pay range depends on their position, their qualifications, and where they work.

4. What Education Is Needed to Become a Marine Biologist?

To become a marine biologist, you will likely need at least a bachelor's degree, and possibly graduate work, such as a master's or Ph.D. degree. Since marine biology jobs are competitive, it will usually be easier to get a position if you have gained relevant experience during high school or college. This can include volunteer work or an internship at a zoo, aquarium, educational facility or conservation organization, and/or a summer or part-time job at a camp, educational facility or non-profit organization.

5. How to Get a Marine Biology Internship

Many marine biology jobs are competitive, so getting a marine biology internship can help give you a leg up on the competition when you're applying for your first job (or even, another internship). Here you can learn how to get that dream internship position, from applying for the internship (follow instructions to the letter, and proofread your application!), following up on the application, having a successful interview (hints include dressing well, doing research beforehand and asking questions) and following up with your interviewer. You can also share your own tips for success.

6. What Is a Marine Biologist's Salary?

The salary of a marine biologist depends upon their exact position, their experience and qualifications, where they work, and what they are doing. It can range from a volunteer experience as an unpaid intern to an actual salary of about $35,000-$110,000 per year.

7. Where to Look for Marine Biologist Jobs

There are many online resources for job-hunting, including career web sites. You can also go directly to the source - including web sites for government agencies (e.g., related agencies such as NOAA's career web site) and career departments for universities, colleges, organizations or aquariums where you'd like to work.

The best way to get a job, though, is by word-of-mouth or working your way up to a position. Through volunteering, interning, or working in an entry-level position, you're more likely to learn about available job opportunities, and the people in charge of hiring might be more likely to hire you if they've worked with you before, or if they get a stellar recommendation about you from someone they know.

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