A Career in Marine Biology? What a Marine Biologists Does.
I recently read a blog post titled, “So you want to be a marine biologist,” and could not help but laugh when the first line of the blog said, “Ohhh you research dolphins, I always wanted to do that, that sounds sooo cool!”
Well, I have been a marine biologist for 11 years now, and I have to admit that I have experienced the aforementioned statement too many times to count. Although working with marine mammals is an important part of our field, it is not the only part of what a marine biologist does. Below I have outlined four key tips to consider if you are thinking about a career in marine biology.
Career in Marine Biology – What are your interests?
Marine biology is more than just Scuba diving or snorkeling. In fact, marine biology is an interdisciplinary science that includes chemistry, oceanography, physics, microbiology, statistics, mathematical modeling, ecology, genetics, physiology and many other disciplines that I am sure I am neglecting to mention. Yes, if you plan to be a marine biologist you will take classes in all of these subject areas during your undergraduate career…and— yes— some of these courses are challenging. However, the time I have spent preparing for challenging courses has made me appreciate my career choice even more. The interdisciplinary nature of marine biology is a perfect fit for anyone that loves the previously mentioned subjects. That is the beauty of choosing marine biology as a career…you don’t just get to work within the ocean, you have an opportunity to specialize in something that you enjoy!
Career in Marine Biology – Do you like working in the field?
One of the exciting parts of what a marine biologist does is the opportunity to work in some of the world’s most amazing habitats. However, field expeditions can often require long hours of work in sometimes difficult living conditions. Field work requires one to think on their feet, to make spur of the moment decisions and to deal with the hand that Mother Nature deals you (rain, cold, humidity, hurricanes, etc.). Since funding for research projects is very competitive and sometimes limited, we try to get the most data we can collect in the time we have in the field. If you are considering working in marine biology, remember that field work may not include pristine Scuba or snorkeling!
Career in Marine Biology – Are you inquisitive?
One misconception people have about marine biology is the notion that we work with our favorite species. In some cases this may be true; however, many marine biologists tend to focus on specific research questions that guide their work. The species we work with are usually used as “models” for what may happen under certain experimental/environmental conditions. Furthermore, it is important to consider what the broader implications (benefit to society, public interest, outreach, etc.) your research may have for society.
Career in Marine Biology – Don’t be afraid to ask.
Like any career, seek council from established professionals about potential volunteer opportunities, internships, and jobs that may strengthen your resume and prepare you for work after graduation. Take advantage of opportunities to work with ongoing research projects within your department; these are great resume building opportunities. Many times, volunteer opportunities can lead to a permanent position later in your career.