Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you want to become an aquarist, get your start in high school. Take as many science classes as you can; biology and zoology are especially important. Learn to pay attention to detail; marine science involves a good deal of careful record keeping.

Postsecondary Training

Most aquariums, along with other institutions that hire aquarists, require that an applicant have a bachelor's degree in biological sciences, preferably with course work in such areas as parasitology (the study of parasites and their hosts), ichthyology (the study of fishes), or other aquatic sciences. As the care of captive animals becomes a more complex discipline, having a four-year degree has become a requirement for becoming an aquarist.


The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) offers certification in three concentrations: behavioral husbandry, education & interpretation, and management & operations. Contact the association for more information.

Other Education or Training

The AZA offers webinars, workshops, and other continuing education opportunities on topics such as animal management, management and leadership, and personal and professional skills. PADI provides diving-related continuing education and certification courses. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Aquarists must be able to scuba dive, in both contained water, to feed fish and maintain tanks, and in open water, on trips to collect new specimens. You'll need to have scuba certification, with a rescue diver classification, for this job. Organizations like PADI provide basic certification. Potential employers will expect you to be able to pass a diving physical examination before taking you on as an aquarist. You may also need to have a special collector’s permit from the state in which you work that allows you to gather samples for your aquarium.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Part-time or volunteer positions with zoos and other related employers can provide good introductory experience to the field.

As an aquarist, you may be required to travel at different times throughout the year, to participate in research expeditions and collecting trips. On a more basic level, aquarists need to be in good physical shape, with good hearing and visual acuity. Some employers also require a certain strength level—say, the ability to regularly exert 100 pounds of force—since equipment, feed, and the animals themselves can be heavy and often unwieldy. Good communication and teamwork skills are also important.