Marine Biologist Advancement Opportunities

Jun 15, 2021

Career Growth Opportunities for Marine Biologists

Marine biologists study fish and other aquatic life by performing tasks such as collecting specimens, analyzing samples, and conducting experiments. In performing their duties, marine biologists become specialists in animal life, water, and the environment. After gaining experience as a marine biologist, these professionals may wish to advance their career into other scientific fields working with animals or focusing on the importance of water and the environment. They may also wish to conduct research and instruct students in the principles of marine biology. They may be able to move into some fields with a bachelor's degree, or earn a master's or doctoral degree in these areas.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)* Education
Veterinarians $90,420 19% Doctoral degree
Environmental Scientists $69,400 11% Bachelor's degree
Hydrologists $79,990 10% Bachelor's degree
Postsecondary teachers $76,000 10% Doctoral degree (sometimes master's degree)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information


Marine biologists are specialists in the study of marine animals. As such, a career as a veterinarian, using knowledge of animal biology to promote health, might be a great next step. Veterinarians manage the health of animals in their care. In general, they care for wounds, prescribe medications, and work with animal owners regarding the best possible care for their pets. Within the veterinary field, marine biologists might specialize in aquatic animal health. This is a fairly new specialty within veterinary medicine that focuses upon taking care of marine mammals, fish, and stranded animals. These animals might be in captivity or the wild. Aquatic veterinarians might also educate the public about marine animals. Veterinarians might work in veterinary offices, aquariums, or zoos. Veterinarians must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (DVM) and achieve state licensure. Specialization in aquatic animal health requires training after the completion of the DVM.

Environmental Scientists

Marine biologists, with their acute knowledge of the natural and aquatic world, will be well-suited to further their career as an environmental scientist. Environmental scientists are knowledgeable about environmental problems, and develop and propose solutions for those problems. They collect and analyze samples of water, soil, and air. Specialized environmental scientists, called aquatic ecologists, may specifically work to study the interrelationships between marine life and the marine environment. Environmental scientists may work for the government to ensure laws are being followed, or for private firms to develop ways to help companies comply with these regulations. A bachelor's degree in environmental science or a related area is required to enter the field, however a master's degree is typically required for advancement. Knowledge of Geographic Information Systems will help with finding a career as an environmental scientist.


Marine biologists have extensive experience in studying how animals respond to the conditions of water. Moving into a position as a hydrologist would be a logical step. Hydrologists look more closely at water, both above and below ground, and how it moves across the earth. Hydrologists assess and create solutions around problems of water quality, and ensure water availability. They are highly concerned with water pollution, and conduct research to ensure the cleanliness of the water. Hydrologists may work in the field taking water samples, or they might work in a lab doing computer modeling of various water-related issues. Many enter the field of hydrology with a bachelor's degree in an environmental science concentration, however some hydrologists begin their career with a master's degree.

Postsecondary teachers

Marine biologists who are highly interested in the research component of their work and in helping others to learn about marine life may consider becoming a postsecondary teacher, or professor. Professors design and teach courses in their specialized area, grade papers, and conduct research. They typically work for colleges and universities. A doctoral degree in the area of specialty is typically required., but at some schools a master's degree will suffice.

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