Marine biology

What to Expect in a Marine Biologist Interview

Some students are particularly interested in becoming marine biologists. However, you need to gauge your personal strengths, skills, knowledge and capabilities to fully determine if it is the right career for you. There are different branches of science, but only a handful of individuals can truly have the patience and interest in knowing more about the vast mysteries that fill the ocean depths. Here are some things you can expect in an interview.

Initial Questions

First of all, you have to know what marine biology means. How is it different from other branches of science? Indicate the advantages and disadvantages of studying marine biology. Although there are no real disadvantages when it comes to comparing marine biology from other branches of science, remember that ocean life is more vast than anything you have ever known on land. Most of the ocean is still unexplored and unknown, even though technology has improved significantly in the past few decades.

Also indicate your reasons for wanting to pursue the course. Some marine biologists want to practice to hopefully solve mysteries and find treasures in the waters. Others are activists who want to protect aquatic life. Others are simply interested and have the right tools and mindset to patiently study the changes and adjustments with regards to time and the world in general.

Relations and Branches

You have to know a number of things about marine biology, such as the different habitats, the various organisms, the most popular animals and plants, microscopic organisms, ecosystems and other effects that inland activities and technology have on the ocean. Take note that oceanography, molecular biology and environmental management are related occupations to the field. You can also study these and determine which field you want to invest in.

Personal Interest and Numbers

You can have other advantages and benefits as a marine biologist. You will most likely be asked which experiences triggered you to pursue such course. You can gain the advantage later on of taking rare photos, experiencing rare events that affect the ocean significantly such as typhoons and natural calamities as well earning a big salary, depending on your job and company. The average salary of marine biologists could be anywhere between $45,000 and $60,000. You can also get summer salary from grants. If you plan to teach, you can expect lower salary. A full professor can earn higher at about $65,000 to $100,000 each year.


Since the profession of marine biology is very wide, you can expect to have specific responsibilities, depending on your assignment and the area that your group intends to study. Some of the jobs that you may have include feeding and observing activities of different organisms like worms, clams and other sediment-eating animals. You may also do more interesting activities such as following whales, sharks or manatees. You can also be assigned to determine the different phases of reproduction and the triggers that cause animals to migrate to different oceanic locations.

Your responsibility may take a few weeks or several years, depending on the project. You should expect to develop solutions for different challenges and predicaments underwater. Marine labs contain different equipments that you have to use and master over time.

What is Marine Biology?

Several individuals have always dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, but not many is actually informed about the real extent and coverage of the practice. Marine biology is a branch of science that particularly deals with aquatic life. You have to understand the different features to determine if it is the right profession for your capabilities and interests.

Definition of the Term

Marine biology is described as the study of life forms that live in saltwater or usually ocean environment. Several life forms may be included in the studies such as the analysis of fish, plants, marine mammals and other microscopic organisms. Marine biology may also cover the entire ocean ecosystem, or a particular kind of life form, including its interactions with other living beings and the habitat.

Marine biology may also be described as studies in the field or the analysis of information collected from different ocean sites. It can be very comparative in nature, such as analyzing the same bacteria that live in different oceans. It can also be specific on the particular species.

As a Science

Marine biology is highly related to other kinds of science, like climatology since it has effects on life forms in the ocean, animal behavior and oceanography. Some marine biologists may focus on the biological nature of a given animal, while others focus more on the behavior of the animal. Several times, individuals refer to marine biology only as the study of marine mammals, such as dolphins, seals and whales.

In reality, it represents a minor part of marine biology study. There are only limited marine mammals compared to large numbers of fish, plant and single-celled species in the ocean. Some less interesting species may have limited studies compared to the more glamorous marine mammals.

Grants and Activism

Marine biology sometimes can involve activism, since some scientists achieve high levels of education. Marine biology should be understood together with other existing sciences. Many individuals now aim to protect the ecosystems of the ocean, thus improving in their speaking and writing skills.

