I get a lot of questions from budding marine biologists, about very similar topics so I thought I’d save my sanity and write some FAQ’s.
- How did you become a marine biologist?
Read my life story here
- I’m not good at maths/ chemistry…can I still become a marine biologist?
There isn’t a simple answer to this one. It really depends on the individual, and whether you just can’t ‘do’ maths or chemistry or if it’s just going to take you a lot of time and effort to get there. I am the latter. You definitely need basic skills in both (at least!)
I got myself a tutor in Chemistry to get myself the grades to be accepted at University, and once I was there I had to make sure to go over the biochem stuff again and again until I got it.
The majority of maths in biology is statistics. It is essential to research experiments. But I find once you’re invested in a subject, you tend to buck up and work hard at the subjects you are falling behind on.
- What are good Universities/ Colleges to read marine biology?
This is a personal decision that really depends on what you’re interests are. Look through the website, the course contents, the skills you will learn. Once you look through a few you will get a feel for what appeals to you. This blog will not replace your careers department or guidance councilor - they will have so many more resources for you to use. These lists are not official recommendations, but an amalgamation of my personal experiences and inputs from friends and followers alike.
In no particular order:
UK: Plymouth, Bangor, Newcastle, St. Andrews, Liverpool, Southampton
US: Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University (Galveston), Woods Hole Massachusetts, Univeristy of Miami, FL, Harvard, Cornell, Duke, UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, University of Rhode Island, College of the Atlantic, Stony Brook University’s School of Atmospheric and Marine Science
Australia: James Cook, University of Western Australia, University of Queensland
- Should I study Biology, and then specialise or go straight into Marine Biology?
In my opinion there’s no right or wrong way, and this is a personal choice. Biology gives you a very broad foundation of knowledge to build on when you focus on the marine side in further study. Going straight into marine biology gets you in the thick of it right away.
Consider if you can afford post-graduate study. Consider if you can study and do well in subjects that aren’t your specific interest (there will be lots in a Biology degree that doesn’t overlap with the marine environment). Consider what career path you would like to go into, would it be useful to have the additional knowledge of a biology degree?
People will give you both routes as advice, but at the end of the day you need to do the research and make up your own mind. It can be daunting at first - how on earth are you supposed to know? Well look into the course contents of different degrees, start knowing what to expect, and then have questions about it. The more you know, the easier it is to frame the information and make an educated choice.
- What jobs can I get with a marine biology degree?
Lots! Depending on where and how far from home you want to venture. There are marine biology jobs everywhere, but you have to take into account what area you want to go into and how much money you are willing to make (or not make).
Then there is the factor of ‘transferrable skills’ - what you learn doing a degree can be applied to fields broader than your subject. You don’t HAVE to be a marine biologist if you take it at University.
- What can I do to make me more employable?
Experience. Experience. Experience. Do as much lab and field work as you can get your hands on. Take internships and volunteer positions, not just at home, but travel if you can.
All of this will serve to not only improve the skills in the subject you’re interested in, but those ‘other’ skills that they don’t teach in class but are essential when you get a job. People skills, organizational skills, team work etc. AND you will make contacts and start building a network you can call on in the future. This is what will set you apart from the rest.
- How much do you get paid?
Didn’t your mama teach you any manners?
- I want to take marine biology but I’m worried about not making any money…any advice?
Not but really, if you are worried about money, maybe this isn’t the area for you. But then again, whilst it has a ‘beach bum’ reputation, there are plenty of jobs that pay decently (i.e. you would be comfortable, not rich). Follow your heart.