What can you do with a marine biology degree?

Discover employment and further study opportunities that you could consider once you graduate with a marine biology degree and learn how you can stand out to graduate employers.
We encourage you to:

  • undertake career planning and research
  • build your networks, meet employers and graduates
  • gain essential work experience during your course
  • attend career fairs and events
  • continually develop your skills and knowledge
  • get involved with relevant clubs and societies
  • visit the Careers Service for advice.

Knowledge and skills

As a graduate of Marine Biology, you will have developed an enviable knowledge-base alongside a comprehensive set of skills and competencies which will be of value to all employers, both within your discipline and beyond. These include:

  • the ability to develop arguments from scientific, ethical and philosophical perspectives
  • clear and confident verbal communication skills from delivering oral presentations to both small groups and larger, more diverse audiences throughout the course
  • effective written communication skills developed from conveying scientific information to different audiences in formats ranging from scientific reports to poster displays
  • effective team working skills and the ability to develop effective collaborative working relationships within different project groups and on field trips
  • the ability to work independently, identifying and working towards targets and managing time effectively in order to meet course work deadlines
  • advanced numerical skills developed through the application of a range of statistical and measurement techniques
  • effective in survey and experimental design from undertaking field and laboratory investigations in a responsible, safe and ethical manner; ensuring validity and accuracy during sampling and recording of data
  • advanced IT and computer skills from the use of spreadsheets and statistical software such as R to manage, process and analyse data. Use of word processing and digital presentation packages to communicate findings via written reports and presentations
  • flexibility and resilience to work in all kinds of environments, developed through working in the field.

Career options 
This is a competitive but fascinating and dynamic field and Marine Biology graduates can be found all over the world:
  • in research institutions like the University of Plymouth and the Marine Biological Association, researching areas including the impact of climate change, marine pollution and invasive species on marine ecosystems.
  • working with charities and NGOs on projects around the world to preserve habitats and biodiversity or conducting research.
  • monitoring the environment and fisheries for government agencies and organisations.
  • promoting important marine conservation messages to the public and within schools through fun outreach activities with wildlife conservation charities, aquariums, zoos and museums. Locally, check out the Marine Biological Association and the National Marine Aquarium to find out more about their public education programmes.
  • providing commercial environmental or ecological consultancy services such as environmental impact assessments to businesses.
  • influencing government policies through research and campaigning with NGOs and from within central government itself.
  • inspiring and educating the scientists and conservationists of tomorrow by teaching in primary, secondary as well as further and adult education.
  • as above but through science outreach and public engagement activities such as Big Bang Fairs and other exciting public events. These are delivered by organisations such as the Royal Society, Science Museum, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Society of Biology and the Royal Society of Chemistry (there are many more of these learned societies). These activities are also delivered by Universities through their outreach programmes to schools and the public, for example Plymouth Science Showcase and school visits and talks.
  • communicating science through scientific journalism with publications such as New Scientist, Nature and other media.
Marine Biologists can consider all of the careers that are open to Biologists more generally, including wider laboratory roles, biotechnology, pharmaceutical sales and scientific communications. It might, therefore, be useful to look at other subject pages relating to biology oceanography and the environment.
Employers from all sectors will value your skills and with 70% of graduate roles being open to students of any discipline, many graduates have successfully transferred their skills into other sectors including business services, information technology, higher education and finance.

Researching your career options
It is vital to start your research and planning early in order to work out what you actions you need to take while you are studying. Take a look at these online resources and take up every opportunity to attend guest lectures and events such as “Broadening Your Career Horizons,” a careers conference specifically for the students of the Marine Sciences.

Online resources
Prospects, TargetJobs offer useful starting points for your research including the Prospects Marine Biologist profile and Target Jobs – Marine Scientist Profile. You may find the links below helpful in your exploration.

Employment Opportunities
While there are many graduate careers open to you with your degree in Marine Biology, here are some of the possibilities that may be of interest to you. Don’t restrict your research to this page, however, make a point of meeting people at conferences and events and find out what they do and how they got there!
Below is a snapshot of what University of Plymouth Marne Biology graduates told us they were doing 15 months after graduation. For some graduates, those roles served as stepping-stones by providing relevant work experience.

  • Ecotoxicology Consultant Trainee
  • Research Assistant
  • IT Analyst
  • Bat Surveyor
  • Guardians Of The Deep Volunteer Trainee
  • Science Teacher
  • Marine Planner
  • Research Technician
  • Senior Specialist - Air Pollution and Ecotoxicology
  • Marine Science Technician
  • Quality Assurance Assistant
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Diving and Marine Safety for Film And Events
  • Yacht Delivery Skipper
  • Public And Community Engagement Coordinator
  •  Estuary Edges Officer 

Some of the employers that may be of particular interest to Marine Biology graduates include
  •  Falmouth Marine School
  • Halcyon Yachts
  • Hydrapower Dynamics Ltd
  • Kent Wildlife Trust
  • Marine Biological Association
  • Marine Management Organisation
  • Midlands Ecology
  • National Marine Aquarium
  • Natural England
  • NHBS
  • Peter Fisk Associates Ltd
  • Thames Estuary Partnership
  • Unite Group PLC
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Plymouth 
For more ideas, take a look at where our graduates told us they were working 15 months after graduation:

