TCI’s coral reefs are a huge contribution to the nation’s splendor and beauty, and their erosion and decay can have a significant impact on tourism. A great way to work toward preserving our reefs is through coral reef management. Educationally and occupationally, this can translate into so many areas of study like environmental science, and careers like zoologists. However, with a focus on coral reef management, we’ll talk more about marine biology (with a sprinkle of how you can transfer skills from other areas of study and careers to also focus on coral reef management).
Before we dive in, I’d first like to mention that coral reef management isn’t just the responsibility of the individual studying or working in that field. The responsibility to preserve the ocean and marine life falls on everyone, from tour operators to waste management companies to regular beachgoers. If you intend to study and work in this field, collaborate with other fields, such as public health, to ensure the public is educated on and aware of steps everyone needs to take to preserve marine life.
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There isn’t really much one can do in marine biology with less than a 4-year degree. However, that shouldn’t stop you from still exploring your interest in the subject area and researching other related fields. Environmental science can serve as a great stepping stone to marine biology to understand environmental problems and discover solutions. Careers you can have in environmental science with a 2-year degree or less include environmental science consultant, teacher, advocate, lab technician, specialist, or engineering technician. Courses in an associate’s program, and environmental science/marine biology in general, are very heavy in math and sciences: chemistry, physics, and calculus (I’m so sorry, LOL). Some environmental science associate degree programs may have specializations in ecology and zoology, so look into these programs if you’d like to gain foundational knowledge in these specialized fields. If you plan to study marine biology and are beginning your path with a 2-year degree, look for ways to gain credentials this early in your career, such as becoming a certified diver or lab technician so you can begin working in the field without a bachelor’s degree. However, do intend to pursue a bachelor’s degree to access more advanced careers and narrow down a focus in marine biology.
In a bachelor’s degree program, you’d have more range to study courses that interest you, like environmental law, zoology (the scientific study of animals), marine biology, ecology (the study of organisms), microbiology (the study of microorganisms), and so many other courses! While in your program, you may discover your interest in advocating for the environment through policies and law. You may find that you prefer working in research to understand exactly how substances and aquatic activities are harmful to land and oceanic environments and how that would impact the future should these trends continue. You may prefer applying your knowledge and being an advocate for change of activities impacting marine life. A bachelor’s degree can help you qualify for more specialized careers than an associate degree, such as researcher, marine biologist, environmental engineer, biological technician, and fishery biologist.
Beyond a 4-Year Degree
You can further your studies by pursuing a master’s degree in marine biology. The length of this program depends on the institution you attend, so speak with an advisor when looking into master’s degree programs. A typical master’s degree program in marine biology will take you deeper into studying subject areas like oceanography (the study of physical and biological properties of the sea), fish biology, the dynamics of marine ecosystems, and more sciences (yay LOL). These programs will heavily include conducting research that may lead you to making presentations on a thesis or dissertation. A master’s degree will lead you to careers in research and education.
(Here’s an overview of the differences in each academic degree program.)
There are few occupations you can access in marine biology through vocational training or technical education, but this doesn’t mean you can’t create opportunities of your own. If there is an organization or company whose work interests you, ask them for the opportunity to intern or shadow someone to learn more about them and let them know your interest in the field. This can help you secure future opportunities to gain experience when visiting home during holiday breaks.
Apprenticeships & Internships
Apprenticeship and internship opportunities in environmental science and marine biology can be found through internet searches or networking. Opportunities may exist at aquariums, zoos, and research or conversation sites for endangered species.
You can review the Minnesota State CAREERwise website to explore careers similar to environmental science or marine biology in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources career cluster. Here are more resources to learn more about careers in environmental science or marine biology:
- U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Environmental Science | Marine Biology
- Marine Bio: Education & Career Resources for Students
- EnvironmentalScience.org: Careers | Internships
- Free Coursera courses: Oceanography: a key to better understand our world (Universitat de Barcelona), Sustainable Tourism – promoting environmental public health (University of Copenhagen), Large Marine Ecosystems: Assessment and Management (University of Cape Town with IW:LEARN, UNDP-The GEF, NOAA, GEF, and UNESCO-IOC), Ecosystems of California (University of California, Santa Cruz)
Check with your institution of interest to find out more about their admissions application, program requirements, and the best way to map out your future for studying marine biology. In the meantime, you can review these marine biology degree programs in the U.S.
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