Marine biologists study marine plants, animals and other organisms, both vertebrate and invertebrate, in deep oceans and shallow seas and in the laboratory. They are also called marine scientists.
You could be:
studying the ecology and behaviour of marine organisms
studying genetics, toxicology, cell structures or other physiological aspects of marine organisms
observing environmental damage, effects of climate change and helping conserve and protect marine life
helping manage and develop marine resources, for example fish stocks, to use them appropriately
studying the effects of marine pollution and water quality on sea life
observing and gathering samples of marine life at sea, by diving or using special submersible equipment
identifying and studying samples, and analysing data, in a laboratory
writing reports and making recommendations based on your research
carrying out educational work and raising awareness of issues with the public, governments and commercial organisations.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Entry level salaries for marine biologists are usually in the range of £18,500 to £24,000. Typical salaries for those with a PhD is between £26,000 and £34,000. Some marine laboratories and research organisations pay marine biologists on university lecturer scales (£28,000 to £45,000 a year).
Very senior staff can earn more than £50,000. Other employers pay different rates and salaries may vary.
You would probably work both in a laboratory and at sea.
In the laboratory:
you may work long hours depending on the type of laboratory experiments you are working on
you may have to wear a lab coat or other protective clothing.
you could be away from home, possibly for long periods, while doing field work
you would wear protective clothing and use suitable equipment for your work
you may have to dive – how deep would depend on the environment you are working in
you would live in confined spaces with colleagues and crew members
There are not many jobs in marine biology so entry is very competitive.
You usually need a degree in marine biology, or a degree in biology or an environmental subject including specialisms in marine biology. For entry you need 4-5 Highers normally including at least 2 from Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, plus Maths and sometimes English or a science subject at National 5.
It is helpful if you can get a placement with a marine laboratory, perhaps during the summer, while you are a student.
Many entrants, particularly to research jobs, have a specialist postgraduate qualification in marine biology. For lecturing posts you need a PhD.
You may need to learn to dive.
You would have to be willing to move around, even abroad, for job opportunities.
You could work in research, resource management, conservation and education, with a marine research laboratory run by a government department or by a private company. You could also work in a university, with an environmental or conservation body, in fisheries or in fish farming. Some posts may be short term contracts.