Becoming a marine biologist...

Discussion in 'Education and Employment' started by Brock Fluharty, Nov 26, 2007.

  1. Brock Fluharty

    Brock Fluharty Haliphron Atlanticus Registered

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2005
    Messages:
    511
    Likes Received:
    0
    When I graduate from high school, I would very much like to go to college to become a marine biologist. I've done a little bit of research, but I keep finding very conflicting information...

    One site will say that to be a marine biologist, I would need to get a bachelor's degree, then others will say that I need a masters, or even a doctorate.

    I'm not a senior yet, but I want to be prepared, and know what i'm getting into.

    I'm still kinda confused about the whole "degree" business, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Basically what I want to know is what degree I need to be a marine biologist, and do research on certain animals (cephalopods, seahorses, corals, etc.).

    Also, what are some careers that a marine biologist can look for?

    Thanks!
    Brock
     
  2. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    Messages:
    19,078
    Likes Received:
    1,123
    Location:
    Gainesville, GA USA
    Brock,
    You might try letting your fingers do a little typing and seeing what coastal schools have on-line catalogs (I know there is a college just north of Key West but have no idea of its reputation, Greg has mentioned that the NRCC has a few internships so there must be a university near by with a marine program and then there is California, with Berkeley and a host of others). Also, Steve O'Shea's bio is still here (you just have to look for it) http://www.tonmo.com/oshea.php as well as info that Roy has allowed to escape, http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/aquarius/roy.html Of the younger set, perhaps Mucktopus, Jean and/or Tintenfisch will offer some ideas or look for some of their published work or check to see if they have a home page listed on TONMO.

    The field is growing and there are many more businesses that employ (and will increase with the global warming issue I dare say) full time consultants. For dedicated animal research, however, I suspect the universities may have the largest staff.
     
  3. chrono_war01

    chrono_war01 Colossal Squid Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2004
    Messages:
    2,580
    Likes Received:
    4
    This thread certainly caught me eye, I'm in Grade/Year 12 right now and in the middle of choosing a good uni..which I have settled on AUT. However, it has never occured to me what sort of degree I need.

    I hope you get your answer Brock, as I'm actually waiting for an answer or this too.
     
  4. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2007
    Messages:
    867
    Likes Received:
    152
    Location:
    Des Moines, Iowa
    From everyone that I have spoken to, you really must consider pursuing a doctoral degree if you would like to do any in depth research. There are not many chances for research opportunities with only a B.S., although there are some. If you are at the right location, and at the right time, things can work out great. I have also been told that Master's degree may actually eliminate you from many jobs by being too qualified, or not qualified enough. Perhaps someone may comment on that as I do not have first hand experience.

    I have several publications so far with only a B.S. but I will be entering grad school soon as certain research endeavors are not feasible at my present employment.

    Hope that helps.

    Greg
     
  5. cuttlegirl

    cuttlegirl Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    Messages:
    4,891
    Likes Received:
    236
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    It really depends on what you want to do as a marine biologist. If you want to do research as a career, then you need a doctorate. If you just want to do a little bit of research, then there are opportunities to do research as an undergraduate. If you pursue a master's degree, you can concentrate on cephalopods as your thesis topic.

    If you are interested in working at an aquarium with marine life, then you can get by with a bachelor's degree. Usually, you can get some work experience as an undergraduate in the summers with internships (I worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a summer internship). The more work experience you have, either as a volunteer or intern, the more attractive you are to employers.

    I have found that having a master's degree has prevented me from getting some entry-level positions...

    My advice, be flexible, willing to work for little money but a lot of satisfaction and have a back-up plan. My undergraduate degree is in biology, not marine biology, so that if I couldn't get a job as a marine biologist, I could still work in science.
     
  6. simple

    simple Vampyroteuthis Registered

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2007
    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    3
    I would also like to work as a marine biologist, though at the moment i am only a sophomore in high school. I know there are several good schools in California, including Santa Cruz which often works with Monterrey Bay. I also read somewhere on here that Texas A&M students occasionally work with the NRCC as interns. I might be interested in studying out of the country near marine environments that have been less studied such as those surrounding the southern tip of Argentina, but i still have a couple of years to think about it. I am currently taking a Marine Science class, and honors biology, i also took honors chemistry last year, and i plan on taking AP biology next year. Are there any other classes that you would recommend i take to better my chances of getting into a school with a good marine science/biology program? Thanks.
     
