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Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study marine biology?

A popular STEM subject, a degree in marine biology can open the door into a world of specialisations and careers. We take you through what it’s all about.

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Did you know that we know more about our solar system than we do about the ocean? 12 people have travelled to the surface of the moon. Only three have descended to the deepest parts of the ocean. 95 per cent remains uncharted. What this means is that there is so much more to explore, study and discover. A degree in marine biology offers an opportunity to do so. Here, we introduce you to the field, how to get into marine biology, what the subject covers and where marine biology can take you job-wise. 


What is marine biology?


When you think of marine biology what do you imagine? Perhaps it’s crystal clear water with dolphins zipping past, or maybe snorkelling on a coral reef. While there can be some of this involved there is much more to the subject. 


Marine biology covers the study and research of all life in the ocean. This is from the smallest organisms, such as algae, all the way to the biggest animal ever to have existed, the blue whale. You’ll study ocean ecosystems, including how marine plants and animals interact, ocean ecology, microbiology and even how marine resources can be used for medicine. Marine biology is in a sense an umbrella term that covers many specialist areas.


Discover some of the universities in the UK where you could study marine biology:



Is marine biology a STEM subject?


Yes. Marine biology is classified as a STEM subject. It is usually offered a BSc degree. As a biological science, the discipline requires an understanding of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and science. Marine biology may also open the door to other related STEM fields such as oceanography or marine engineering. 


If you’re a little unsure of all that STEM degrees entail you can consult our guide on the topic. 


How do you get into a marine biology degree?


As we’ve just touched upon, applying to study a degree in marine biology will require good mathematics, biology, and science results. You’ll need to have a minimum of an ABB A-level result in chemistry, mathematics and science. This is equivalent to an SAT score of 1,290 in SAT Reasoning and 650 in three subject areas. If you have an associate degree it will need to have achieved with a minimum mark of 3.2. 


As an international student, you must provide evidence of your English language proficiency will be important. You can do so by demonstrating a qualification from a university in which the language of instruction was English or by providing a certified English language test score. This would be a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 with no section score lower than 5.5 for admission onto a programme. There is also the option of a pre-sessional English course to get up to speed. 


Explore universities in Canada where your ambition to study marine biology could happen:



What do you study in a marine biology degree?


When studying a BSc in marine biology you’ll cover quite a bit of ground. As it is a vast field, many universities design their curriculum to cover the core fundamentals in your first year, before moving on to more specialised topics. A degree in marine biology will cover but is not limited to, areas including:


  • Cell biology
  • Biodiversity
  • Chemistry
  • Marine ecology
  • Vertebrate biology
  • Invertebrate biology
  • Oceanography
  • Molecular biology
  • Marine organisms 
  • Marine ecosystems
  • Genetics 
  • Botany 
  • Scientific diving 
  • Aquaculture
  • Marine conservation 


While you are here you may also be interested in taking a look at the related field of zoology


Are there marine biology specialisations?


Yes, indeed there are. In some cases, you will need to continue your studies at a postgraduate level via an MSc degree to explore further areas of interest. However, you can also gain experience in an area of interest through working in the field. Some of the specialisations in marine biology include:


  • Marine biotechnology
  • Marine ecology
  • Marine policy
  • Environmental engineering 
  • Marine mammologist 
  • Ichthyology
  • Marine audiologist
  • Marine data science
  • Marine exploration
  • Species specialist
  • Invertebrate biologist
  • Marine animal neuroscience and psychology


As you can see you won’t be at a loss of choice for special areas of interest in marine biology. Don’t forget to have a look at some of the universities in Australia where you can study a programme in marine biology:



What to do after a marine biology degree?


We know this is always the big question. The good news is that you will have some good career prospects with a degree in marine biology when graduating. But first, let’s look at a few of the skills employers will be looking for in the field:


  • Scientific knowledge of the field 
  • Ability to negotiate travel and different environments
  • Flexibility 
  • Great collaboration skills 
  • Practical skills such as diving and boat driving
  • Analytical skills 
  • Physical fitness
  • Laboratory skills
  • Communication skills 


As a qualified marine biologist what you do day to day may vary quite a bit, depending on where and for whom you work. Some tasks can include research; analysing samples; preserving specimens; creating experiments; analysing data; interviewing; developing policy, and even project management.  


Some of the industries where you may end up working include:


  • Academia 
  • Fisheries 
  • Engineering 
  • Environmental conservation
  • Energy sector
  • Public service 
  • Charity sector 
  • Research organisations
  • Regulatory bodies


As a marine biology graduate, you’ll need to build up your experience and be willing to relocate frequently. However, the work can be interesting and rewarding with salaries for graduates starting from GBP 20,000 and rising to GBP 40,000 with more experience. 


Perhaps this article has inspired you to take to the ocean blue. However, maybe you’re looking for a little more inspiration which our guide to studying abroad may do. You can also consult our take on how to future-proof your career. Don’t forget that we’ve also got the perfect way for you to find your degree, with our course matcher tool


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