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Marine Biology Colleges, Schools and Universities in the U.S.

Marine biologists study saltwater life. A master's or doctoral degree is necessary for most positions in this field. Students preparing for graduate study in marine biology usually need firm grasp of math, biology and chemistry.

How to Select a Marine Biology Program

Marine biology programs are typically offered at the graduate level by 4-year colleges and universities.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Specialization options
  • Research areas
  • Teaching opportunities
  • Field experience opportunities

Specialization Options

Students wanting to enroll in a graduate-level marine biology program should consider which area of marine biology they wish to focus on in their career. Possible focuses include the open ocean, intertidal zones, oceanography, ichthyology, marine mammals and marine ecology. Attending a program that offers specializations in a student's specific area of interest may enable him or her to specialize in his or her future career.

Research Areas

Students may also want to look at the research being conducted at various institutions. This is especially important for Ph.D. students, who will be working directly under researchers and conducting original research. Having an interest in an institution's research topics may mean that the student participates in research in his or her specialization, which may possibly make finding employment in that area easier after graduation.

Teaching Opportunities

Students that would like to teach after graduation might consider attending a program that includes teaching experience. Having teaching experience may increase employment opportunities for students interested in a career as a professor.

Field Experience Opportunities

Observing marine life in its natural environment is important for marine biology students at any degree level. Students may consider attending a school close to the ocean where they can complete their fieldwork, or they may choose one that has an option for traveling to the coast to complete coursework or fieldwork during the summers.

Marine Biology Program Overviews

Master's Degree in Marine Biology

Students studying marine biology at the master's degree level usually develop a specialty and conduct research. In many cases, the curriculum is customizable and students work with an adviser to determine the classes that are most applicable to their interests and future career plans. The degree program takes two years to complete, and a thesis is usually required; however, some programs give students the option to complete a capstone paper instead of a thesis. Prerequisites include graduate exam scores and a bachelor's degree with some coursework in the life sciences. Master's degree students take courses such as:

  • Marine ecology
  • Tropical fish ecology
  • Fisheries assessment

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Marine Biology

A Ph.D. in Marine Biology program prepares students for a career in research or teaching. During the first two years, students complete advanced coursework. In subsequent years, students conduct original research which is applied toward completing a dissertation. Some programs also require students to complete supervised teaching experiences. The entire program takes 4-6 years to complete. Students can enter a Ph.D. program with either a bachelor's or master's degree and adjust their coursework requirements depending on their needs. For example, students might take courses such as:

  • Cell biology
  • Marine biogeochemistry
  • Conservation biology

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