  7. Melissa

    Melissa Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2003
    Messages:
    1,137
    Likes Received:
    0
    One my roommates at university did a semester at sea, it was a collaboration between Cornell University and Woods Hole. Most of the people I knew who did this studied biology or natural resources. I'll ask a colleague about the uni in Fiji, where her son is pursuing a doctorate, probably on freshwater fishes of Papua New Guinea. He'll at least know something about studying salt water creatures.
     
  8. Brock Fluharty

    Brock Fluharty Haliphron Atlanticus Registered

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2005
    Messages:
    511
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks everyone!

    The thought of college is still a bit daunting...I don't really understand stuff about degrees, and majors, etc. I hope this is normal for a sophomore...
     
  9. DHyslop

    DHyslop Architeuthis Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2004
    Messages:
    1,713
    Likes Received:
    3
    Don't worry about it. When most people talk about "going to college," they mean getting a four-year degree, called a Bachelor's degree. After commencement (the fancy college word for graduation), some people decide they really liked school and want more of it. These people can spend two more years in school and get a Master's degree; or even longer and get a PhD (which means Doctor of Philosophy--don't ask!). This is collectively known as graduate school (because you're still in school, but you've already graduated!).

    Graduate school differs from regular college. As an undergraduate (someone who's in college, but hasn't yet graduated) your life will be similar to how it is in high school, except you'll be much more independent. You'll still go to classes, you'll still do homework; but things have been stepped up a notch--you can't get away with missing assignments, and you'll write a lot of papers at the end of each semester and they're expected to be of pretty good quality. When you go to grad school, things are stepped up a bit further: you're usually expected to teach some classes or labs, take a few advanced classes and work on a project of your own. When I say project, I mean doing real honest-to-goodness science to be published--something that other professional scientists will look critically at.

    Graduate school is a lot of hard work and it isn't for everyone. Some graduate schools will be able to waive your tuition and give you a small stipend, but it often isn't enough to live on. I think it's safe to say that most graduate students take on considerable debt to pursue their goals; tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also, there are a lot more students who want to be marine biologists than there are jobs, which is why you'd probably want a PhD to have a good chance at getting a position. In fields like this where there aren't a lot of jobs you also can't be too choosy on where you'll be. If there's a good graduate school that will take you in a different part of the country you have to be willing to move. If you picture yourself living in a particular place, this might not be your thing. This isn't endemic to marine biology, I suspect if you go to your local research university and ask professors of all fields where they grew up and went to school I doubt many will be local. This can be difficult on relationships--if you meet someone special in college will they be willing to move with you, multiple times?

    Some of these things may sound discouraging. I don't necessarily mean for it to be although I think it's important to know what it might be like. Most people who become professional scientists thrive on the challenge and adversity. People who do well under pressure. If you're a sophomore in high school you've got plenty of time to think about what you see yourself doing. Take as many advanced math and science classes as you can and see if you have an affinity for it--and more importantly, if you find yourself looking forward to staying up all night with the textbooks!

    Good luck!

    Dan
     
  10. gmcbride

    gmcbride Cuttlefish Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2007
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    1
    A fish biologist at UCSB has a web site with two fantastic articles about becoming a marine biologist. His name is Dr. Love. So if you search UCSB and "Love lab" you should be able to find it. It is well worth the time to read it and think about it. On a personal note. I have a BS in Biology and have been a high school teacher for quite a while. I created a Marine Biology class, built aquaria, took students on field trips, worked hard to make the class accessible and fun. Now I spend three fifths of every day teaching Marine Biology. It is not research or working in the field or working at an aquarium. But it is a great way to spend a lot of quality marine time.
     
  11. Steve O'Shea

    Steve O'Shea Colossal Squid Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2002
    Messages:
    4,668
    Likes Received:
    17
    You've got some pretty sound advice here. I'll chime in and say a doctorate is pretty much a prerequisite in order to be taken seriously in the scientific community when you are relatively young, but as you get on a bit (middle aged) and become established it becomes less important. I haven't reached that point where I've got on 'a lot', but it could again become more important later in life - I don't know.

    The happiest and brightest chap I ever knew made Milo for a living!
     
  12. Brock Fluharty

    Brock Fluharty Haliphron Atlanticus Registered

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2005
    Messages:
    511
    Likes Received:
    0
    I hope to get a scholarship for a science fair project i'm working on regarding ceph color changes to certain stimuli. If I win that is...=)
     
  13. simple

    simple Vampyroteuthis Registered

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2007
    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    3
    Thats cool, for my extended essay, that i need in order to graduate from the International Baccalaureate (IB) program I'm in, i was planning on testing the long term memory of octopuses. I will be able to study some octopuses kept at the University of Miami (UM) that is near my house, and I'm also starting an internship at the Miami Seaquarium (public aquarium here in miami) next year. Hopefully this, along with good grades, will be enough to get me into a good college. I have a question for the marine biologists on here: what university/college did you attend? and what do you feel they are looking for in terms of prior experience, and grades?
    Thanks.
     
