Aquaculturists can find work with commercial and private fish farms owned by corporations, states, or individuals. They may work with a small family-run operation or with a large operation employing hundreds of people. Large or small, aquaculture facilities can be found throughout the United States. The Office of Aquaculture at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the largest production states for marine aquaculture are Maine, Washington, Virginia, Louisiana, and Hawaii, and the largest states for freshwater aquaculture are Mississippi (catfish) and Idaho (trout). Some universities also hire aquaculturists, as do the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other national organizations.
Aquaculture work usually is easier to find than fishery or wildlife agency work, but it can't hurt to follow some of the same strategies used to land those jobs: namely, get experience. Become a student member of the American Fisheries Society and explore this group's national job listings. Work with your university's career services office. Job hunters in this field need to be flexible. Since U.S. aquaculture is more developed in some areas, such as the South and West, your first job may take you to a new region.
International opportunities are possible, too. Those who have considered the Peace Corps should know that some volunteers work in aquaculture. (Peace Corps volunteers are U.S. citizens, over 18 years old, and who meet educational or experience requirements.) Groups like the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Africa also use fish and wildlife specialists.
Beyond these types of organizations, other international job opportunities may be possible wherever aquaculture is practiced. Scandinavians raise a lot of coldwater fish; the Japanese raise shellfish, algae, and kelp. Of course, pollution has made some fresh waters in Europe, like the Thames in England, unsuitable for fish farming activities.
In fish farming, the professional typically enters as a fish biologist or other fish scientist and advances to some kind of manager or supervisor position. As noted earlier, state certification may help speed this process in some areas. Fish farming is a business; each operation is different, but further raises or promotions are likely to hinge on profits, customer satisfaction, development and sustaining of new markets, and similar business successes. On the research side, advancement will depend on the individual employer. With a young U.S. aquaculture industry clamoring for information, new research and development, and improved aquaculture technologies, it's possible for fish scientists in research to have a big impact with their studies and reap the financial benefits of doing so.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as Aquaculture North America and the North American Journal of Aquaculture to learn more about the field.
Visit https://www.was.org/wases and https://fisheries.org/employment/jobs/ for job listings.
Join the World Aquaculture Society and American Fisheries Society to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.