Marine Biologist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Marine Biologist, or Marine Life Biologist, studies and researches the ocean and aquatic life. Their main duties include conducting experiments, caring for sick and injured sea creatures and monitoring the everyday functions of marine life.

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Marine Biologist Duties and Responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities of a Marine Biologist are developed through university years, internships and volunteer opportunities, as well as entry-level jobs with a similar work environment. Marine Biologists have a specific set of duties and responsibilities that are unique to their job.

  • Develop and conduct research on the relationships of organisms in the marine environment.
  • Study characteristics of animals in the ocean like their species interaction, diseases, movement patterns, etc.
  • Analyze the effect of human activity on marine ecosystems.
  • Collect biological data and specimens to analyze.
  • Monitor and manage wildlife populations and invasive plants and animals.
  • Write research papers and articles explaining their findings.
  • Develop conservation plans and recommendations to policymakers and the public.

What Does a Marine Biologist Do?

Marine Biologists are scientists who work for laboratories and marine life centers to examine marine life and find ways to improve their ecosystem and environments. They’ll regularly take samples of sea creatures to see how well they adapt to different pollutants and others harmful exposures to their environments. Marine Biologists will analyze these samples to develop new theories and ways to help aquatic life have a safer and longlasting life in the ocean. 

They’ll also discover new specimen by reviewing their samples. Many of them will also conduct experiments to track the ranges, movements and distributions of various marine populations. After conducting these experiments, Marine Biologists will create reports that detail potential harm that oil companies or other organizations could cause for the sea life.

Marine Biologist Skills and Qualifications

In order to undertake the requirements of Marine Biologist, there have to be specific skills and qualifications that need to be done over the years of experience as an intern, volunteer and at the university level, for instance.

The following are important skills and qualifications for Marine Biologists:

  • Marine Biologists may have to endure long periods of being with little human contact and in remote areas so they should have emotional stability and physical stamina to endure these days working with wildlife.
  • Marine Biologists should have keen observation skills to notice a change in behavior or the ecosystem he/she is studying.
  • Biologists should have good communication skills if they have to speak about their research in front of an audience.
  • Reasoning and judgment are important to draw conclusions from observations and research.
  • Biologists may also work with others on the same or related projects so they should have good interpersonal skills in order to get along with others.
  • Biologists come up with possible solutions to the problems that are encountered through research such as habitat loss or disease, so it is important to have problem solving skills.
  • Outdoor skills are very important as biologists will spend long amount of time outside, so creativity in navigating terrain or carrying heavy equipment is important.

Marine Biologist Salary Expectations

The average salary for a Marine Biologist is $47,443 per year based on past and present job advertisements through our website in the last 36 months.

Marine Biologist Education and Training Requirements

Marine Biologists typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in a closely related field like Biology, Ecology or Zoology. To specialize in Marine Biology, you need to obtain a higher level degree like a master’s to conduct scientific work. A Ph.D. is necessary to do the majority of independent research positions. 

At this point, Marine Biologists become familiar with statistical software and research methods. Scientists with a higher degree should have a general, well-rounded scientific background where various classes like statistics, mathematics, chemistry, physics were taken.

Marine Biologist Experience Requirements

Many marine biology students gain experience through internships or volunteer work during their college years or soon after graduating. As they gain experience, their responsibilities will increase as Ph.D. graduates usually lead independent research of projects. They may also be responsible for finding funding for this research.

Job Description Samples for Similar Positions

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Frequently asked questions about Marine Biologists


What settings do Marine Biologists typically work in?

There are many different places a Marine Biologist may work in. Many of them will spend a majority of their time in the sea, collecting samples of different organisms to later study in a laboratory. Marine Biologists are usually expected to know how to scuba dive. This allows them to dive deep into the ocean to find new sea creatures. They may even catch and rescue aquatic life to conduct studies on them or to apply rehabilitation measures to those that are harmed. 

They’ll spend another significant portion of their time in the laboratory closely examining the specimen they collected from their time out at sea. 


What are the different types of Marine Biologists?

There are some Marine Biologists who study a large variety of different aquatic life during their job each day. Others may specialize in a specific field of marine biology. This can include invertebrate zoology, fishery biology, phycology, marine microbiology or marine biotechnology. The specialties they work in can cause them to work in certain locations. Some of them may work in zoological parks, finding and identifying new species. 

Others may work in aquariums, caring for the sea life on display and teaching others about them. There are also Marine Biologists who work in educational institutions and universities, regularly conducting studies on species, discovering new ocean life and finding new ways to care for these creatures. They may teach students about ocean life as well. 


What's the difference between a Marine Biologist and an Oceanographer?

While both of these roles involve studying the ocean, they have some key differences when it comes to their job responsibilities. Oceanographers study the entire ocean, including how certain organisms shape various systems of it, the geology of the ocean and the chemistry that creates the ocean. 

Marine Biologists’ studies focus more on the creatures inside of the ocean. They’ll typically research sea life and ways to keep them safe. Oceanographers study the water and other parts of the ocean more closely to determine any toxic substances that could potentially harm the creatures living in it. 


What makes a good Marine Biologist?

A great Marine Biologist has great research and analytical skills to help them effectively experiment and determine ways to improve the lives of certain aquatic life. They should also have strong critical thinking and problem solving abilities to quickly determine ways to help any sea creatures that are injured or need further assistance. A strong Marine Biologist candidate must also have impressive teamwork skills, since they regularly brainstorm and collaborate with a team of scientists.

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