What Can a Marine Biology Major Do?

What Can a Marine Biology Major Do?

Wherever there is water on earth there is life, and so the field of marine biology is impressively broad and wide-ranging. Depending on his or her and training, one marine biologist may be studying waterfowl in the marshes of the American Midwest, another may be tracking blue whales as they migrate across the Indian Ocean, and yet another may be in Antarctica identifying single-celled organisms that live in lakes hidden for millennia beneath thousands of feet of ice.

The job titles of people working in marine biology are also varied. A marine biologist may work as an aquatic biologist, or a conservation resource manager, an environmental consultant, a field naturalist, a fish and wildlife biologist, a fisheries manager, a hydrographer (mapping the underwater environment with sonar), an oceanographer, a limnologist (someone who studies lakes), a wildlife manager — and many other job titles, each with job duties as varied as the titles that go with them.

Because the field of marine biology is so diverse, the skills that a person working in the field will use will depend on the specific job, and may be very different from that used by someone in a different job, although both are considered to be marine biologists. For instance, a hydrographer whose job is to make hydroacoustic surveys of an area of the ocean floor may need to have an in-depth and hands-on knowledge of several types of sonar equipment he helps deploy while he works at sea aboard a research vessel, as well as a working understanding of the software he uses to acquire and later process the sensor data back at the lab. Another marine biologist, working as a director of a government wildlife management department, may work more in the context of agency meetings and keeping up-to-date on the issues and findings involving fish and game, commercial fishing, and management projects in her area of jurisdiction.

Though various skill sets are required depending on the particular position, a basic underlying knowledge can be achieved by going through a marine biology degree program. Colleges and universities throughout the U.S. offer degrees in Marine Biology, though the exact name of the degree is sometimes different, depending on the school and the emphasis of the curricula: Aquatic Biology, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Marine Science, Marine Vertebrate Biology, and other variations. The schools offering degrees are geographically diverse. Not surprisingly, a couple coastal states–California and Florida–have the greatest number of institutions offering degrees in the field, at seventeen each, but some states in the interior of the country also have schools offering the degree, including such landlocked states as Missouri and Kansas.

Some colleges now offer Bachelor’s degrees in Marine Biology, but people working in the field of marine biology usually obtain a Master’s or a doctorate in Marine Biology after first obtaining a Bachelor’s in a life science such Biology or Zoology. Degrees in Marine Biology colleges that are accredited are generally considered more valuable.

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