What Does A Marine Biologist Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Stan T.Career, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Marine Biologists

Marine Biologists study marine life in their natural habitats. A typical day may involve diving among reefs to collect samples and analyzing the samples in a lab.

Interest Match

A career in Marine Biology is the perfect choice for those that want to help protect the oceans and the organisms that call the ocean home.

Marine Biologists help increase our understanding of marine organisms, including everything from sharks and whales to small fish and reefs. It is a diverse field with a variety of specializations, including Microbiologists and Marine Mammalogists.

Many people are surprised to learn that Marine Biology mostly revolves around research. Marine Biologists spend most of their time planning, conducting, and analyzing research projects. Here is a closer look at the main job duties involved in this career.

What they do

Marine Biologists study marine life in their natural habitats. A typical day may involve diving among reefs to collect samples and analyzing the samples in a lab.

Plan and propose research projects

Research is often the primary focus of a Marine Biologist. Before starting the research, Marine Biologists need to create detailed plans for their project. They may also need to submit a proposal to receive funding.

Common areas of research include the impact of human activities on fish populations and coral reefs. Marine Biologists may also research the migration patterns of marine life and review underwater photosynthesis.

A proposal for a research project often contains a breakdown of the proposed activities, including the budget, scope, and equipment needed for the project.

Travel on boats to obtain samples and data

Marine Biologists require data for their research, which is often obtained firsthand by traveling to remote sites in the ocean. To collect samples, Marine Biologists may need to dive into the ocean or use advanced equipment to explore life under the water.

The collection of data tends to require sophisticated technology, such as tracking devices, monitors, and sensors. Marine Biologists may work with people from other disciplines to deploy these devices. Professional divers, boating crews, and research assistants are often employed to assist with research projects.

Analyze data using specialized computer software

After obtaining data, Marine Biologists spend time in the lab analyzing it. This requires specialized computer software and laboratory equipment. For example, a Marine Biologist may need to build predictive models using the data collected to estimate the impact of various activities on the ocean.

Some research projects may require Marine Biologists to analyze data in the field. Instead of traveling back to a lab, the Marine Biologist stays on the boat or vessel and uses onboard equipment to analyze the ocean environment in real-time.

Publish the results of research for peer review

Marine Biologists compile the results of their research into detailed reports and condensed summaries. The reports are often published in peer-reviewed journals, allowing other Marine Biologists to review the findings and offer additional insight.

When working for a private company or nonprofit, Marine Biologists may present their findings directly to their employer instead of publishing it in a peer-reviewed journal.

Monitor marine life and ecosystems at a zoo or aquarium

Marine Biologists employed at zoos or aquariums may not need to travel or complete research projects. Most of their work is completed at the zoo or aquarium. They are often responsible for monitoring the health of marine life and the rest of the ecosystem.

When working at a zoo or aquarium, Marine Biologists may also develop programs to help teach visitors about marine life. This may include programs for students, the public, and potential donors.

What is the job like


Travel to interesting locations

Marine Biologists get to visit some of the most exotic locations on the planet, visiting trenches and reefs that other humans rarely get to see. Along with interesting locations, you will frequently work with interesting individuals from around the world.

Help protect the ocean environment

Working as a Marine Biologist gives you a chance to help protect the environment. Marine Biologists often complete research projects to showcase the impact of human activities. They help businesses choose alternative options for fishing, oil production, and cargo transport to limit the effects on the environment.


Long periods out at sea

Reaching destinations to conduct experiments often involves long trips on the ocean. You may spend weeks reaching the site where you plan to collect samples or analyze the environment. This requires you to spend periods away from friends and family.

Exposure to physically demanding conditions

Traveling to distant locations on a boat or research vessel includes exposure to extreme conditions. You may experience severe storms, cold weather, hot weather, and other conditions that can leave you exhausted.

Where they work

Universities and Colleges
Federal Agencies
Environmental Organizations
Zoos and Aquariums

Oil and Gas Companies
Aquaculture Companies

Marine Biology often revolves around research, which requires Marine Biologists to complete work in the field and a laboratory setting. Marine Biologists involved in research are frequently employed by Federal agencies, nonprofit conservation groups, zoos, and aquariums. They may also work for Universities, Colleges, and Research Institutions.

Marine Biologists may find employment in the private sector, working in companies involved in activities that may influence the health of the ocean and marine life, such as companies in the oil industry.

How to become one

Step 1: Take Science Classes in High School

Most High Schools require students to complete two to three years of Science, including Chemistry and Biology. Consider taking advanced Science classes after meeting the requirements. For example, you can prepare yourself for College by taking Earth Science and optional Science electives.

Step 2: Obtain a Marine Biology Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s Degree is needed for most entry-level Marine Biologist positions. Ideally, you should find a Marine Biology program. If you cannot find a suitable program, consider majoring in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics. Marine Biologists should have a background in Geology and Ecology.

Step 3: Find an Entry-Level Marine Biology Position

Entry-level Marine Biology positions often include Research Assistants, Laboratory Assistants, and other junior-level jobs that support senior Marine Biologists. You can seek employment in a variety of industries and sectors, including the Oil Industry, Federal Government Agencies, and Conservation Groups.

Step 4: Obtain a Master’s Degree in Your Specialization

After gaining work experience, you may decide to specialize in a specific area of Marine Biology, such as Oceanography or Mammalogy. Obtaining a Master’s Degree in one of these specializations can improve your career prospects.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Thinker

People with this personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

Marine Biologists should have an appreciation for all types of marine life. They also need to be observant and patient, as Marine Biologists spend long hours collecting and analyzing samples.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.


Don’t know which career to pursue?

Take the career quiz to find careers that match your personality type.

Take The Career Quiz