The vastness of our planet’s oceans is simultaneously fascinating and overwhelming. Covering two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, our oceans contain a staggering number of organisms with amazing potential to harness (from possible anti-cancer drugs to alternate energy sources). If you’ve always been seduced by the mysteries and magic of the ocean, then marine biology might be the major you seek.
As a marine biology major, you’ll learn about the biological sciences as they apply to marine environments. You will study the diversity of organisms found below the ocean’s surface and how they thrive within their habitats. More specifically, you can expect to cover topics such as the chemical make-up of water, marine mammal biology and the conservation of coral reefs (just to name a few). In addition to your biology courses, you’ll likely have to take a few physics and chemistry classes as well. Naturally, you will also have your hands full with laboratory and field work. Finally, study abroad is often a popular option for some marine biology majors. Your studies could take you anywhere from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the coastal shoreline of Costa Rica.
Students who excel at marine biology typically have keen observational and quantitative skills. They are great at analyzing large amounts of data, especially within the context of a proposed hypothesis. And, of course, they are eager to get their hands dirty conducting field work. One final note of advice: If you’re an aquaphobe we recommend that you consider an alternate major.
Nuts and Bolts
Marine biology majors can naturally expect a science-laden curriculum involving classes such as: Human Impacts on Marine Ecosystems, Tropical Field Biology, Algal Diversity and Evolution, Biochemistry, Marine Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Cell Biology, Conservation Biology, Freshwater Biology, and Vertebrate Evolution and Development.
Marine biologists are fascinated by living creatures and the way they interact with their environment. Therefore, they are also likely to take classes in biology, chemistry, zoology, wildlife management, biochemistry, oceanography, geology, environmental science, forestry, conservation biology, hydrology, microbiology and evolutionary biology.
Recent marine biology majors will find that they can pursue several avenues of employment after acquiring a bachelor’s degree. To begin with, a handful of majors might couple their science education with teaching certification and seek positions within primary or secondary schools. Of course, many grads want to stay the science course and land entry-level jobs within local, state or government agencies. Possible employers could include the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Conservation, Department of Parks and Recreation, State Water Resources Control Board, National Ocean Service, National Marine Sanctuaries or the National Park Service. The work within these organizations might entail everything from monitoring and evaluating water quality to promoting marine conservation. Of course, private sector jobs also beckon. Grads can find positions with aquariums, biotechnology or environmental consulting firms. Ultimately, those who wish to remain in the science field return to graduate school to earn a master’s degree or PhD.