How do I get a Marine Biologist Education?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2018
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Marine biologists are skilled scientists who study saltwater organisms and ecosystems. They may work in the field, combing beaches, diving, or spending large amounts of time on ships to study creatures and plants in their natural habitats. Scientists also conduct laboratory research on samples of marine life to learn about microscopic processes and interactions. An extensive, hands-on marine biologist education is necessary to work in the complex field. An individual who wants to pursue a marine biologist education should research colleges that offer programs in the science as well as investigate internship opportunities at universities, private research institutions, and government agencies.

A prospective marine biologist can pursue a four-year bachelor's degree at an accredited university, majoring in biological science, aquatic biology, or marine biology. Most undergraduate students take lecture and laboratory courses in a number of different subjects, including mathematics, statistics, chemistry, zoology, botany, and marine science. Schools that have branches near a coastline typically offer the best programs, as students are given the opportunity to experience firsthand field research.


A significant portion of a marine biologist education comes outside of the classroom in the form of internships and research assistant programs offered by universities. Many marine biology students work as assistants in school laboratories, aquariums, and local research institutions while pursuing their degrees to learn about the different tools and techniques involved in marine science jobs. They often form important connections with established biologists, who may offer them full-time, paid positions after graduation. Bachelor's degree holders are eligible to work as assistants in laboratories and field studies, helping other scientists gather and analyze samples.

Most marine biologists who want to conduct independent research and design studies are required to obtain doctoral degrees in their specialty, which usually take three to four years of additional study after bachelor's programs. Doctoral students usually spend a significant amount of time conducting research with a team of other students and professors in university laboratories. They may be required to design and implement independent projects in order to graduate.

Upon completion of a formal marine biologist education program, an individual typically applies for fellowship positions at private research firms, government agencies, nonprofit environmental protection organizations, or universities. A fellow works alongside established scientists, picking up tips and information, writing grant proposals, gathering field samples, and conducting experiments. After one to two years, fellows who have shown promise are generally awarded the opportunity to work independently on new projects and studies. A scientist's marine biologist eduction spans the length of his or her career; it is essential to stay up-to-date on the latest technological advances and research breakthroughs in order to perform meaningful work.



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