Several marine biologists can apply for grants. There are usually marine biology sites located in landlocked countries and states. Oceans and its many life forms have various effects on different areas. Prehistoric marine biology may also assess the tissues of extinct ocean life forms that still exist in areas where saltwater bodies are no longer found.

Knowing the Benefits

Marine biologists also continue to study to understand the nature and determine the many benefits of organisms in the ocean that can be highly helpful and supportive to human life. The different life forms in the ocean can have potential health advantages as well as provide the means to developing new medicines.

Some are even very helpful in preserving and protecting earthbound life forms. Marine biology has always fascinated people since several of the species in the ocean are still unknown. Some parts of the ocean remain inaccessible because of depth or temperature. Marine biologists are always open to the opportunity of becoming a part of new discoveries.

Various Life Forms in the Ocean

Marine biology involves the study of different life forms in the ocean, both plant and animal. Scientists and individuals continue to show interest in the ocean since there are still so many things left undiscovered. Some parts of the saltwater environment remain unknown simply because human beings cannot access these readily. You have to know more about the hierarchy of the life forms and how each interact with each other and the environment.

Microscopic Beings

Microscopic life in the ocean is very diverse and is understood in the least sense by individuals. Viruses, for example, is rarely explored and considered. Phytoplankton’s function and role is understood better because of its vital position as the most numerous primary producers in the planet. Phytoplankton is grouped into cyanobacteria or blue or green algae or bacteria, diatoms, different kinds of algae like brown algae, red algae and green algae, euglenoids, cryptomonads, chlorophytes, dinoflagellates, prasinophytes and silicoflagellates.

Zooplankton is usually larger and may not be microscopic. Several protozoa are zooplankton, including radiolarians, dinoflagellates, foraminiferans and zooflagellates. Some of the beings are also phytoplankton, with the plant and animal type usually breaking down into very tiny organisms. Other zooplanktons can include arthropods, polychaetes, cnidarians, urochordates and annelids.

The Plants

There ocean has very diverse plant life. Microscopic photosynthetic algae provide a big portion of the photosynthetic output of the world compared to all the terrestrial forests. Majority of the niche occupied by sub plants on terrain are usually known as seaweeds that build kelp forests. The intertidal zone is an ideal place to find plant life in the ocean, where beach grass and mangroves may proliferate. These can function as habitat for other animals.

The Fishes

Fish has transformed several biological functions from other big organisms. Fish breathe by getting oxygen from the water through the gills. The fins function by stabilizing and propelling fish in the water. Some of the most popular fishes include clownfish, sardines, bottom fish, sharks, barracuda and ling cod. Fishes will thrive in different depths and parts of the ocean, depending on their need. Some will migrate to other regions depending on the current temperature, habitat and availability of food.

Reptiles, Birds and Mammals

There are many reptiles that live in the sea like sea snakes, saltwater crocodiles, sea turtles and marine iguanas. Majority of these reptiles have to come back to land to lay their eggs. Some of the extinct species like the ichthyosaurs transformed and no longer needs to return to land. Several seabirds are also present such as penguins, albatrosses and gulls. These spend most of their time in the ocean, while others prefer to stay inland.

There are mainly 5 kinds of marine mammals. The polar bear is considered a marine mammal since it greatly depends on the ocean. Cetaceans include toothed whales like porpoises and the sperm whale. The sea otter is part of the Family Mustelidae. Sirenians include the sea cow, manatee and dugong. Seals, walruses and sea lions are grouped as pinnipeds.

The Various Tasks of Marine Biology

There are so many professions that you can get by taking marine biology as a major. The important thing is that you complete all your basic subjects then find the right course and work that you are truly interested in. You can better boost your chances of finding the perfect job that offers substantial salary, together with the right people, equipment and facilities that make your research worthwhile. Here is a guideline of what to expect.

