Pay & Salary

How Much Can a Marine Biologist Earn?

June 11, 2021

Marine biologists are scientists who specialize in studying animals and plants that live near bodies of water or underwater. Working as a marine biologist can be ideal for animal lovers and people who are interested in the ocean or other marine environments. Many marine biologists also earn competitive salaries, which can make it an attractive career to candidates who want to pursue their interests and receive compensation. In this article, we consider what a career as a marine biologist can be like and learn about how much they can earn.

Related: 9 Most Popular Jobs That Involve Working With Animals

What is a marine biologist?

A marine biologist is a scientist who studies organisms that live in marine environments, such as oceans, lakes, and rivers. Their job can involve observing organisms in their natural habitats as well as performing controlled experiments on specimens in laboratory settings. Marine biologists can work in several fields, including education, government, conservation, technology, and commercial development. They have different goals, ranging from protecting natural resources to supervising tourism and sightseeing experiences. Some of the career paths for marine biologists include:

  • Aquatic biologist
  • Fishery biologist
  • Aquarist
  • Marine scientist
  • Ocean engineer
  • Aquaculturist
  • Marine veterinarian

What does a marine biologist do?

Marine biologists propose, design, and implement research projects related to sea life and ocean conditions. They spend time collecting specimens and recording data in the field, designing laboratory experiments, and writing reports. They can make recommendations about the environmental impact of human behaviour, formulate treatments for common marine diseases, and map migration patterns. Marine biologists often focus their work on a particular species or phenomenon. Examples of subjects that marine biologists research include:

  • Coral reef biology
  • Biosystematics
  • Marine mammalogy
  • Phycology
  • Aquaculture
  • Icthyology

Depending on the type of research they do, marine biologists might go out to sea themselves or remotely observe data from an office or lab. Some of the standard duties for marine biology rule include:

  • Setting up experiments while preserving the natural habitat of an area
  • Riding in boats and submarines to travel across open water and collect data
  • Operating cameras, computers, and other technology to document visual and physical evidence.
  • Capturing and releasing marine life to track their movements or assess their health
  • Gathering ecological samples of sea plants, sand, soil, and water
  • Recording environmental characteristics
  • Testing specimens for chemical and biological abnormalities
  • Performing environmental impact assessments
  • Advising on coastal project developments, pipelines, and ocean disposal systems

Average salary for marine biologists

The national average salary for marine biologists is currently $69,859 per year. This can be considered fairly competitive for a base salary. Many marine biologists also receive employee benefits besides their salaries, such as paid vacation time, paid sick leave, and 401(k) savings. There are usually opportunities for marine biologists to earn higher salaries as well, especially for candidates who have multiple degrees or a history of publication.

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Job outlook for marine biologists by province

According to the Government of Canada, the job outlook for marine biologists can vary depending on the province where you live and work. Here's some information about what the job outlook for marine biologists looks like in each province in Canada from 2019 to 2021:

Alberta

The employment of marine biologists in Alberta is expected to grow steadily from 2019 to 2021. This is because an increasing number of marine biologists in Alberta are approaching retirement, which can result in a higher need for professionals to fill those positions.

British Columbia

British Columbia is projected to experience a positive employment outlook for marine biologists from 2019 to 2021. Employment growth in British Columbia is expected to occur from the creation of new positions for professionals with recent experience or training in marine biology.

Manitoba

Manitoba is also projected to experience employment growth for marine biologists from 2019 to 2021. This could primarily be due to positions becoming available after current professionals retire.

New Brunswick

The job outlook for marine biologists is expected to increase steadily from 2019 to 2021. The Canadian Government shows that this is likely because of an increase in new roles being created as well as a moderate number of positions being vacated by retirees.

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Canadian government expects the number of people employed as marine biologists in Newfoundland and Labrador to remain consistent from 2019 to 2021. This is because the number of new and closing roles can reach a balance that results in very little change.

