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What does a Marine Scientist do?

Are you obsessed with all things under the sea? Is a visit to the local aquarium your favorite rainy (or sunny!) day activity? Consider a career as a marine scientist. You could spend your workday interacting with plant and marine life, making vital observations about the environment, and helping to preserve endangered wildlife, all while strengthening your sea legs.

School of thought

The term "marine scientist" can encompass several different careers:
  • Marine biology
  • Oceanography
  • Ocean engineering
  • Aquatic biology
  • Science education
A degree is a must-have for any of these jobs. There are two and four-year programs that can prepare you for an entry level job in these fields. An advanced degree, such a master's or doctorate, can prepare you for a more specialized role in a specific field. As a student of marine science, you may complete coursework in classes including biology, geology, chemistry, physics, and aquatic sciences.

A watery workplace

Marine science involves the study of saltwater life. As a marine scientist, you might research a particular animal's behavior or its relationship to its environment or other animals, help develop new medicines that are derived from marine resources, or help design technology that will aid oceanographers in gathering data from the ocean.

You may also be responsible for gathering data about the chemical composition of the ocean, pollution, or fluctuations in the ocean's temperature or wave patterns. Some marine scientists are employed by museums or aquariums, some by state or federal agencies. You may also be employed by independent labs or organizations.

Treading water

Employment opportunities in the marine sciences can be competitive, but, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment (in the general biological sciences) is expected to grow 21 percent.

Marine biotechnology, in particular, is an emerging field with a growing demand for specialists. However, the popularity of these types of jobs is also growing, so competition can be as fierce as a great white shark. As the world evolves and the preservation of the environment becomes increasingly important, so does the role of the marine scientist. This is a forward-thinking field that gives dedicated professionals the opportunity to make a real impact.

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