The Assistant Professor

As an assistant professor, you may be tasked to go to very remote locations such as Antarctica to do fieldwork for geology or oceanography. You will most likely go to the destination via a research ship. A program will lend out ships to researchers so that they do not have to purchase cold-weather gear that ranges up to several thousands of dollars. The parka or ship will have to be returned at the end of the research. Some of your objectives can include studying rock formations, trying out new deep submersible technologies and comparing animal behavior in various locations.

The Associate Professor

The associate professor receives around $65,000 to $100,000 each year. You will need to be a professor in geophysics and marine geology to be a professor. The typical work averages around 70 hours every week. Some of the things that the professor does include studying the role of volcanoes to support life without sunlight, learning how the lost city hydrothermal system was created, creating new sensors that pass through the vents, discovering new vent systems and working on a seafloor observatory.

Deep Sea Work

There can be many liens of research as a deep sea biologist. One line may involve studying the communities of various animals that thrive on the skeletons of dead whales found int he deep sea. The other area may involve studying seamount communities and deep-sea corals. You may study the distribution of corals, invertebrates and the dispersion of invertebrates between seamounts.

The submersible pilot works about 40 hours each week. The hours will highly depend on the sea conditions and weather. Your job will most likely involve supporting scientist research. You will pilot and act as a technician for the sub. The submersible has to be ready every time there is a dive. Scientists have to go underwater and back to the surface in the safest manner possible. You will also be managing the science collection equipment like cameras and life support systems.

Administrative Work

If you want to be an NOAA physical scientist or administrator, you need to have excellent credentials. Your work can include developing geography information systems and data linked to marine and coastal environments. You have to create management plans for marine protected areas. You may also be tasked to be project manager for huge undersea expeditions, using both unmanned and manned submersible devices.

You have to be committed to studying and learning about the natural systems of both coastal and marine locations. As a result, you can give information needed to effectively manage the ecosystem.

The Marine Mammals

Studying marine mammals may be one of the most interesting parts in a marine biologist’s profession. There are 3 main orders that you need to know about. Each category has its own unique mechanism, feeding pattern and characteristics. These animals tend to live in different places as well, others in groups and the rest in families or alone. Once you become familiar with their lifestyle and features, you get to appreciate the species more.

Cetacea Order

The whole lifecycle of the order Cetacea is aquatic. There are a couple of sub-orders founded ont he feeding mechanism – Odonticeti and Mysticeti. The sub-order Mysticeti includes baleen whales, blue whales, minke whales, grey whales and right whales. The whales feature mechanisms to boost the success feeding.

The sub-order Odonticeti includes animals like killer whales, dolphins, toothed whales and porpoises. River and coastal species reside in small home ranges if they are offshore. Others prefer warm equatorial waters, while the rest are located in every ocean like the bottle-nosed dolphins and killer whales. Some animals like big baleen whales move from the tropics for winter breeding to high latitudes for summer feeding. Animals propel themselves using the broad and boneless tail flukes. They also shed skin and exude oil as much as 12 times per day to reduce friction.

Pinnipedia Order

These animals adapt to the environment through a variety of processes. Heat conservation is done and get a low SA/V ratio and develop insulation through their hair and blubber. All the animals moult, after breeding in the summer while the others should stay out of water until everything is done.

The respiration is done by exhaling before the deep dives. They have relatively high concentrations of haemoglobin and myoglobin. The heart of the animals drop during deep dives and the blood is limited to the heart and brain. Dives can be as deep as 1700m, lasting anywhere between 80 to 160 hours.

Sirenia Order

Sirenians are sought mainly for their hide, oil and meat. They spend their entire lives in the water and are the only aquatic animals labeled as herbivores. The flat tail propels itself via paddles. These can walk at the benthic or move backwards. Locomotion is usually slow but they can also burst at around 13 knots. Sirenians inhale before they dive, just like whales.
When they breathe, they can swap about 90% of lung volume.