Northwest Territories

The employment outlook for marine biologists in the Northwest Territories doesn't show any large changes from 2019 to 2021. This could be due to the number of new marine biologists being close to the number of marine biologists who are retiring.

Nunavut

The number of people employed as marine biologists in Nunavut is expected to experience positive growth from 2019 to 2021. The Canadian government shows that this is likely due to several new positions being created as well as existing positions opening up as current marine biologists retire.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is likely to experience very little change in employment for marine biologists between 2019 and 2021. This could be because the number of new professionals entering the field is similar to the number of retiring marine biologists.

Ontario

The Canadian government predicts that employment for marine biologists in Ontario will remain consistent from 2019 to 2021. While they indicate that new positions might be created, they also state that they expect fewer retirements than other provinces.

Prince Edward Island

The job outlook for marine biologists in Prince Edward Island predicts an increase in the number of people working in the field. This could be because of the establishment of several new roles for marine biologists in the area.

Quebec

Quebec is expected to experience a positive employment outlook from 2019 to 2021. The Canadian government shows that this is likely due to an increase in new jobs for marine biologists as well as in people who are retiring from the marine biology field.

Saskatchewan

The employment of marine biologists in Saskatchewan is expected to grow steadily from 2019 to 2021. This could be because of an increase in new professionals with experience in marine biology and a trend in retirement from marine biology positions in the province.

Yukon Territory

The Yukon Territory is projected to experience stable employment for marine biologists. This consistency is likely the result of few new positions being created and current professionals remaining in their positions for the foreseeable future.

Related: Survey: Employer Sentiment Reveals Promising Signs for Canadians in 2021

Essential skills for marine biologists

Marine biologists use a range of skills on the job to carry out research projects and communicate the results to others. They need to be highly competent in these core areas:

  • Observation: Marine biologists spend a significant part of their job observing their surroundings. They must be able to notice small environmental, physical, or behavioural changes during experiments. Paying attention to small details, noticing large-scale trends, and making adjustments are all observation skills that marine biologists use in their work.
  • Multitasking: Research projects have multiple ongoing parts, and marine biologists must be able to independently manage all aspects of their studies. This includes tracking observations, delegating tasks to assistants, coordinating research trips, and managing supplies.
  • Critical thinking: Making hypotheses, planning experiments, drawing logical conclusions, projecting environmental conditions, and analyzing the results of an experiment all require critical thinking. Successful marine biologists are skilled at considering all possible outcomes of a situation, solving problems creatively, and identifying cause and effect.
  • Stamina: Researching marine life can demanding, requiring marine biologists to have physical, mental, and emotional stamina. They may spend long stretches of time alone at an outdoor research site waiting to observe ocean wildlife. Marine biology experiments can take place in secluded areas and require primitive survival skills to work in rough conditions.

Related: A Guide to Soft Skills

Requirements for becoming a marine biologist

To become a marine biologist, you need to be highly qualified through your education and formal training. The role requires advanced knowledge of biological principles to accurately measure and interpret the environment. Most marine biology roles have many candidates competing for the same job, with only top candidates earning the opportunity to study the ecosystems and wildlife of the sea. The key qualifications are:

Education

Marine biologists must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree to qualify for many entry-level positions, although some employers require a master's or even a doctorate. You can major in a marine biology program or a similar field such as environmental science, biology, chemistry, oceanography, and ecology. Developing your education in marine biology can help you qualify for coveted fellowships where you can have a high degree of independence in your research programs.

Experience

Hands-on experience is essential to be competitive for marine biology roles. Pursuing internships, volunteering at organizations that work with marine life, attending conferences, and participating in marine science programs can demonstrate your passion for the field and your ability to apply your training to an actual workplace.

Publications

Prior scientific publications are a common qualification for research-based fields such as marine biology. Marine biologists often work to publish research projects from their undergraduate and graduate studies to emphasize the impact and importance of their work. Articles, books, and reports are proof that you conducted a legitimate scientific study and interpreted the results intelligently. The topic you write about can indicate to employers your area of interest and expertise to determine if you're a good fit.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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