Winter and Hope are the most well-known dolphins since Flipper and have done for marine biology what the television show JAG did for the Navy – make people want to join. Hearing about their miraculous progress, seeing their story in the movies, and becoming immersed in the plight of sea animals across the world will make some people want to become marine biologists. After all, what could be more fun than swimming in the ocean and helping all of the creatures there? Before jumping onto the bandwagon, you may want to know more about a marine biologist salary to decide if this is the correct career path for you.
What Does a Marine Biologist Do?
As you would expect, marine biologists work with all types of ocean animals, from the smallest single-celled organisms to the largest whale species. They study how these animals behave and how they interact with the environment. As humans continually pollute the world and over-fish the oceans, life for marine animals becomes more difficult. The role of the marine biologist has become crucial in the fight to keep many of these species from extinction.
As a marine biologist, you should expect to do lots of traveling. You will need to go to the rivers and oceans to collect data and specimens. Many learn how to scuba dive to collect data and see samples in their natural habitats.
Education Requirements for Marine Biologists
A general biology degree will take four or more years to complete. A person could get entry-level work leading to a career in marine biology with just this degree. However, most people go on for specialized training and go to school for an additional few years to earn a master’s degree or doctorate. This training brings the total education requirement to between five and nine years.
Where do Marine Biologists Work?
Marine biologists work on ships, in laboratories, on beaches, or in marshes. However, they usually have a home base with a public or private company and university. Local or national aquariums and zoos may also employ them, and they even work for the state and federal governments.
Marine Biologist Salary Information Across the Country
The United States Government Bureau of Labor Statistics does not keep individual statistics on marine biologists’ salaries probably because there is not enough data for the type of statistical analysis that the government does on job outlook. They do keep statistics on the broader field of biological scientist, but this seems too broad to be useful. They also track zoologists and wildlife biologists.
According to the government, the median hourly salary for zoologists and wildlife biologists is $29.95 per hour and $62,290 per year. They expect the occupation to grow at the standard rate of 8 percent, which is the rate that most career fields increase. This accounts for the number of people retiring or leaving the field. Again, this is the rate at which most any other occupation grows for similar reasons. However, funding for these jobs comes from the government. This means that budgeting is never guaranteed and can be renewed or revoked with each administration.
Another problem with this statistic is the fact that it is being reported as median and not the mean. The median is the center point of all the numbers in the list. Therefore, it is not an accurate representation of the highs and lows in the field. The mean or average would be a more effective number.
For example, if there were 50 people in the list, and the first 24 people all made $10 an hour, the 25th data point was $29.95 an hour, and the 26 through 50 all made $150 an hour, then the median is listed at that middle point of $29.95.
Other websites that collect data rely on self-reported information from people or data collection from job listings that reveal salary information. On some of these sites, the salary information is more specific but quite broad. For instance, some sites reveal that the average hourly wage is $21.30 and the average yearly salary is $44,311 for a person with a bachelor’s degree.
This is quite a bit lower than the government information, which means that marine biologist salaries may not be in line with the overall zoologist and wildlife biologist salaries. The salary range listed for a marine biologist starts at $16,640 and goes up to $189,800. So entry-level pay is far different from that of a top-end salary.
In general, a marine biologist who has earned a master’s degree or Ph.D. and had some experience can expect to earn between $56,000 and $66,000 per year.
Marine Biologist Salary
Here are some salaries organized by states.
Marine Biologist Salary: Northeastern States
Connecticut – $23.06 per hour and $47,696 per year
Maine – $20.64 per hour and $42, 927 per year
Massachusetts – $25.12 per hour and $52,246 per year
New York – $25.10 per hour and $52,210 per year
Vermont – $23.31 per hour and $48, 493 per year
Marine Biologist Salary: Southern States
Florida – $17.95 per hour and $37,329 per year
Georgia – $21.10 per hour and $43,897 per year
Maryland – $23.79 per hour and $49,474 per year
North Carolina – $20.28 per hour and $42,184 per year
South Carolina – $21.72 per hour and $45,173 per year
Texas – $20.70 per hour and $43,049 per year
Marine Biologist Salary: Western States
Alaska – $23.08 per hour and $48,000 per year
California – $23.79 per hour and $49,489 per year
Hawaii – $22.95 per hour and $47,746 per year
As you can see, there isn’t much variation in reported or aggregated salaries at the mid-range. There are higher and lower salaries that aren’t reflected in this. A marine biologist with extensive experience may make over $100,000.
