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How to become a marine biologist

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: May 15, 2023

Marine biology is an exciting and challenging field that encompasses the study of marine organisms and their ecosystems. The oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, and marine biology is critical in understanding the complex interactions between different marine organisms and their environments. If you are interested in pursuing a career in marine biology, there are several essential steps that you need to take to achieve your goals.

Education and Qualifications

A degree in marine biology or a related field is typically required for entry-level positions in marine biology. Most marine biology programs include coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics, as well as specific marine biology courses such as oceanography, marine ecology, and marine conservation. Additionally, hands-on experience through internships or volunteer opportunities can be invaluable in gaining experience and building your resume.

GVI offers a range of marine conservation volunteer programs that provide opportunities for people to gain practical experience in marine biology. For example, in Seychelles you can have the chance to conduct surveys of coral reefs, monitor sea turtles, and participate in beach cleanups. By participating in such programs, individuals can gain valuable experience and skills that are highly sought after in the marine biology field.

Specialisations in Marine Biology

Marine biology is a broad field that offers several areas of specialisation. Some of the most common specialisations include marine ecology, marine conservation, marine genetics, marine microbiology, and marine biotechnology. Each specialisation offers unique opportunities to work with different marine organisms and ecosystems. For example, a marine ecologist might study the interactions between different species in a coral reef ecosystem, while a marine geneticist might study the genetic makeup of marine organisms.

Choosing a specialisation is a crucial decision for anyone interested in pursuing a career in marine biology. It’s important to choose a specialisation that aligns with your interests and career goals. For example, if you are interested in conservation, you might choose to specialise in marine conservation, while if you are interested in technology, you might choose to specialise in marine biotechnology.

Skills and Attributes for Success

Marine biology requires a range of skills and personal attributes for success. Strong communication skills are essential for effectively communicating scientific findings to colleagues and the public. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are crucial for developing hypotheses, designing experiments, and analysing data. Additionally, physical fitness and the ability to work in extreme environments are important, as many marine biologists work in the field, often in remote locations.

GVI’s marine conservation volunteer programs provide opportunities for individuals to develop these essential skills and attributes. For example, the programs often involve strenuous activities such as diving or hiking to remote locations, which can help individuals build physical fitness and resilience. Additionally, volunteers often work in teams, which helps develop communication and collaboration skills.

Career Opportunities

Marine biology offers several career paths, including academia, government, industry, and non-profit organisations. Academic positions typically require a Ph.D. and involve teaching and conducting research. Government positions may involve working for agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Industry positions may involve working for companies that develop marine-related products or services, such as aquaculture or marine biotechnology. Non-profit organisations may involve working for organisations that focus on marine conservation or education.

Salaries and job growth projections vary depending on the type of position and level of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for zoologists and wildlife biologists, which includes marine biologists, was $67,760 in May 2020. The job outlook for zoologists and wildlife biologists is projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Networking and Professional Development

Networking and building professional relationships is crucial for anyone interested in pursuing a career in marine biology. Professional development opportunities such as attending conferences, joining professional organisations, and finding mentors can provide valuable connections and insights into the field. GVI’s marine conservation volunteer programs offer opportunities to meet and work with marine biologists and other professionals in the field, providing valuable networking opportunities.

Attending conferences and joining professional organisations such as the Society for Marine Mammalogy or the American Fisheries Society can also provide opportunities for networking and professional development. Additionally, finding mentors can provide guidance and support in navigating the challenges of the field.

Becoming a marine biologist requires a combination of education, practical experience, and personal attributes. GVI’s marine conservation volunteer programs offer valuable opportunities for individuals interested in gaining experience in the field. By developing essential skills, choosing a specialisation, and networking with professionals in the field, individuals can build successful careers in marine biology. With increasing demand for marine biologists, the field offers exciting opportunities to make a difference in understanding and protecting the world’s oceans.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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