Job Description of a Marine Researcher

Sep 24, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a marine researcher. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and necessary skills to find out if this is the career for you.

A marine researcher studies Earth's aquatic bodies, performing fieldwork and laboratory research. These oceanographers may be employed as marine ecologists or biologists, through which they study organisms that live in water or the waterbodies themselves. They can work in numerous industries.

Essential Information

According to the United States Geological Survey, water makes up 70% of the planet's surface, and 96.5% of that water is found in oceans, seas, and other brackish bodies of water. Marine researchers study these extensive bodies and the creatures found there. College students who study zoology, wildlife biology or a similar field such as ecology may wish pursue a career as a marine ecologist or marine biologist, both of which fall under the category of oceanography.

Required Education Bachelor's degree minimum requirement; Ph.D. required to carry out independent research and work in most academic or government settings
Other Requirements Strong background in biology
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% for all zoologists and wildlife biologists
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $63,420 for all zoologists and wildlife biologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Marine researchers are oceanographers: scientists who study oceanic, sea, or other brackish aquatic environments, ecosystems, and organisms, both animal and plant. Since these bodies of water are home to a wide array of features and creatures, marine researchers can be found in a number of workplaces and holding a variety of jobs. Most oceanographers fall into one of two categories: marine ecologists and marine biologists.

Marine Ecologists

Marine ecologists study the components of the ocean environment itself, including the seawater, the ocean floor, and the influence of both on atmosphere. By incorporating aquatic chemistry, aquatic physics, geology, and meteorology, these oceanographers may analyze the nature of chemical changes in seawater and the results of these changes throughout the environment. They may research the role of geologic processes in shaping the environment. Along with meteorologists, marine ecologists can also study the role of the oceans and seas in shaping the planet's weather.

Due to the variety of work such scientists can perform, marine ecologists are able to pursue employment in a number of different industries and environments. With an increased level of specialization and education beyond the bachelor's degree, marine ecologists can be found not just in academia as educators and researchers, but in national and state government agencies and parks and private institutions and societies. From museums to non-profit agencies, oil and hydro-power companies to the armed forces, the Earth's seas and oceans offer employment on- or offshore.

Marine Biologists

Marine biologists study animal and plant life and microorganisms within the oceans, seas and other brackish bodies of water. Like their counterparts in marine ecology, marine biologists need a background in a study of the environments in which their subjects live. Marine biologists analyze the lifespan and interactions of marine life, often specializing in the study of a specific creature or plant or a specific type of oceanic environment. With a background in biology, genetics, chemistry, and even biotechnology, marine biologists can also pursue employment in a wide variety of environments.

Marine biologists can work in laboratories or in natural waters, where their work may include scuba diving or fishing. Like other oceanographers, marine biologists can be found in federal and state agencies and parks, non-profit and conservation societies, museums, aquariums, or academia. Though a few marine biologists work as animal trainers, most seek employment in research rather than entertainment.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, the employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists, including marine biologists, is expected to grow by 5% between 2018 and 2028. The BLS also reported the median annual salary earned by such biologists as $63,420 in May 2018. reports that marine biologists typically earn a total pay between $30,064 and $99,136 a year, as of September 2019.

To be eligible for a job as a marine researcher, an applicable bachelor's degree must be achieved, and doctoral degrees are required for research and teaching positions. Marine researchers can become marine ecologists or marine biologists, each with a different area of focus.

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