Marine Biology PhD Programs

Oct 29, 2018

PhD programs in marine biology can get you ready for a variety of careers, including work as a scientist or as a professor. To learn more about these programs, read on.

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Marine biology PhD programs prepare you for work in academia and research. You'll study the animals and plants that survive in the water ecosystems on Earth. Below, we'll look at some common courses found in these programs.

Common PhD in Marine Biology Courses

If you want to study the marine life, mammals, and plants that live in the fresh and seawater bodies on Earth, the PhD in marine biology will give you those skills. On top of biology information, you'll learn all about scientific gathering underwater and animal classification.


The study of oceanography is often broken down into several courses, since it is a such a large topic. You may study chemical oceanography, which looks at the systematic cycling of sediment, water, and other elements in the oceans. Satellite oceanography looks at satellite images to measure the changes in marine bodies. You should learn more about the basics of what oceanographers do in this course. Finally, a physical oceanography course will look at the ocean physically and the dynamics of waves and the way the water cycles.

Marine Biogeochemistry

This course looks at the nutrients and other elements found in sediment and water. You will likely look at the way environment and global warming affects the water systems and the nutrients it supports. Along with studying sediments and nutrients, you'll take a look at glacial impacts and changes to the biogeochemistry of water and terrestrial areas.

Study of Fishes

When studying fish, you'll look at the ecology and systems of fish. You'll study the physiology and makeup, reproduction, and mechanics of how fish move and live. You'll likely spend some time studying the difference between salt and freshwater fish, as well as observe their behaviors. You may also look at different climate types and the effect they have on fish.

Coral Reefs

Corals are not just rocks, they are living organisms beneath the water. In this course, you'll study the anatomy and physiology of corals and coral reefs. You'll look at their reproductive cycle as well as reef-building techniques. Attention will be paid to the biological and environmental factors that make coral reefs possible and so diverse. You'll also look at the symbiotic relationships with predators, prey, and corals.

Scientific Diving

As a marine biologist, you may perform some of your research underwater. In a scientific diving course, you'll learn OSHA standards of safety and how to collect samples underwater. You'll learn how to use SCUBA diving equipment safely to observe underwater ecosystems. This course may be broken down into learning how to dive and then learning how to use it in the sciences. You'll likely spend time underwater practicing how to handle equipment, issues, and scientific instruments, as well as set up practice dives for team and independent dives.

Typical Admission Requirements

Most colleges have their own requirements for admission. However, you'll find that there are are almost always several of the same necessary requirements across the colleges. While some marine biology PhD programs may ask that you have a master's degree already, there are some colleges that may offer the degree for those coming out of a bachelor's degree program. Here is a list of some common requirements.

  • Application fee
  • 3.0 GPA or higher
  • Approved dissertation proposal
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay
  • GRE exam scores

Science labs and research course will prepare you for a career protecting, conserving, and improving the water ecosystems. If you would like to become a professor or work in the field, a PhD will get you ready for gathering samples and performing tests.

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