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May 28, 2012 / NextStepU

Major Monday – Marine biology

There is more to life on this planet than what just walks on land; marine life is teeming with many creatures, both plant and animal alike. So what exactly does make up this underwater habitat? If you are curious about what goes on under the sea, you might want to consider a major in marine biology.


According to the College Board, a marine biology degree is offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Typical courses students

will take include marine policy, oceanography, marine microbiology and marine ecology. Marine ecology focuses on the relationships and habitats of different marine organisms. Typically this class involves field trips to local saltwater environments, lab work and papers. Students should also be prepared to earn their scuba certification, do research at a marine institute and complete an internship or fieldwork in this field.

What to know before you apply

Students should know what area of marine life their college focuses on, whether it be coastal or in the open ocean. Location is also an important aspect of the college and students should be aware of what kind of access they will have to the ocean in order to complete fieldwork. Students should also be open-minded about the work they will be doing, as they will often look at marine life at the micro level, rather than just working with large animals like dolphins or whales.


There are several different job opportunities for students who major in marine biology including environmental scientists, animal caretakers or aquaculturists. Environmental scientists use their ideas of science to protect natural resources including water habitats and earn an average of $67,360 per year as of 2009. Animal caretakers focus on the welfare of different animals and make an average of $27,120 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Aquaculturists raise healthy and safe seafood for commercial consumption and average $64,760 in salary as of 2009.


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