Manatees can see very clearly underwater, while taste and smell are retained. These touch when they greet each other and lead to chirps, between calf and mother. Dugongs can live for as long as 70 years but fecundity is rather low. The animals reach puberty at 10 years old and produce only 1 calf every 5 years. Their population has to be protected to maintain the ability to recover from environmental stress and hunting.

Interacting with Man

All animals have interactions with man, although sirenians are the most widely known to be friendly towards humans. Fishing nets and fishing lines tend to be a problem for most of these animals.

The Marine Biology Course

Marine biology is a branch of science which can also break down into several other specializations. Before you pick the course, make sure that you have the right mindset and skills to go through everything. You may be surprised to know that some aspects of the course can actually be boring and time-consuming. Here are some more guidelines on what you can expect from the course and how well you can cope with the requirements.

The Courses

Universities usually offer anywhere from 1 to 5 marine biology courses. All courses usually have the same requirements for students to enter and are very closely integrated. All courses share several basic modules. However, there are also important differences, so it is an excellent idea to view the course descriptions and modules first before finalizing your choice. The Marine biology course will delve on the biology of the organisms residing in the sea, taking into consideration the chemical and physical processes in the oceans and habitats. Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology involves a cross-system approach, wherein interactions and marine ecosystems take center stage.

Other Focuses

The Marine Biology & Oceanography course focuses more on integrating biological knowledge, with some inclusions on ocean processes. You will most likely cover topics like ocean biogeochemistry and physical processes together with the ecology and biology of marine life. One of the basic ways wherein the various ethos of the courses is developed is during the second year field course and methods modules. Join a number of course preview sessions to grab the chance to talk to students and staff regarding the various courses.

On Certain Changes

Once you find out more about the Marine Biology course, you may want to change your application. It is usually not a problem to transfer between 3 marine courses at Plymouth. In most cases, applicants will change their mind after joining the course preview day. Just inform the school during preview day or by writing a letter or email then amend the UCAS entry. Schools usually have a set number of places on each course to help plan for field courses and practical work. Even though the first year of every course is the same and theoretically possible to change, there might only be a very limited number of places.

The Fieldwork

The fieldwork can vary between courses. Marine Biology, Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology and Marine Biology & Oceanography typically have the same field course during the first year. The second year field course has a new emphasis. One course is located in a different place, focusing more on the experimental approach to study habitats in shallow water.

Another is found in a different location and focuses on the different kinds of flora and fauna in the region. The Marine Biology & Oceanography is done in a new location, involving boat work on a research vessel. Follow up analysis in the lab may be done. You may be provided with some pamphlets and manuals to exactly determine what you should expect during fieldwork.

The Marine Biologist

There are several features and roles that marine biologists have to assume, depending on their level of experience and expertise. You may be assigned to research different species depending on your location and assignment. You should also know the basic qualifications to make it as a marine biologist. You can be given tasks, based on your current degree.

On Research

If you intend to do research as a marine biologist, you need to finish college with a Bachelor of Science degree (4 years) at the very least, preferably from a known university offering specialization in marine sciences. Having this degree will allow you to work as a lab technician or on a ship running samples. You may also be assigned as a scientist. It is recommended that you have good grades in high school too.

A bachelor’s degree is not actually enough qualification to permit you to work as a scientist wherein you do your own research. You will need to get a master’s degree at the very least, but given the current employment conditions, you will also need a PhD in Marine Biology, lasting 4 to 5 years. As soon as you finish the PhD, you will be required to spend 3 to 4 years more in positions referred to as post-doctoral fellow. You can be hired as a temporary contract position by a scientist to run a part of the research semi-independently. As soon as you complete the stage, you will be considered qualified enough to be hired by a government agency, university or private research group.

Things to Do

As a marine biologist, you need to perform an active research program which includes publishing the results in peer-reviewed journals. You are also expected to review documents from other existing researchers in your field. If you are currently employed in a university, you will be tasked to teach, as well as supervise the training of research students at the PhD and Master’s level. You will need to be an active member of the community, such as joining committees in the academic department. You may also be tasked to apply for research grants. Funds are highly needed to do research.

