How can I Become a Marine Biologist?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

There are many steps in the process to become a marine biologist, and many people start at a very young age, laying the groundwork for their college educations. The first and foremost step is an interest in marine life and the oceans, as being a marine biologist would not be very enjoyable if you weren't interested in your study subjects.

A marine biologist typically focuses on one field of study, such as coral reefs.
A marine biologist typically focuses on one field of study, such as coral reefs.

Marine biologists study ocean life, ranging from huge whales to tiny planktonic organisms. They have access to some of the most interesting places in the world, including hydrothermal vents, which host bizarre organisms that use chemosynthesis for energy. The ocean is a largely unexplored territory, which means that there is a lot of work to be done in marine biology, from monitoring the populations of commercial fisheries to studying global ocean temperatures and their effect on marine life.

A marine biologist may choose to specialize in studying microscopic organisms.
A marine biologist may choose to specialize in studying microscopic organisms.

If you want to get a job as a marine biologist, you should start as early as possible because there's a lot of math and science to absorb. In high school, taking classes in mathematics and sciences is a big help, and if you can access marine biology courses in your school or at a local college, you should definitely consider taking them. You might also want to see if you can intern with a marine biologist, or spend a summer working in a marine biology lab, to get a sense of the hands-on work required.

For college, if you want to become a marine biologist, you should select an institution with a marine science program, and preferably you should find a school which is affiliated with a research facility. This will give you an opportunity to get real field experience, and it will allow you to work in a wide variety of facets of marine biology to see what interests you most. After you graduate with a marine biology degree, you may be able to find work in the field, but you may want to pursue graduate work to become a marine biologist with better qualifications. Additional education will expand your depth of knowledge and make you more employable.

You may find that when you become a marine biologist, a particular aspect of the field interests you, such as microscopic organisms, marine mammals, marine habitats, coral reefs, or any number of topics. Many marine biologists figure out what they want to specialize in when they intern with experienced biologists in the field, getting an idea of what the day-to-day work is like. You may, for example, find that although you are fascinated by ocean life in deep sea trenches, you don't like having to work remotely to study organisms of interest. Or that you are drawn to education, zookeeping, or a variety of other careers in marine biology.

Marine biologists work as field and lab researchers, educators, and consultants. Oil companies, militaries, and fisheries all need marine biologists to monitor their operations and provide suggestions for increased efficiency and environmentally-friendly practices. Marine biologists also work with conservation organizations, wildlife advocacy groups, zoological parks, and national governments, among others, so there is a lot of room for employment in this field.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Okay I know that I need to take more math classes, but do I need like oceanography and classes like that?


Can anyone tell me if i need to take geography? I hate it so much.


I'm 14 and I have wanted to be a marine biologist for a long time. What classes should I take? I'm OK in math and pretty good in science.


I'm 13 years old and I would like advice on what I should do to become a marine biologist. Is there anything I can do now? And where can I get hands on experience?


@anon208366: That's a great idea, and it has already been discussed. To make sonar, they have to use electric currents, but it's been discovered that different sharks detect different frequencies of the sonar waves. Some sonar waves even stop the heartbeat of some sharks. Also, some sharks enjoy different sonar waves!


I'm 15 and I want to become a marine biologist. What should I specifically do at this age? In my country of Malaysia, we study maths, add-maths, biology, chemistry and physics when we're 16 in high school. I'm currently favoring deep sea ecology but I don't really know that much about marine biology, so I haven't really pinpointed which one to choose.

Does it help if I can swim and have a diving license? And is it a disadvantage if I'm afraid of sharks? I mean I do like them, but they kind of scare me. It would be nice if you'd give me some tips about this whole thing. --Iman


I would love to be a marine biologist, but at the moment, I'm 13 years and I'm starting to get bad levels in mathematics. In science I'm doing quite well, getting five a's and that's a B or A in end of year exams, so I don't really know if I'd get a place in college and university. I would like to find out a bit more about the levels you need in marine biology.


I have degree in Marine Biology and post-grad in safety and environmental management in oil and gas industries, and I never found a job in Brazil.


I've applied to do Geography, English language, English Lit and History for college. Is there a way to become a marine Biologist without a science?


Why doesn't any one try to create a sonar sound on a surf board that would cause the sharks to know that these are people on them are not bait? even those who swim around sharks, whether in a cage or on a surf board. I believe that this could be put on or in a surf board that would save many lives, and wouldn't that be worth it all!

