Marine Chemist: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a marine chemist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree and job options to find out if this is the career for you.

Marine chemists have two branches that they can choose from for their careers. They can choose to follow a career in oceanography or one in ship engineering, both of which share the same use of chemistry but differ in their environments.

Essential Information

Marine chemists work as oceanographers, who study oceans, seas, and their chemistry, or as marine safety specialists, who must ensure the safety of large seagoing vessels before workers are allowed to make repairs.

Career Oceanographer Marine Safety Specialist
Education Requirements Graduate degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% (all geoscientists) 7% (all ship engineers)
Average Salary (2015)* $105,720 (all geoscientists) $78,970 (all ship engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Two different types of careers may be found under the title of marine chemist. While both are chemists, their job training and duties are quite different. One group of marine chemists is a specific subset of a larger group: oceanographers. Oceanographers are earth scientists who study the biological and chemical properties of oceans. These marine chemists study the composition of the oceans, researching the chemical aspects of saltwater environments. Marine chemists might also be specialist chemists who are responsible for the prevention of fires during repairs on boats. These roles are legally required in order to ensure safety.

Marine Chemist Oceanographer

Marine chemists who are oceanographers take part in studying the oceans, working to understand the chemical makeup of the seas and its effects on the maritime environment. They work in a range of environments from arctic to tropical, using scientific methods to determine the chemical composition of relevant materials. Marine chemists often work with other researchers, combining their skills with teams to further our understanding of the world's oceans.

Job Duties

These marine chemists use scientific means to analyze the chemical components of marine water bodies. They might perform specific research to create organic matter distribution models, study how bubble cavitation affects marine matter or determine chemical reactions in marine systems. The position often includes both laboratory and fieldwork.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes oceanographers with other geoscientists. They predict that employment in these areas will increase by 10% from the years 2014-2024. Geoscientists as a whole earned an average annual salary of $105,720 in 2015.

Education Requirements

Although some entry-level positions may only require a bachelor's degree, many positions in this field will require completion of a master's or doctoral program. The highest level of education will be necessary for those pursuing research, including both pure researchers and professors. Marine chemistry is a cross-disciplinary field, requiring an understanding of physics, geology, and biology. Further, graduates should have a comprehensive understanding of the applications of methods for testing chemical composition, including mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance.

Marine Chemist Safety Specialist

In order to promote safety in performing repairs, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require that a marine chemist issue a certificate to a marine vessel before it undergoes any repair work that will result in heat or flame. This is deemed necessary because of the presence of fuel and other explosives, as well as the confined spaces on many vessels that may lead to increased hazard.

Job Duties

These marine chemists are experts in sampling techniques and thoroughly understand the chemical reactions that may occur in various repair operations. Their main job function is to inspect marine vessels that are up for repair work. They must record conditions as they see them, follow a survey, and ensure that a vessel follows National Fire Protection Association Standard 306 requirements.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

Marine chemists have a similar role to other ship engineers, taking part in repairing and maintaining marine vessels. Ship engineers, according to the BLS, earned an average annual wage of $78,970 in 2015. The employment of ship engineers is projected to increase by about 7% from 2014 to 2024, per the BLS.

Education and Certification Requirements

Marine chemists are required to earn certification from the Marine Chemist Qualification Board. The board is appointed by the board of directors of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Certification by the Marine Chemist Qualification Board requires a combination of education and training. The chemist must have completed a bachelor's degree and have significant coursework in chemistry. Further, training in this role must take place under the supervision of no less than three certified marine chemists and include at least 300 hours of training.

Studying to become a marine chemist involves more than just the study of chemistry. Depending on their focus, it can include biology and physics, or nautical vessels and the chemical reactions that can occur during mechanical repairs. Marine chemists in oceanography usually need at least a master's degree in order to find work, while marine chemist safety specialists need a bachelor's degree along with other certifications.


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