How to Become a Marine Biologist?

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Did you know that despite covering more than 70% of the earth, more than 80% of oceans still remain unmapped and unexplored? Imagine the amount of ocean life that still remains undiscovered to this date. This is where the role of a Marine Biologist comes in. A Marine Biologist is a person who studies ocean life and sometimes the oceans themselves. They investigate and research the behavior and physiological processes of marine species. Keep reading to know how to become a Marine Biologist and how they unravel the oceanic treasures!

Also Read: Explore a Career in Oceanography

What Does a Marine Biologist Do?

A Marine Biologist studies marine life in their natural habitats. They assess the living conditions of such marine species, study the physiology and behavior of such species, and also the effects of human activity on marine life and their habitat. They also conduct species inventory, check and monitor the species that have been exposed to dangerous pollutants, collect and test the sample from the ocean, mapping the distribution of the marine population, and preserving specimens and samples of unknown ocean creatures. 

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Marine Biologists also communicate their findings and convey their recommendations to the relevant authorities with the help of research journals and scientific reports. A few key research areas include migration patterns, underwater photosynthesis, and coral reefs. 

So generally the tasks and responsibilities of Marine Biologists include :

  • To study marine life in both a natural and controlled environment. 
  • To collect data and specimens of both known and unknown creatures.
  • Assessing the damage done to marine life and the environment due to pollution.
  • Study the characteristics and features of the species.
  • To keep inventory and monitor and manage the population.
  • To report the findings and suggestions to the proper authorities.
  • To follow the safety procedure while exploring and researching the marine environment. 
  • Consult and work to rebuild the damaged marine ecosystems.
  • Using computer modelling to build predictive data for the marine ecosystem.
  • Provide assistance to fisheries management and the coast guard units as and when required. 

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Eligibility Criteria 

In order to become a Marine Biologist, there are certain qualifications that are required such as :

  • Entry level positions as a Marine Biologist typically require a bachelor’s degree. Students can pursue a range of marine-related degree programs such as BSc in Marine Biology, BSc in Marine Science, BSc in Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis and related fields. These programs are usually for a period of four years and they include experiential learning through research, labs and internships. A few subjects that are covered under these programs are marine biology, ecology, organic chemistry, organism diversity and oceanography.
  • The most preferred is a masters in marine biology. Earning a master’s degree in marine biology allows you to perform more advanced scientific and investigative work. Students can also specialise in one particular field.  Few programs include MSc in Marine Biology, MSc in Marine Science, MSc in Biology and Aquatic Ecology and many more. Typically these programs last for a period of two years and include subjects such as biochemistry, pathology, ocean farming, anatomy, parasitology and conservation.
  • To apply abroad, candidates may have to submit scores of different international entrance exams like English language tests like IELTS/TOEFL/PTE, etc and documents like Statement of Purpose [SOP], Letter of Recommendation [LORs], transcripts/marksheets, updated CV/resume, etc. For master level courses, one also has to clear GRE exam 
  • For advanced research and teaching positions, a PhD in Marine Biology is required. This includes people who wish to conduct independent research or avail reputed teaching positions in renowned colleges. Usually, these programs require a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 5 years. 
  • Although formal training is not required, few Marine Biologists are required to complete training and gain experience in handling various kinds of equipment and techniques. These skills and techniques can be learned through hands-on training programs such as research projects and internships.

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How to Become a Marine Biologist: Step-Wise Guide

Develop an Interest

A career in marine biology is not a simple task. It is a very long and ardent journey to become a successful Marine Biologist. Although at first glance, it may seem like a fun career, exploring oceans and studying marine biology, the path to becoming a Marine Biologist is challenging and requires dedication and commitment.  

Start From a School Level

You can begin your pursuit of becoming a Marine Biologist right from the school level. Students, who are gearing up for a career in marine biology, should take up the science stream after their 10th and study subjects such as biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. Keep in mind, you need to earn good grades to get a graduate degree of your choice that allows you to become a Marine Biologist. You can also occasionally take up volunteer work at local aquariums and get a bit of training and exposure. 

Get a Bachelor’s Degree

It is very important to attain a bachelor’s degree in order to pursue a career in marine biology. Numerous colleges and universities offer a variety of programs such as Bsc in Marine Biology, BSc in Marine Science, Bsc(Hons) in Marine Science, and many more. Such degree programs include both mandatory and elective courses which allow you to focus on your area of choice. Mandatory coursework includes subjects such as general biology, cell biology, evolution, and ecology. While elective subjects include, mammal biology, fish ecology, aquaculture, tropical ecosystems, toxicology, and species-specific biology. 

