Water Biology Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Sep 25, 2019

Water biology is the study of plants and animals that live in water, and can include several career options. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for most jobs, and graduate degrees are needed for some positions.

Essential Information

Local, state and federal government agencies, as well as private industry, provide job opportunities in water biology. A bachelor's degree may be required for entrance into this field, however, master's degree programs may be required for advanced positions. Some career titles in water biology include aquatic scientist, marine biologist and environmental consultant.

Career Aquatic Scientist Marine Biologist Environmental Consultant
Education Requirements Bachelor's Degree Bachelor's Degree Postsecondary training
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 5% (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)* 5% (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)* 8%*
Mean Annual Salary (2018) $67,760 (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)* $67,760 (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)* $77,580*

'Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Aquatic Scietist

Aquatic scientists analyze marine life and their environments. Aquatic scientists often specialize in freshwater and oceanic environments. Job duties for aquatic scientists may include conducting field studies, taking samples, researching global change, observing aquatic environments and testing aquatic organisms. Typically, aquatic scientists are required to conduct fieldwork and have diving training.

Additionally, private consulting firms may employ aquatic scientists to monitor the pollution levels in water and evaluate ways to diminish its negative effects. They might also focus on aquatic toxicology by analyzing dirty water samples in the environment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the job outlook for similar occupations in wildlife biology have a predicted increase of 5% between 2018 and 2028 and the mean annual salary for all wildlife biologists was $67,760 according to data from May 2018.

Marine Biologist

Marine biologists study the specifics of their science and they may write for scientific journals based on their findings. They attempt to get funds from agencies to continue with or further develop research projects.

Job duties for marine biologists include assessing the genetic codes in fish, uncovering social tendencies in their habitats or studying their swimming and migration habits. Marine biologists may address how different water sources affect the size and health of different species of fish. Their careers involve lab work, field assessment and office work depending on their specific research functions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that zoologists and wildlife biologists, including marine biologists, earned an average wage of $67,760 in May 2018. These scientists can expect slower-than-average job growth of 5% through the 2018-2028 decade, with the increase reflecting the need to balance human population growth with the protection of wildlife and the environment.

Environmental Consultant

As environmental issues face a number of companies and gain importance both technically and legally, expertise is often needed to help understand the process. Environmental consultants might be faced with assessing the available water resources, as well as managing those during a time of crisis or shortage. Consultants might help conduct water tests for a government office, which determines how water is to be utilized most effectively. They can test air, water and soil while providing appropriate feedback based on their findings.

The BLS predicted that environmental scientists and specialists, including consultants, could expect an 8% increase in jobs over the 2018-2028 decade due to human population growth and the stresses this places on habitats and wildlife. Environmental scientists and specialists made an average salary of $77,580 in May 2018.

Education Requirements in Water Biology

Entry-level, technical careers in water biology are available to bachelor's degree holders. Master's degrees allow water biologists to work under limited supervision; however, scientist, research or academic positions within the field require a Ph.D.

Bachelor of Science in Fisheries Biology

These 4-year degree programs are designed to give students a basis for entering careers in water, fish and wildlife biology or management. Within the program, students complete coursework on biological organisms, aquatic entomology, freshwater ecology and fisheries management. In addition to coursework, students gain hands-on experience through fieldwork, labs and research projects.

Master of Science in Natural Resources

A master's degree program capitalizes on previously learned concepts and can set up students for more advanced career options, including pursuing a Ph.D. in a related subject. Common courses include resource management, natural resource studies and graduate seminars. Typically, a research thesis is also required.

Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology

A Ph.D. degree program is designed for aquatic scientists within research or academic careers. A number of options are available for students to choose from in advanced water biology-related education. In an ecology track, students complete topics in quantitative ecology, genetic evolution and environmental ecosystems.

A water biology degree opens up a range of opportunities in the public and private sectors. Salary and job growth depends on your position, with environmental consultants projected to experience the biggest growth in their field over the next 10 years.

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