Over two thirds of the earth is covered by water, and our oceans hold almost 97% of this. The habitats in these oceans are varied, ranging from tropical to Polar Regions, from vast coral reefs to deep ocean trenches. As a result, they contain a diverse mix of wildlife, plants and organisms. And of the estimated 1 million species that exist in these, scientists claim that we’ve only discovered between one and two thirds.
What does a marine biologist do?
Marine biologists play a valuable role studying life in our oceans. They are also involved in developing our understanding of how this impacts the world and planets even farther afield.
Careers in marine biology are diverse and fascinating. And as a marine biologist, there are many options available to you.
Perhaps you’re interested in preserving rare marine plants, fish or mammals. Maybe you would like to protect natural habitats from environmental concerns. Or your passion may be in understanding how ocean-dwelling organisms have evolved over the ages. These are just a few of the research areas available to you with a relevant qualification or a degree in marine biology.
In this article, we’ll outline the subjects covered by marine biology and how you can go about pursuing a career in this exciting and important field.
What is marine biology?
Marine biology encompasses a broad range of disciplines: from microbiology to astrology. Marine biology courses often vary according to different providers. But essentially, they include a combination of the following disciplines.
- Zoology and microbiology – looking at the different life forms in our oceans and saltwater environments: from plankton to the blue whale.
- Oceanography, chemistry, geology and ecology – assessing how these vast bodies of water function as habitats for living organisms.
- Fisheries biology and food security – considering the role of oceans as a source of food for humans and other earth-dwelling species.
- Meteorology and astrology – helping us understand the interaction between our oceans, the earth and other planets in our solar system.
What do I need to become a marine biologist?
So you’re interested in becoming a marine biologist? To start off with, you’ll need a sound knowledge and interest in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. You’ll also need an analytical mind and a good understanding of scientific research techniques.
Given the breadth of disciplines covered by marine biology, it is also useful to have a rough idea of which area you are most interested in. Then you can start researching what you need for that specific area.
1. Research careers
Many professions now have their own professional associations with lots of useful information on careers. So look into careers in your preferred area – and read about what’s involved and what funding is available. For instance, if you want to study whale migratory patterns, chances are, you’ll need to relocate. So consider whether this is viable for you.
2. Speak to professionals
If you can, speak to someone who already works in your chosen area, so you can get a feel for whether it’s right for you. They can give you the uncut version of what’s involved: spending weeks at sea, dealing with seasickness, or late nights observing nocturnal sea creatures. This will help you work out whether you really have what it takes.
3. Volunteer to get experience
There may be options for you to do voluntary work, whether it’s interning in a lab, tagging specimens on a boat, or inputting data in an office. These are a great opportunity to talk to people working in your chosen area, and to find out what’s involved on a day-to-day basis. It’s also useful experience to have on your CV later on when you are applying for full-time work.
4. Find the right qualifications
There are lots of marine biology courses available online or in colleges or universities. Study these carefully to make sure that they cover the subjects you are interested in. And make sure that you find an accredited course. This means that it is recognised by the industry, so it will give you an advantage later on when you apply for a job.
Interested in becoming a marine biologist? Take a look at our Accredited Level 3 Diploma in Marine Biology.