How to Become a Marine Biologist

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Marine biology is a branch of science that studies the living organisms that live in saltwater environments. Marine biologists are specially trained scientists who study the habitations and adaptations of a variety of organisms from whales to microscopic phytoplankton.


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What does a marine biologist do?

Marine biologists investigate and examine saltwater life and environments and the interactions between organisms. They also study pollution effects on plants and animals in the oceans and research endangered plants and animals and their habitats. They often complete research to find new sources of food and other useful resources from saltwater environments. They take samples of marine organisms and carry out laboratory tests using sophisticated equipments such as computer-driven machines and electron microscopes. Marine biologists often monitor the pollution of the water using methods such as measuring the radioactive particles in organisms.

Marine biologists often create written reports and presentations on their research results and provide information and recommendations and present them to schools, interest groups, and environmental organizations.

What kind of training does a marine biologist need?

Marine biologists need at least a bachelor degree for entry-level positions, but many positions require master or doctorate degrees in biology, marine science, biochemistry, zoology, or other related field. Marine biologists typically take many courses in biology, chemistry, zoology, mathematics, and physics. Most aspiring marine biologists pursue internships at local aquariums or on boats to gain practical experience. New marine biologists typically complete intensive on the job training depending on their position. They learn the policies, procedures, and safety precautions of their employer. Marine biologists must stay up to date on the current advances in the field and often complete continuing education courses throughout their career.

What are the prospects for a career as a marine biologist?

Employment of all biological scientists (including marine biologists) is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Biotechnological research and development will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good with keen competition for research positions. Some job openings will arise from the need to replace marine biologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do marine biologists make?

As of October 2009, marine biologists with less than 1 year experience earn average annual salaries between $30,000 and $50,000. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $33,847 and $52,900 (2).

A career as a marine biologist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in the complex marine ecosystem. Marine biologists must be enthusiastic about their work and have a strong interest in mathematics and statistics. Patience, self-confidence, creativity, and an inquiring mind are necessary characteristics. Marine biologists must also be able to effectively work independently and as part of a team. Excellent oral and written communication is essential because marine biologists often work with a variety of other professionals.

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