Online Marine Biology Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

While aspiring research technicians and marine biologists won't find online degree programs in marine biology, some schools offer introductory undergraduate courses through distance education. Keep reading to learn about online education in marine biology. View article »

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  • 2:39 Common Marine Biology Programs
  • 3:59 Online Marine Biology Schools

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Picking a Marine Biology School

Marine biology is a field that requires a great deal of in-person learning, but there are a number of online and hybrid programs available to interested students. When applying for marine biology schools, consider what level of study is right for you and what practical field opportunities are available in the area. Marine biology is a hands-on field, so online training is fairly uncommon. A few foundational marine biology courses may be offered online. When looking at marine biology schools, students should primarily consider program types and field experience opportunities, along with their own career goals.

Program Type

Schools' and colleges' marine biology programs are usually research intensive and require students to complete lab work and field experiences. Therefore, online marine biology programs aren't available. However, hybrid programs that allow undergraduate students to complete some introductory and general education courses online are available. Students can usually access these course materials through Blackboard or other course delivery systems. Marine biology graduate programs, on the other hand, are completely on-campus programs. Students might want to consider their time and travel constraints before enrolling in one of these programs.

Career Goals

Students who graduate with a marine biology bachelor's degree can qualify for entry-level jobs as research technicians for environmental consulting firms or nonprofit agencies. However, according to some schools, a graduate degree is often necessary to advance in this field. Students interested in acquiring additional job responsibilities or earning better pay may want to consider earning a master's degree in this field. Those who earn a doctorate in marine biology will be prepared for managerial positions in industry or direct policy for government agencies. Graduates of these programs may also teach in colleges or universities.

Field Experiences

Most marine biology schools and colleges offer students the opportunity to conduct hands-on field research through school-affiliated centers and institutes. Aspiring marine biologists might want to consider their areas of interest before choosing a program. For example, opportunities exist to learn about restoring coral reefs or protecting sea turtle and shark species. Students interested in freshwater ecology may want to look at programs that offer field experiences in estuary marshes or coastal lagoons.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Aquatic Biology
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Biology
  • Epidemiology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Marine Biology
  • Population Biology
  • Systematic Biology

Common Marine Biology Programs

Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology

Students may earn a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, or they could major in biology and pursue a marine biology concentration. Field experiences for these programs typically last over the course of 1-2 summer semesters. Undergraduate courses in this field can include:

  • Marine mammalogy
  • Phycology
  • Plant biology
  • Oceanography
  • Invertebrate zoology

Master of Science in Marine Biology

Master of Science in Marine Biology programs allow students to conduct advanced research in their areas of interest. These programs may offer thesis options to students interested in research careers and non-thesis options to students who would like to use their training in their current positions. Master's-level marine biology courses might cover topics such as:

  • Aquaculture
  • Coral reproduction
  • Genomics
  • Marine ecosystems

Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology

Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology programs offer students elective courses that are used to complete research for their dissertations. Some programs also require students to complete teaching practica. Doctoral coursework includes:

  • Environmental science
  • Physiology and biochemistry
  • Evolution and diversity
  • Ecology

Online Marine Biology Schools

Although online programs specifically in marine biology aren't typically available, related online programs in fields such as fisheries and wildlife sciences or conservation sciences can offer relevant coursework for prospective or experienced marine biologists.

The University of Florida

The University of Florida offers an online master's degree program in fisheries and aquatic sciences through its School of Forest Resources and Conservation. The curriculum focuses on the conservation of marine biological resources and sustainable development. It is designed specifically for current working professionals in the field, including marine biologists, who want to advance their careers with a graduate degree. Students will need an up-to-date computer with sufficient internet speed and antivirus protection, a webcam and microphone, and may be required to have a camera for field photography.

Oregon State University

At Oregon State University, you can study marine biology topics in an online bachelor's degree program in fisheries and wildlife sciences, which educates students about the environment and teaches them how to maintain the balance of habitats. While this program can be studied largely online, students are required to complete an internship in order to graduate.

Prescott College

Prescott College has a limited residency master's degree program in conservation science available. Students will have the opportunity to utilize field opportunities to specialize in marine conservation. The school offers experiential activities at its Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies in Sonora, Mexico. This is a hybrid program that allows you to study from home while also having direct contact with field professionals and academic experts. On-campus learning experiences lasting just a few days are required during each fall and spring semester.

In summary, opportunities for field experience can be very helpful when you are applying for jobs in marine biology, so take note of what specific schools have to offer in terms of hands-on research and resources. Marine biology degrees aren't available online, but hybrid programs in related fields are designed to give students hands-on experience.

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