About the Course and Other Requirements

Marine Biology is usually a major course in many universities. You can also choose to specialize further by going for areas like benthic biology or living on the ocean bottom, ichthyology or fish studies, etc. It is important to have a very keen mind, as well as the ability to be meticulous and careful. A lot of research will need you to repeat the same work again and again. Majority of scientific research does not lead to awards. You have to be patient with the developments. You will need to have a lot of positive reinforcement to stick to the course for the long term.

Tips to Get In

Always aim for good grades to stay competitive and possibly get scholarships. Focus on your writing skills and train more in your maths and computer programs. You should always volunteer as an assistant if the opportunity comes up, since what you learned in university may not entirely be the same as the actual job you will be performing once you get out of school. You will adjust to the situation more as you get more experience.

The Job Outlook of a Marine Biologist

Even though many people today are already familiar with the term marine biologist, several still do not realize the job title. The term can be used in different jobs and disciplines in marine science that deal with studying aquatic life. Even sociologists and economists dealing with marine resource conditions are included in the field of marine biology. You have to properly identify the job outlook to know which part you want to be included in.

Schools Offering Programs in Marine Biology

Several universities and colleges offer different degrees in marine biology, as well as other related fields. You can find more information about the various academic programs online. If you want to study along the Pacific Coast, there are a number of schools that you might want to look at such as the School of Fisheries at the University of Washington in Seattle, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State, Humboldt University in California, University in Corvallis and University of California Programs at San Diego.

If you want to study in the Midwest, you can enrol at the University of Wisconsin. If you intend to study on the East Coast, you can choose University of Rhode Island, University of Miami, University of Maryland and University of Georgia. Gulf Coast schools include Auburn University, Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University.

The Courses

If you want to pursue a marine biology career, you have to take preparatory courses in physics, zoology, biology, chemistry, mathematics, biometrics and statistics. English is also vital since you will be writing and publishing scientific papers. Other courses in the aquatic sciences are also vital, such as oceanography, fishery biology and ichthyology. Courses in the social sciences are needed which generally deal with management and public policies.


You undergraduate course does not have to be marine biology. You can graduate and have a degree in zoology, biology, fisheries or one of the animal sciences. Physical oceanographers may aim for an oceanography degree, having a lot of course work in computer modeling, math and physics. Biological oceanographers focus on both the physical and biological features of the sea and the interactions. You will need a bachelor’s or master’s degree to start any kind of marine biological research job.

Getting the Degree

An ideal sample degree will breakdown into the following: biology (45%) and zoology (28%). Undergraduate work may also be done in the following: fisheries (12%), conservation (3%), oceanography (5%), marine biology (2%), chemistry (2%), animal science (2%), biological oceanography (2%) and math (1%).

Among the individuals who acquired their master’s degree, majority chose either zoology or fisheries. Other popular picks include biology, marine biology, oceanography and biological oceanography. Other categories included are animal sciences, physical oceanography and ecology. Most Ph.D. degrees also chose either zoology or fisheries. Other doctorate degrees focused on marine biology, oceanography, biology, ecology and statistics.

Accreditation will depend largely on the school and governing bodies. You may also independently get accreditation by applying to the regional Higher Commission on Learning or regional association of colleges.

The Advantages of Being a Marine Biologist

Being a marine biologist can be a dream come true for some individuals. Once you finish university and start working for different institutions, you will find that a lot of privileges and opportunities start to unravel. You get to boost your knowledge and travel all over the world without having to worry about fees and unnecessary expenses. Marine biology is for the adventurous, bold and ambitious who want something more out of their lives.

