Marine biologist

biological technician ichthyologist fishery biologist marine mammalogist microbiologist marine ecologist

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

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

Travel

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

Environment

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.

Hours

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

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

People behind the job

Meet real people who’ve done this job – hear their stories and the path they took to get there.

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Working as part of a team
  • Communicating ideas through writing
  • Working on your own
  • Accuracy
  • Conducting experiments
  • Using computers
  • Being physically fit
  • Researching and investigating
  • Paying attention to detail

Build your skills

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.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

Keep track of your skills in your account and find the jobs, opportunities and courses that suit you.

Click here to view / add your skills

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 Apprenticeships.scot.

Qualifications

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.