People of all ages have considered what it takes to become a marine biologist and if it's a career that would interest them. There is no simple way to know if marine biology is the right path for an individual, although a passion for science and the ability to work in various types of indoor and outdoor environments is a good start. As a relatively competitive occupation, anyone considering it as a career should take the time to research types of employment opportunities and specializations that best suit them.
Many entry level positions only require a bachelor's degree in marine biology, zoology or a related area of study. Graduates of a four-year program may find employment in a laboratory setting or in the field as part of a team. Biologists who want to offer services as a consultant or seek senior positions often advance their education by getting a master's degree. Almost all research positions require applicants to hold a doctorate, which can also contribute to professional reputation and credibility within the scientific community.
Internships and Volunteer Opportunities
There are some paid internships available, but those studying marine biology can also take advantage of opportunities to volunteer or seek a position as an unpaid intern. This can be a great way to gain practical experience and build a strong resume when applying for jobs. These experiences also provide direction, allowing students to explore various specializations and job responsibilities. Working with experienced marine biologists also helps new members of the profession develop contacts and find advisors who can guide them as they move forward.
Preparing as a Youth
An interest in marine biology doesn't require a high school diploma, and there are a few ways young people can start preparing to become a marine biologist. Some organizations and government programs provide educational programs focusing on ocean or fresh water wildlife. High school students should also emphasize their studies to achieve a solid GPA and test scores, as some university programs are highly competitive and require strong academic skills. Students who want to do field work should also set aside time to hike and safely explore the outdoors to build their endurance and familiarity with wildlife.
Careers in Marine Biology
Marine biology is a relatively niche occupation, so individuals who are serious about making it a career should build their experience and qualifications as much as possible. Despite the competition for some positions, wildlife biologists and zoologists reportedly earned a median salary of $62,000 a year in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also face an average growth outlook of around 1,500 jobs over the next 10 years.
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Some people who enter the marine biology field end up finding employment working with dolphins or spotting whales, but many more of them spend their time in the lab studying samples and running tests. Anyone who wants to become a marine biologist should carefully consider the realities of available jobs before they fully commit to the field.