Marine biologist

biological technician ichthyologist fishery biologist marine mammalogist microbiologist marine ecologist
Science, mathematics and statistics

Career outlook for marine biologist

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would study ocean animals, plants and ecosystems to increase our knowledge and understanding of the environment, genetics, and animal or plant biology.

The ocean covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and is the habitat of 230,000 known species, although much of the ocean’s depths remain unexplored. You could work on research projects to observe and better understand ocean animals, plants and ecosystems, projects to protect and conserve sealife or to develop and manage marine resources.

Marine life is a valuable resource for human beings, providing food, medicine, and many different raw materials. It also helps to support recreation and tourism all over the world.

It’s a very wide field to work in. You could choose to study microscopic organisms such as plankton or huge cetaceans - whales. Marine life includes fish, mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates that rely on the ocean to survive. Or you could focus on studying the ocean’s plants, algae, fungi or coral.

There is also a huge variety of habitats where marine organisms live, from the very deep ocean, to shallow and brackish estuaries and marshes.

Depending on your area of research you might work in a laboratory or at sea; many roles will involve a mixture of both.

You would write up and publish the findings from your research. You might also present your findings at conferences or teach at a university.

Other areas of work are in conservation and sustainable management of the fish stocks or the marine environment.

Working conditions


Depending on your specific area of work you may have to go abroad.


You would have an indoor base in an office or lab. However your field work would be carried out outdoors. You might often be cold and wet. Swimming and scuba diving skills may be useful.


Your hours would vary with each project. You may often have to work long hours at irregular times, particularly when carrying out field work.

UK employment status





Self employed


Create a qualification route

We've found some examples of the qualifications that could help you get this job.

Discover my route

Search course options

Thinking about your future? There are lots of courses available that could interest you. Use our course search to explore course options.

Find courses

Search job opportunities

If you're looking for your new career our job search can help you. Discover interesting opportunities and decide your next steps.

Find a job

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Working with technology
  • Innovative
  • Problem solving
  • Observation
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Sorting
  • Taking initiative
  • Analysing
  • Understanding

Skills Explorer

Your skills can help you choose the career that's right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

Our Skills Explorer tool will help you understand what skills you have and match them to jobs that might suit you.

Use the Skills Explorer tool

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


Entry to this job is highly competitive. Many marine biologists have postgraduate qualifications (SCQF level 11) or a doctoral degree (SCQF level 12) in a relevant subject such as marine biology.

You would need a degree (SCQF level 9/10) in a subject such as:

  • Marine biology
  • Biological science
  • conservation
  • Ecology
  • Environmental sciences

Most undergraduate courses ask for at least four Highers at B or above (SCQF level 6) some universities may require you to gain qualifications in one sitting.

With Advanced Highers (SCQF level 7) or a relevant Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8), you may be able to enter the second or third year of some degrees.  

Some universities offer an integrated Master's (SCQF level 11) which combines a degree and masters qualification over five years. Entry is the same as degree courses.


Useful subjects

  • Biology (required by most courses)
  • Maths (required by most courses)
  • Chemistry (required by most courses)
  • English
  • Other science subjects
  • Technologies subjects

You will also need

Some jobs will require that you are a trained diver; you will need to pass strict medical tests prior to undertaking any diving training and pass regular medicals once qualified.

Helpful to have

Paid or voluntary work experience in a related field is useful.