*Data is from the Graduate Outcomes Surveys of 2017/18 and 2018/19. Graduates were surveyed 15 months after graduating. Data displayed is for 36 UK-domiciled, first degree, full-time graduates who are working, studying or looking for work.
Further study

Some permanent occupations chosen by Marine Biology graduates may well require further study – particularly those in the field of research. Postgraduate study should be considered carefully to ensure it aligns with your longer-term career goals. The University of Plymouth offers the following postgraduate study options that could be of interest to Marine Biology graduates:

  • MRes Marine Biology
  • MSc Sustainable Aquaculture
  • ResM Marine Sciences
  • MSc Marine Conservation
  • MSc/MRes Applied Marine Science
  • MSc Hydrography
  • MSc/MRes Marine Renewable Energy
  • MSc Zoo Conservation Biology
  • PGCE Primary (3-7) /PGCE Primary (5-11)
  • PGCE Secondary (Science with Biology)

The following websites are a good starting point for exploring postgraduate options, including the financial support available to you with any further study you decide to undertake, but you may also benefit from talking to a Careers Consultant about your particular situation.

The Alternative guide to postgraduate funding is an excellent resource for University students to explore additional and different sources of funding that may be available for Masters or PhD study.

It is also worth investigating what further study options the University has to offer as you may find the perfect course for yourself in an institution you already know. There are also sometimes financial benefits of staying on such as a fee discount to Alumni, find out your funding options here.

Careers Service support

Accessing support from the Careers Service couldn’t be easier, come along to the Careers Service Helpdesk in the Student Hub or access our 24/7 online resources.

There is a wide range of support available from skills workshops to events, placements and internships advice, 1-2-1 appointments and help getting started with LinkedIn.

Our bite-sized Accelerate workshops can give your career the boost it needs. Choose from a range of topics:

  • effective career planning
  • job hunting techniques
  • finding part-time work
  • CVs and interviews
  • mastering LinkedIn

Workshops are facilitated by the Careers Service team, however they are also an opportunity to learn from your peers, share experiences and ask questions. Visit myCareer to see the full range of activities and to book your place.

Connect with graduates

LinkedIn’s alumni tool also helps you to connect with graduates as well as gain an insight into their career journeys. It’s an excellent way of discovering what you can do with your degree and what you may need to do to achieve your career goals.

  • Search LinkedIn for ‘University of Plymouth’
  • click on ‘Alumni’
  • filter the results by subject, sector, company or location.

Other advice and guidance

Research tells us that that the three factors contributing to graduates’ success are:

  • getting work experience whilst at University
  • having a career plan on leaving University
  • making focussed applications while studying.

Start early 

Think about your career options from the outset and reflect on your new experiences as you progress – what are you enjoying? What isn’t quite what you thought? Get involved with clubs and volunteer with local conservation projects and organisations – you will meet interesting people and start to shape your ideas about where you might like your degree to take you.

Gain work experience  

While your degree might be the key to unlocking employment doors, work experiences will help to push those doors open.

Work experience such as placements can boost employment prospects as well as providing a unique opportunity to get involved with different projects or get behind the scenes of some fascinating research facilities, meeting new people and building professional contacts for life. Some of the employers that our Marine Biologists have secured placements with include:

  • Argans Ltd. Plymouth
  • Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Cornish Seal Sanctuary
  • Gili Shark Conservation
  • Latin American Sea Turtle Association
  • Marine Biological Association
  • Ocean Giants Trust
  • Polzeath Marine Conservation Group
  • Scripps Institute of Oceanography
  • Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece
  • University of Plymouth (Marine Litter Unit)

Volunteering in local projects will build up your field skills and hands-on experience while potentially creating future opportunities via the people you meet. Take a look at the University of Plymouth Students’ Union who offer a massive range of voluntary opportunities.

Part-time work will bring in much-needed money while you study and will also enhance your professional and transferrable skills such as teamwork, time keeping, flexibility and customer service skills as well as increasing commercial awareness. Consider applying to become a Student Ambassador and get experience of events, public speaking and enjoy showcasing your subject to members of the public at community and university outreach events.

Don’t leave it until the end!

Many employers advertise roles of interest before you have completed your degree – some as early as the autumn of your final year. Aim to be at least be ready to make applications, with your CV and LinkedIn profile up-to-date and employer-friendly and ready to go by the beginning of your final year.

Clubs & Societies  

Engaging in a sport or society shows employers you are engaged and seek out opportunities as well as enhancing your teamwork, communication and negotiation skills. Committee members develop leadership, diplomacy and organisational skills and will gain experience of meetings, handling funds, and society promotion

You may choose to join a society that is specifically linked to marine biology such as MBS or take the opportunity to explore the huge range of clubs, societies and sports, all of which can help you to broaden your horizons and explore new interests.

Tutor and academic support

Your tutors and other academic staff have had extensive experience and across this work sector and within academia and are extremely knowledgeable. They will be fully supportive of your career development and are will-connected, so do approach them for advice and insights into careers you are considering. Your tutor will ultimately be writing references for your employment or further study applications, therefore establishing a positive relationship with this person is invaluable.

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