What Is a Marine Biologist? (With Responsibilities and Jobs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published January 3, 2022

A marine biologist is a specialized scientist who studies animals, plants and microscopic life forms that live in saltwater-based environments. Marine biology can be an ideal career path for people who enjoy working in unconventional environments and who are interested in the ocean. If you're considering a career as a marine biologist, it can be helpful to learn about what they do and what types of jobs you can pursue in the field. In this article, we consider what a marine biologist is and explore a list of jobs that these professionals can pursue.

Related: Frequently Asked Questions About Marine Biologists

What is a marine biologist?

A marine biologist is a scientist who researches and observes marine organisms and ecosystems, such as oceans and saltwater lakes. These scientists typically study live subjects like fish, marine mammals, plants and microorganisms. Most marine biologists have advanced degrees, like master's degrees or doctoral degrees, as it can take many years to prepare for marine fieldwork.

Many marine biologists also further specialize in more focused areas of marine biology, such as microbiology or mammology, where they can learn more in-depth information about particular animal or plant species. These marine biologists often have a strong focus on environmental sustainability and can use their research to find new ways to preserve the ocean and its inhabitants.

What does a marine biologist do?

Here are some of the most common job duties for a marine biologist to have:

  • Observing animals, plants and microorganisms in the ocean

  • Performing research experiments in a laboratory using special equipment

  • Gathering samples of water, plants and microorganisms for research in a laboratory

  • Conducting research on different species of marine animals and their ecosystems

  • Specializing in a particular area of marine biology, such as ichthyology, marine biotechnology or marine ecology

  • Learning about geological oceanography to understand different marine environments

  • Finding new ways to promote marine preservation and environmental sustainability

  • Providing medical care to sick or injured marine animals

  • Studying populations of fish to track their migration and reproductive patterns

  • Writing scientific reports and papers to share their findings with the public

  • Compiling research data from other scientists in subcategories of marine biology

  • Giving talks and presentations at museums and educational institutions to educate the public about marine life

Where does a marine biologist work?

One of the most common work environments for a marine biologist is in a laboratory, as labs can provide controlled environments that can be ideal for experiments and close observation. Many marine biologists also work in the field to collect samples or observe animals in their natural habitats. This can involve wading in shallow ocean water, snorkeling over reefs and scuba diving to reach very low depths.

Some marine biologists work in medical settings as well, where they can provide medical care to injured or sick marine animals or conduct research on how to use marine plants and materials in the pharmaceutical industry.

Related: How To Become a Marine Biologist

6 marine biologist jobs

Here are six jobs that you can pursue as a marine biologist. For the most up-to-date Indeed salaries, please click on the links below:

1. Marine biologist

National average salary: $41,320 per year

Primary duties: A marine biologist is a scientist who researches live subjects that live in saltwater. Their responsibilities can include visiting the ocean to observe subjects in their natural environments, taking samples of marine plants to research in a laboratory and writing reports to share their findings with the public. Some organisms that a marine biologist might study can include fish, plankton and kelp.

2. Laboratory technician

National average salary: $51,773 per year

Primary duties: A laboratory technician conducts tests in a lab, often using specialized tools and machinery. Laboratory technicians can use data from field scientists to organize experiments in a laboratory, keep detailed records of each experiment they conduct and maintain laboratory equipment so it's clean and functional. In marine biology, laboratory technicians most often work with water and plant samples from saltwater environments and sometimes focus on finding new ways to preserve the ocean.

Related: Learn About Being a Lab Technician

3. Environmental consultant

National average salary: $61,846 per year

Primary duties: An environmental consultant determines the level of contamination that industrial or commercial activity can have on the surrounding environment and how that might affect people who live in the area. Environmental consultants can have responsibilities like performing environmental assessments of a particular area, reviewing company policies to ensure organizations comply with environmental laws and analyzing data to ensure the people and natural environments in an area remain safe. In marine biology, environmental consultants often focus on marine environments and businesses that operate close to them, such as tourism companies and offshore oil rigs.

4. Natural resource technician

National average salary: $70,357 per year

Primary duties: A natural resource technician oversees the resources in a particular area to ensure they remain safe to use and uncontaminated. Natural resource technicians can visit different locations to observe how surrounding activity affects natural resources, analyze challenges with resources that occur due to changes in the environment and recommend ways for communities to be more environmentally sustainable. Their job can also involve gathering samples and conducting surveys to learn more about an area and its population.

5. Research scientist

National average salary: $79,562 per year

Primary duties: A research scientist specializes in learning about a particular subject, often conducting extensive research projects or experiments. Their job can involve leading trials and experiments in a laboratory, gathering samples from the field and developing research papers to share with the scientific community and the public. Research scientists with a background in marine biology might focus on subjects like specific species of fish, oceanography or marine plant ecology.

6. Veterinarian

National average salary: $111,591 per year

Primary duties: A veterinarian is a health care professional who provides medical care to animals. Their responsibilities can include performing physical exams on animals to diagnose medical conditions, vaccinating animals against infectious diseases and educating animal owners about proper home care. Veterinarians with backgrounds in marine biology often treat animals at marine life rehabilitation facilities, aquariums and zoos that contain marine mammals and fish.

Related: Learn About Being a Veterinarian

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