Internships

Internships form an important part of the bachelor’s program. Through internships, you can get to work in marine laboratories, biological research stations, marine science centers or even in a marine center. This gives you the needed hands-on training and practical exposure, which will later be quite beneficial when you decide to take up a job in this field. This also gives you a chance to improve your communication and writing skills since Marine Biologists need to draft lengthy notes and reports in their specialized field and teach others about crucial and significant discoveries. 

Master’s Degree and PhD

Only obtaining a bachelor’s degree is just not enough. If you want to concentrate on a narrow field and wish to conduct extensive and independent research, then you have to also obtain a master’s degree as well as complete your PhD in marine biology which may take up to 2-6 years. Students who pursue their master’s degree get to narrow their focus to a more specific area of marine biologies such as coral reefs or marine mammals. The curriculum at the master’s level generally includes studying research and lab methods, research equipment, and professional science writing. 

Those who want to acquire teaching positions at the postsecondary level and conduct independent research must acquire a Ph.D. One of the most important aspects of the doctoral program is conducting independent research and writing a dissertation that will later be defended before a PhD advisory committee. 

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Top Universities in India for Marine Biology

In order to be a Marine Biologist, let’s take a look at the various top universities in India:

Top Universities within India

University Location
Indian Maritime University Coimbatore
Centre for Atmospheric Science Delhi
National University of Oceanography Goa
Andhra University Visakhapatnam
University of Madras Chennai
Cochin University of Science and Technology Kochi
Pondicherry University Pondicherry
Goa University Goa
Annamalai University Tamil Nadu
Berhampur University Odisha
University of Calicut Kerala
Karnatak University Karwar
Bharathidasan University Tiruchirapalli

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Top Universities in the World

University Location QS Ranking
ETH Zurich Switzerland 1
Harvard University USA 2
University of California, Los Angeles USA 12
Columbia University USA 10
University of California, San Diego USA 21
The Australian National University Australia 9
University of California, Davis USA 29
The University of Melbourne Australia 29
The University of Tokyo Japan 13
Harvard University USA 2
University of Leeds UK 14
Princeton University USA 19

Career in Marine Biology

There are numerous potential career directions because the field of marine biology includes many sub-fields. Hence after earning the relevant bachelor’s degree and master’s degree or a PhD, training, and practical experience through internships, you can consider applying for jobs such as teaching positions or to fisheries and state park programs with access to waterways, government agencies, commercial companies, and research institutes. 

Skills Required

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General skills that Marine Biologist requires in order to be good at their work are :

  • Research Skills : Marine Biologists should be able to conduct successful research. They need to properly prepare a literature review, questionnaires, design the study, collect primary and secondary data, analyze the data and publish them.
  • Teamwork Skills : Marine Biologists need to learn to work together. These professionals need to work, coordinate and communicate with each other.
  • Observation Skills : Marine Biologists must study the oceans and marine life for extended periods of time. Observation skills are very crucial to carry research and analysis. 
  • Analytical Skills : Good research involves obtaining insightful data after thoroughly analysing them. Hence, Marine Biologists should be able to obtain proper data and choose the best way to analyze the data to get the best results. 
  • Physical and Emotional Stamina : Studying marine species and environment can be a very tedious task. It requires Marine Biologists to be always observant of any changes that occur within marine life and their environment. 

Employment and Career Opportunities

Employment and career opportunities in the field of marine biology include but is not limited to:

  • Fisheries Biologists
  • Aqua Culturist
  • Natural Resource Manager
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Microbiologist
  • Biological Technician
  • Wildlife Educator
  • Field Researcher or research assistant
  • Ecotourism Guide
  • Marine Planner
  • Teaching

The places you can work in :

  • Government Agencies
  • Ecotourism Tour operations
  • Universities and colleges
  • Private Sectors
  • Self-employed
  • Aquariums
  • Wildlife Conservation Organisations

Salary

A Marine Biologist at an entry-level with experience of at least 1-3 years can earn an average salary of more than Rs. 5 Lakhs. On the other hand, a senior level Marine Biologist with more than 8 years of experience can earn an average salary of more than Rs.9 Lakhs. The maximum that a Marine Biologist can earn is 4 million, depending on job position and experience. 

Credits: Payscale

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The career of a Marine Biologist is certainly not an easy one. It requires hours of strenuous and tedious research work, laboratory work, and writing up findings for publications. If you are someone who is intrigued by oceanic life forms and want to know more, our experts at Leverage Edu can help you to select the best programs and universities that are perfect for you!

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