Most aquaculture degree programs combine core courses in aquatic biology and the fishery industry with hands-on experiences and research projects. Students explore chemistry and microbiology and learn about fish diseases and nutrition. They often gain experience through an internship at a school or commercial hatchery or fishery.
Individuals who are interested in working as aquaculture technicians should have a high school diploma or at least a GED before enrolling in an associate's or bachelor's degree program in the field. They should also love working outdoors and feel comfortable on boats. Students should also have strong grades in the fields of biology and physical science and should be interested in working in the field of aquaculture.
Many master's programs in the field require students to complete a thesis paper or project that pushes research or explores new technologies. The universities, offering graduate degree programs in aquaculture, require incoming students to hold a bachelor's degree in aquaculture, biological science or a related field. Students are also required to submit transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation and proposed plans of study.
Associate of Applied Science in Aquaculture
Associate's aquaculture degree programs are 2-year courses of study and ideal for individuals who aspire to work as aquaculture technicians with commercial fisheries. Students gain a basic understanding of fisheries management while also learning the basics of fish nutrition, fish disease and aquatic biology. They often gain practical experience by working at a local college hatchery or even a nearby commercial hatchery.
The courses included within associate's degree programs in aquaculture provide students with the vocational skills and training they need to gain a job at a fish hatchery. Some core courses and general education courses that might be included are fisheries management, fish and diseases, and chemistry. Other courses that might be included:
- Fish and nutrition
- Principles of animal science
- Fisheries management practicum
Bachelor of Science in Aquaculture
Students enrolled in a 4-year degree program in aquaculture gain the basic knowledge and skills necessary to farm aquatic organisms like crustaceans, mollusks and certain types of fish. In the United States, many schools combine bachelor's degree programs in aquaculture with degree programs in fisheries management. Students learn how to manage and assess the population of fisheries, control fish hatcheries and aquaculture environments, and monitor and enhance aquatic environments.
Bachelor's degree programs in aquaculture start off with basic courses in biology and laboratory science before moving to more specific, vocational courses in fish hatchery management. Some examples of core courses include organic biology, fish orientation, and ecology. Additional courses could include:
- Organic chemistry
- Fish biology
- Fisheries careers
- Aquatic resources management
- Hatcheries management
Master of Science in Aquaculture
Graduate degree programs in aquaculture build upon previously gained knowledge of aquatic biology and basic management principles. Students gain the knowledge and tools necessary to oversee the production of aquatic species in controlled environments. They learn how to manipulate aquatic environments to achieve better commercial results and protect species from disease. They also study the legal, ethical, technological and environmental aspects of aquaculture.
Master's degree programs in aquaculture contain advanced courses that prepare students to handle both the technical and business aspects of aquaculture management. Specific core courses might include fish genetics, fish diseases, biostatistics, and fish nutrition. Additional courses could include:
- Aquaculture and business
- Aquaculture and marketing
- Spawning technologies
- Water quality
- Production methods
An academic degree in fishery science and aquaculture can prepare graduates for several different types of positions within the commercial aquaculture field. Some of these include:
- Fish hatchery manager
- Aquaculture technician
- Government hatchery manager
- Aquarium manager
- Aquaculture development specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Unfortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that fishing and hunting workers will have a 2% decline in employment for the years 2018 through 2028. The BLS also estimated that the broad category of farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers (which include aquaculture farmers and managers) will have an employment decline of 1% for the decade 2018-2028. In May 2017, the BLS reported that fishers and related workers earned $28,530 as a median annual salary.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in aquaculture exist primarily outside of the United States in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Some U.S. schools offer doctorate programs related to coastal management or international fisheries management. Such programs are ideal for students who are interested in pursuing new methods of research in aquaculture and fishery management.
Students interested in aquaculture can study at the associate's, bachelor's or master's degree levels to learn the management techniques, fish biology and business concepts needed to work in the field. Graduates may pursue a doctorate or find jobs as fish hatchery or aquarium managers.