Financial Privileges

In the beginning, one may only receive a meagre salary of $20,000 to $30,000. However, if you finish your doctorate degree and gain some experience, you will find that your monthly pay can increase significantly. There is little raise to be expected during the first 2 to 3 years, except if you get involved in major discoveries, studies or expeditions. Advanced professionals can start receiving $50,000 to $75,000 per year. If you have been working as a marine biologist for 10 years or more, you will notice that salary also increases significantly. Professors, managers and administrators can receive salary as big as $150,000 to $180,000 each year.


As a marine biologist, you will be given the opportunity to travel to different parts of the world. You will spend a lot of time both offshore and inland to gather data and observe for changes in the ocean and all organisms living in it. Although your manager will choose the destination most of the time, you get the privilege of not having to spend any cash on tickets and accommodations. You will most likely spend time in ships, vessels and submersibles. Inland, you will report to a lab and stay in special dormitories or a nice hotel.

Marine biologists can go on expeditions lasting several months. If you get assigned to a distant location for a major study, you may have the rest of the year off after you have completed all tasks. Marine biologists study all the oceans of the world from the Pacific to the Atlantic. You get to visit countries like India, the Philippines, Aruba and Cuba.

Access to Equipment

You get to use equipment and marine tools that cost several thousands or even millions of dollars. Marine biologists also have access to laboratories and other state-of-the art programs and technologies to further enhance their findings and come up with accurate and reliable results. As a professional, you will be provided with everything you need like uniforms, underwater gear, cameras, etc.

Boosting Knowledge

Depending on the institution you belong to, you also have the privilege of joining exclusive seminars, meetings and summits where you can witness the latest trends and developments in the marine world. You get to see the rarest species on earth and learn more about the history of the world. You get to meet important people in the industry and listen to some of the brightest minds in marine biology. You can also get special education and grants to further your studies and earn your master’s or doctorate degree.

Risks and Pitfalls of Marine Biology

Similar to other professions, there are a number of pitfalls that you have to watch out for as a marine biologist. You have to fully understand the nature and description of the job, as well as practice all the applications to get ahead. You will find that experience helps a lot in reducing the common risks and disadvantages. Find a mentor and excel in your endeavors. Here are some more details on how you can possibly avoid the risks.

Lack of Data

The ocean is a very vast area, majority of which still remains unexplored. It is important that you collect sufficient data to come up with the most adequate and convincing results. Some types of data have to be collected from different parts of the world. Others require years to fully unravel. As a marine biologist, you have to be very meticulous and patient with all the details. Data needs to be specific, since you will be dealing with organisms that are both visible to the naked eye and microscopic.

In many occasions, you have to collect data and test for results again and again to confirm. Some specimens tend to be limited, so you have to be very careful when conducting studies or risk spending several more weeks and months searching for more samples. Your observations should be put into writing, so that you can accurately compare and view the results.

Personality Pitfalls

Some individuals’ personalities simply do not match the job description, so they end up getting bored or worse, incompetent in assignments. There are several fields in marine biology that you can apply for. You have to understand which areas you are really interested in. Spend some time working on each field then decide which area matches your skills well. Marine biology requires patient, hardworking, adventurous and intelligent people.

To become a marine biologist, you need to finish a bachelor’s or master’s degree at least. Your grades have to be good or excellent if you want to be part of prestigious institutions. You also boost your chances of getting a grant or extra funding if you make sensible and significant research. If you want to become professor or a managerial position, you have to finish a doctorate degree.

Ocean Dangers

Being a marine biologist means that you need to spend a lot of time in the sea or in expeditions. Certain times, you are required to spend several weeks or months in ships or vessels. You will also spend many hours inside submersibles. It is already understood that weather conditions, the unknown depths of the ocean and other existing dangers lurk in many corners. You have to be aware of the dangers and make the necessary precautions by planning and preparing beforehand.

Reducing the Risks

Study the course carefully first before applying. Check for other types of profession as well, since you may realize that your skills and knowledge match a less adventurous job. Planning and working together as a team also greatly reduces the common dangers that one can expect from being a marine professional.