The Marine Biological Association

Promoting marine scientific excellence and representing the marine biological community since 1884

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How to become a marine biologist

A PhD student culturing phytoplankton at the Marine Biological Association.

A PhD student culturing phytoplankton at the Marine Biological Association.

Marine Biology is an exciting and diverse discipline and is understandably an extremely popular area to work in. Here we provide a range of advice and information for those at the initial stage of considering marine biology as a career pathway through to information on career opportunities for post-graduates.

Stage 1: considering a career in marine biology

The first thing to think about is what marine biologists actually do and how you can start working toward marine biology as a career and to this end Dr Paul Greer provides a useful overview for those considering a career in marine biology. You may also be interested in hearing from people who work in marine biology today – some of their stories can be accessed here.

For those interested in working in the marine environment but who don’t want to pursue an academic pathway, there are also a number of career options available.

Whatever path you choose, we recommend that you become a Young Marine Biologist if you are 18 or under (or if over 18, an MBA Associate Member). This is because the MBA provides many opportunities for those interested in pursuing study or work in marine biology, and members of the Association are given priority access to these opportunities. Example opportunities include a work experience week run every July for students aged between 14 and 18, which is a fantastic way to get a taste of what it is like to work in marine biology. We also run training courses for a range of ages and ability, and regular survey events which are an opportunity to develop relevant skills and meet professionals in the field.


Not all marine biologist work in the field – but some do! Image: MBA.


Stage 2: what and where should I study?

There is a great variety in courses being offered for the aspiring marine biologist and choosing what and where to study can be daunting. To help you choose we have general information on UK institutes offering marine biology and marine biology related courses. We also have detailed descriptions from our magazine The Marine Biologist of what’s on offer at universities such as BangorPortsmouthLiverpool and Plymouth. You can also read an article from a marine biology graduate about things she wished she had known as an undergraduate.

Stage 3: what next for my career?

Maybe you are coming to the end of your studies and looking to embark on your career pathway. The MBA provides support in a range of ways from advertising vacancies to providing opportunities for volunteer placements (contact Jack Sewell at

If you are not already a member of the MBA then we have a range of membership options including Professional Membership (Mem.MBA).

Additional Resources

A short documentary featuring Moises Bernal, an ichthyologist (fish biologist) at the California Academy of Sciences. This video is great for young people interested in science and marine biology.
Society of Underwater Technology’s Oceans of Opportunity
British Ecological Society’s Top Ten Tips for getting a career in ecology