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

Students enrolled in a marine biology program will study the animal and plant life that live in oceans, coastal areas or deep-sea waters. Curriculum in these programs will involve math, biology and chemistry, as well as specialized coursework within the diverse fields of marine science.

How to Select a Marine Biology Program

Marine biology programs are typically offered at 4-year colleges and universities. Students wanting to enroll in a graduate-level marine biology program should keep in mind which area of marine biology they wish to focus on before choosing a school.

Other considerations students in this field:

  • Some potential areas of specialization include the open ocean, intertidal zones, oceanography, ichthyology, marine mammals and marine ecology.
  • Students may want to look at the research being conducted at various institutions, especially Ph.D. students who will be working directly under researchers and conducting original research.
  • 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 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 advisor 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

Top 10 Biology Schools with Marine Science programs

College/University Institution Type
Harvard University 4-year, Private
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4-year, Private
Stanford University 4-year, Private
University of California - Berkeley 4-year, Public
California Institute of Technology 4-year, Private
University of California - San Francisco 4-year, Public
Princeton University 4-year, Private
Cornell University 4-year, Private
Duke University 4-year, Private
Colombia University 4-year, Private

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