Marine Ecology Graduate Programs

Students interested in studying marine life may pursue a graduate degree program with a specialization in marine ecology. Find out about the degree options, common courses and entrance requirements for the program.

Although graduate degree programs specifically in marine ecology are rare, there are several schools that may offer the subject as an area of specialization or as a degree in marine biology and ecology. Here we discuss some basic information about these programs, including common coursework and what admissions requirements interested students must meet.

Information on Graduate Degree Programs in Marine Ecology

Graduate degree programs in marine ecology, available at the master's and doctorate levels, are usually only offered on-campus and typically involve some lab and/or fieldwork. Below are some common courses in the program that cover topics in ecology, marine systems and conservation.

Tropical Marine Ecology

Some courses in marine ecology may specialize in examining the marine ecology in their particular location. For example, a university in Florida may focus on tropical marine ecology. These courses are typically include lectures and may have a field component to examine local marine environments. Students in these courses usually discuss marine habitats, plant and animal diversity, as well as human impact on these marine systems.


Most oceanography courses consist of a lecture and laboratory component where students study research and data analysis methods in the field. Sometimes this laboratory component may require weekend field trips to explore various marine communities and ecosystems. Common topics in these courses include marine resources, biogeochemical cycles and climate change.

Population Ecology

Courses in population ecology are primarily lectures and examine population genetics and models. Students use practice problems to learn how to develop both logistic and exponential growth models for various plants and animals and examine genetic concepts like drift, mutation and natural selection. They can also learn how to analyze age structures, predator-prey systems and competition in populations and ecosystems.

Computational Methods

Most computational methods courses have a laboratory component to allow students to apply the mathematical and analytical theories they learn in lectures to practice problems, including the chance to run analysis of their own research. In the lab, students use computational software and run various simulations based on different theoretical concepts concerning population biology and bioinformatics. Students can also learn how to develop these models with model parameterization and then discuss practical implementation of different simulations.

Fish, Bird or Marine Mammal Biology

Although they are typically offered as independent courses, graduate students in marine ecology can choose electives in the organisms of their interest, including fish, wild bird or marine mammal biology. Each of these courses explores the biology, physiology and specific environmental issues pertaining to its specific animal subject. Many of these courses involve a lab component for hands-on learning and may cover topics in the origins, distributions, reproduction and behavior of the animals.

Common Entrance Requirements

Like many graduate degree programs, students looking to earn a master's or doctorate with a specialization in marine ecology usually need to complete the appropriate applications in addition to submitting official transcripts of their undergraduate studies, GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. Students may need to identify the faculty member they intend to work with throughout their program and/or submit an essay pertaining to their particular area of specialization, in this case marine ecology. Some graduate programs may require an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 or greater, as well as prior coursework in biology, chemistry, mathematics and ecology. International students are typically required to submit the appropriate test scores to demonstrate proficiency of the English language.

Degree programs in marine ecology are rare but are available as a specialization within other master's and doctorate degree programs. These programs usually require students to work with a faculty member in their area of specialization and take coursework in marine ecology, biology and data analysis.

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