  14. Jwb187

    Jwb187 Cuttlefish Registered

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2008
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0
    I am only a Freshman in High School but I am straining hard to get the classes and scholarships to become a marine biologist
     
  15. Nancy

    Nancy Titanites Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2002
    Messages:
    5,584
    Likes Received:
    71
    Location:
    Dallas Texas
    Simple, I think you should break out your question about what universities the marine biologists on this site attended - it's likely to be missed here. Making Choices for School is under Physiology and Biology. Maybe you should put it there.

    Nancy
     
  16. Jwb187

    Jwb187 Cuttlefish Registered

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2008
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0
    well said Nancy
     
  17. cuttlegirl

    cuttlegirl Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    Messages:
    4,891
    Likes Received:
    236
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I missed this part, thanks for pointing it out Nancy.

    I attended Mount Holyoke College and received my Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences. I did an undergraduate honor's thesis on S. officinalis. I should point out that this is a women's college. They have a great biology department.

    I received my Master's Degree in Zoology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I also did research on S. officinalis.

    As with any college, the more experience and higher grade point average, the better... I was able to do marine biology internships every summer during college. I think this helped me get into a Master's program.
     
    Nancy likes this.
  18. Tintenfisch

    Tintenfisch Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2002
    Messages:
    2,083
    Likes Received:
    171
    Oops, I meant to respond to this earlier too. Sorry!

    I was lucky enough to have a one-semester marine bio course offered in high school, which I took my junior year, and that started to get me hooked. For college, I went to Wellesley (another women's college - hi Cuttlegirl :razz:), which is near Boston, and I interned at the New England Aquarium one day a week for three years. During that time I majored in Environmental Science (and German - super important and relevant :roll:... but helps me read ceph papers in German when needed!), which at that time was a do-it-yourself major. Basically my supervisor advised me to take some core science papers, which I hated at the time - 3 semesters of chemistry, though I did weasel out of doing physics in the end - but has actually been very useful. Hate it when they're right! :wink: On top of that, I took every marine course I could get my hands on (marine bio, oceanography, biology of marine mammals - offered as a course at a different local university but allowed cross-crediting, which you may have to do if you want to collect marine credits), plus a bunch of other related things - ecology, zoology, environmental philosophy. I did one semester of my junior year of college at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.
    After college I went back to MN and taught German for a year. Go second major!
    Then I had to come back and get another NZ fix, was already interested in cephs and had made my auspicious debut on TONMO by asking Steve pointy questions (:oops:), met him in Wellington, and now (five years later) I've almost finished my PhD on ceph systematics. Almost. So... close... :bugout:
     
    Nancy likes this.
  19. marinebio_guy

    marinebio_guy Vampyroteuthis Registered

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2004
    Messages:
    351
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Ocean Springs, Mississippi
    I went to Texas A&M at Galveston where I got my B.S. in Marine Biology. The school is not too hard to get into as long as you have decent grades. There are good and bad sides to the school but mostly good. The school focuses on marine subjects (marine biology, marine science, fisheries, wetlands ecology ect). Over all it is probably one of the best marine biology schools out there but because it focuses so much on marine biology you miss out on some of the other humanities and therefore you are not as well rounded. The entire time I was down there I worked for the NRCC. After I graduated I worked at the University of Southern California's marine lab as a lab tech. and have just started working for the University of Hawaii as a lab manager and will probably skip a masters and go straight to a ph.d. As far as jobs in marine biology there aren't many, most new jobs in the field are fisheries, wetlands, and aquaculture related. Most of the work I've been doing is in experimental mariculture which I 've never had a problem finding a job and when I have time I do ceph research on the side.
     
    Nancy likes this.
  20. sammccoy

    sammccoy Larval Mass Registered

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2008
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    brock -- in response to your last question:

    "Also, what are some careers that a marine biologist can look for?"

    I would suggest also seeing examples of job opportunities that exist once you have completed school: i.e. job sites that post openings that one can look at to see what is being offered.

    Good luck to you in your future endeavors.

    :smile::smile::smile::smile::smile:
     

Share This Page