Marine Biologists


Employment Prospects


Approximately 19,300 wildlife biologists and zoologists are employed in the United States. Employers in this field range from pharmaceutical companies researching marine sources for medicines to federal agencies that regulate marine fisheries, such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service. Marine products companies that manufacture carrageenan and agar (extracted from algae and used as thickening agents in foods) hire marine biologists to design and carry out research. Aquariums hire marine biologists to collect and study specimens. 

After acquiring many years of experience, marine biologists with Ph.D.'s may be eligible for faculty positions at academic and research institutions such as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography or the University of Washington's School of Oceanography.

Jobs in marine biology are based mostly in coastal areas, though some biologists work inland as university professors or perhaps as paleontologists who search for and study marine fossils.

Starting Out

With a bachelor's degree only, you may be able to get a job as a laboratory technician in a state or federal agency. Some aquaria will hire you straight out of college, but generally it's easier to get a paid position if you have worked as a volunteer at an aquarium. You will need a more advanced degree to get into more technical positions such as consulting, writing for scientific journals, and conducting research.

Web sites are good resources for employment information. If you can find the careers section of an aquarium's home page, it will tell you whom to contact to find out about openings and may even provide job listings. For information on careers with the federal government, visit https://www.usajobs.gov.

Professors who know you as a student might be able to help you locate a position through their contacts in the professional world.

Another good way to make contacts is by attending conferences or seminars sponsored by aquatic science organizations such as the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography or the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association.

Advancement Prospects

Lab technicians with four-year degrees may advance to become senior lab techs after years with the same lab. Generally, though, taking on greater responsibility or getting into more technical work means having more education. Those wanting to do research (in any setting) will need a graduate degree or at least be working on one. To get an administrative position with a marine products company or a faculty position at a university, marine biologists need at least a master's degree, and those wanting to become senior scientists at a marine station or full professors must have a doctoral degree.

Tips for Entry

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:

  • https://jobs.tos.org
  • http://aslo.users.membersuite.com/community/career-center/browse-jobs
  • https://www.sciencemag.org/careers
  • https://www.aibs.org/classifieds
  • https://www.conservationjobboard.com/category/marine-biology-jobs

Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office. 

Read Oceanography (https://www.tos.org/oceanography) and Limnology and Oceanography (https://www.aslo.org/aslo-publications/limnology-and-oceanography) to learn more about the field.

See if your career services office or teacher can help you set up an informational interview with a marine biologist; this will help you learn what's involved in the job and if it's a good fit for you.