I would not want any recognition at all, but would love to see the safety of the sharks as well. Could this be done? please do write back I am really concerned about the lives of those loved ones who were taken, whether it was the shark's fault or not. Someone out there who is intelligent enough can do this. I believe this will work!


i am 14 and I'm going to grade 10 and thinking of becoming a marine biologist. what subjects should i take and study for it.


I am now finishing high school, and i want to become a marine biologist but the problem is i did not study biology at school just geography. So what do i do?


i'm in third year and i don't know what to take for marine biology. i really want to do it so bad. please can you tell me what i need to do this.


i love the ocean and sea, and any type of water area, so i want to become a marine biologist, what classes would i need to take in high school and college, how long would college last? And finally when do i get to dive deep into the ocean? i need some answers fast. --M


Do I need to take geography gcse to be able to be a marine biologist?


I have been wanting to do marine biology for quite some time now, and I am choosing my subjects next month.

I have been researching about what marine biologists do and where they work, and I have also done some other research about what subjects I would need to succeed in the future.

Unfortunately I haven't found very much, especially about what subjects I would need. I am starting to worry about making the wrong choices and taking my future backward. Is there any possibility that you could help me?

Thank you in advance. Catherine


I'm 12 years old and i really want to be a marine biologist. ever since i wanted to become one i started looking things up about it, but all together, it seems like this is what i really want to do.


I am in year 11 and i am really interested and focused in doing marine biology as my career. I would like to know what exactly do you have to study in college (what degree?) and then if i want to study it further in University what will i be doing? It would be great if you could answer these questions please.


I'm in eighth grade and really, really want to become a marine biologist. I have since i was really little. i am good at math and kind of science. what classes should i take in high school to become one?


I'm 16 and next year is the last year of my high school life. I just decided that I want to be a marine biologist. I take Biology and Maths now and also chose it for next year. Are there any more subjects needed to do marine biology in university?

I'm thinking of changing one of my subjects to either chemistry or geography because I looked up the prerequisites to my chosen university and showed that these would also help but neither did I take them this year or last year. Any more suggestions?


i am a student of 12th science and i am interested in marine life very much and i want to become a marine biologist. but there is a problem. i don't have maths. how can i apply for marine biology without maths? please advice some courses in marine biology without studying maths?


I'm only in 8th grade and i really, really, really want to be a marine biologist. i have for like five years! but the thing is I'm not very good at math. but i am pretty good at science. so do i still have a chance to be one since I'm not good at math?


I am 10 and I'm really really interested in becoming in a marine biologist. what qualifications do i need?


i want to be a marine biologist. do i need to know a marine biologist to become one?


Thanks for the info.


i am 15 years old and i am interested in marine biology. i needed advice on which subjects i should take or need to take. thanks, anon.


Wow, I have to do a career research paper for ninth grade english and this was so helpful. Right now I don't really know what I want to do in life but I think this actually convinced me to go for Marine Biology. Thank you. My life is now complete.

Seriously, thank you.


I would just like to thank the writer(s) of this site because it is amazing. It provides a simple, easy way of figuring out what things such as these jobs are.


I'm 14 and in year nine. i first decided that i want to be a marine biologist last year and i was wonder what would be my best option to achieve the grade's need in school to get me into a college in birmingham that i can get a qualification to become a marine biologist.

Thanks, Danny


i really want to be a marine biologist and i only recently realized that this is what i want to do. when i had a talk from a man at the oceanarium. I have always been interested in wildlife and the ocean and this is something i really, really want to do. Do you have to take geography as I have already chosen my subjects and it is not possible to change.


I am really interested in this, but do you need to study geography at school?


my name is jamie and I'm 15 years old. I'm going to grade 10 next year and i need to choose my subjects. i want to be a marine biologist and i wanted to know how long do you have to study for it and what subjects to pick?


what is the exact age that you need to start learning this stuff because i am 12 and have just decided that this is what i wanted to do.


i can't believe you need maths. i'm not very good at maths so what are my chances?


i am only 12 and in year eight. what sort of age should you actually start researching and learning about marine biology?


Wow I love this paragraph so much I think I might print it out and put it on my fridge door so that I may look at it at my leisure, rather than have to turn on and log on to my computer, type in and press the enter key. Thank you wise geek! You have saved another life today!


i think it is awesome and i'm 11!


This paragraph is pretty informative.


How old should you start kicking your grades up? And what do you mean start early?


What degree exactly do you need?


What classes do you take in college?

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