Marine Biologist

Job Description:

Marine biologists study ocean life and ecosystems.

Job Category:
Environmental Industry

What you will do:

Your role will likely include a mixture of laboratory work and field work (i.e. out in the natural environment).

Regular duties could include the following:

  • Conducting surveys of marine species in a particular area to monitor and map populations and their movements
  • Collecting samples (of seawater, animal or plant tissue, sand, etc.) to take back to the lab for analysis, e.g. testing the pH level of the water or checking for pollutants
  • Interviewing local fishers and other stakeholders (e.g. factories, power stations, sailors, etc.) about local marine practices
  • Assessing the environmental impact of proposed new construction projects or developments
  • Writing and publishing reports of your findings
  • Presenting your findings to governments or public agencies or at conferences


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of biology
  • maths knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • Research skills for collecting and analysing data
  • Attention to detail, organisational and observation skills, particularly when doing field work
  • Communication skills – both speaking and writing – for presenting findings verbally and in reports
  • Problem-solving skills- analytical thinking skills
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • the ability to use your initiative (drive)

Depending on the focus of your fieldwork, swimming ability and scuba diving skills might be useful. To get to the site of your fieldwork, it would be useful to be able to drive a car (and potentially even a boat).

Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Marine Biologist, it’s important to have a strong educational background in science, particularly in biology and related fields. While there are no specific subjects required for this career, certain subjects can provide a solid foundation for pursuing marine biology as a future field of study. Here’s a list of relevant subjects and skills to consider:

  1. Biology: Biology is essential for understanding fundamental biological concepts and principles. This subject provides a strong foundation for more advanced studies in marine biology.
  2. Chemistry: Knowledge of chemistry is important for understanding chemical processes in marine environments, such as water quality and nutrient cycles.
  3. Physics: Physics can be useful, especially for understanding physical aspects of marine ecosystems, like the behavior of waves, tides, and underwater currents.
  4. Mathematics: Strong mathematical skills are crucial for data analysis, statistical research, and modeling, which are integral to marine biology research.
  5. Environmental Science: Courses related to environmental science can provide insights into ecosystem dynamics and conservation principles, which are relevant to marine biology.
  6. Geography: Studying geography can help you understand the geographical distribution of marine species and ecosystems.
  7. ICT (Information and Communication Technology): Proficiency in using technology for data analysis and presentation is important in marine biology research.

Post School

You will need a degree in a relevant subject, like the following:

  • Marine biology
  • Marine science
  • Oceanography
  • Environmental science
  • Ecology

Many marine biologists have postgraduate qualifications or doctorates in these subjects too.

Working Hours and Environment:

Your hours would likely vary depending on what you’re working on. Lab or office work is usually relatively predictable, but field work might mean very early starts and/or very late finishes, sometimes depending on the tide.

Career Path & Progression:

There is no straightforward path into marine biology, so it is important to make contacts in the field (your tutors at university would be a good place to start). You may be able to find opportunities for volunteering with local coastal conservation groups and make contacts through that.

You will probably need to be willing to relocate to begin with, as job opportunities are unpredictable and may crop up anywhere with a coastline.

With experience, you could focus on research and potentially academia, obtaining a doctorate and teaching at universities.