Marine Biologist Salary: Choosing A Career
Some jobs seem fascinating from afar or in comparison to what we might be doing at the time, such as being a cashier or server. However, not all jobs are suited for you. The best way to figure out what kind of career you would like is to assess your personality. You can utilize some of the online personality tests to give you ideas, or you can assess your likes and dislikes and try to figure out a career from there.
You should look at the nature of the work involved in any career. For instance, if you do not like to swim or do not like to travel, you may not want to be a marine biologist since they have to do both. Besides, this kind of work is very heavy in academics. If you do not like to go to school, then this may not be the best career option for you since the higher salaries are tied to earning advanced degrees.
The working conditions and physical demands may be another factor to consider. While many marine biologists teach in classrooms and work in laboratories, many are also out in the field and exposed to all kinds of weather conditions.
You may not be able to collect the data you need on just sunny, warm days at the beach. Marshes have water and marine life, but they also have alligators, snakes, and very large bugs. Some research marine vessels go out on the oceans for months at a time.
Would you be able to leave your life for a few months to go out and do research on or under the ocean? In essence, if you don’t like being in the outdoors during inclement weather, or if you don’t like camping or being on ships, marine biology may not be for you.
The salary is another important aspect of any career field. If we all wanted to make as much money as possible, we would all become doctors, lawyers, and engineers. However, those careers are not suitable for everyone.
This article gives you a good idea of what the average marine biologist makes. However, salary is always dependent on your motivation and strategies for getting ahead in your career. Many top marine biologists earn over six figures but may have worked long and hard over many years to achieve this goal. If the median salary does not look appealing to you, then you may want to consider a different specialty or field altogether.
The ability to secure a job is another avenue to examine. Marine biology is a specific niche in the field of biology, and there may not be as many jobs around as there are graduates of the programs that produce them. When the job market has fierce competition, you will need to set yourself apart from others to get a job.
This might mean extra work or volunteering to help when an opportunity presents itself. You may want to search our internships in the field while you are in school to help get experience. Finally, you may want to start learning some of the skills that you will need ahead of time, such as boating and scuba diving. If you come to an employer with some of these skills in hand, you may find yourself ahead of the competition.
10 Everyday Ways You Can Save the Ocean Before You’re a Marine Biologist
You might have big dreams to save the earth and that’s why you are looking to become a marine biologist. Many of us do. If you want to get into this field, chances are you want to save tons of animals lives and the entire ocean if you can. But it all starts with small steps. Every day steps that we all can take, and as a marine biologist, you will practice these as well as preach them throughout your whole career. Here are some things you can do to save the ocean today, right where you are.
Every day, you can greatly reduce your carbon footprint by saving energy in simple ways. You can do things like biking instead of driving or carpooling instead of going on your own. You can consider things like the energy you’re using in your home as you cook, shower, brush your teeth, and use light. You can use the stairs instead of the elevator or use a blanket instead of a very hot heat on your thermostat.
All the small things add up and if we were all to participate, we would make a huge impact on the earth and turn back time in big ways. All this takes is some intentionality in how you live and considering the things you will do. We make 1 million little decisions each and every day, what would happen if our decisions were mindful of the planet we live on and the ocean we love?
Clean up the Beach
Cleaning up your local beach is something easy and fun. You can take a weekend or a weekday night and go with a like-minded crew to remove plastic and garbage from on the beach. You can even do this in a more integrated way by simply picking up after yourself when you go to the beach. We all want beautiful beaches but that will not ever be possible unless we work together to make it so.
Raise Your Pets with the Ocean in Mind
Did you know that even in your day-to-day life as you are raising your pets, you can do it sustainably? Some ways to do this is to read the labels before you buy food and make sure that you are only purchasing pet foods that have sustainable seafood ingredients inside. You can also become educated on how you keep your at-home aquarium well. Know which fish go in freshwater and which go in salt water. Learn all about the species you are bringing into your home.
Be the Change
Saving the ocean may seem like a huge task, but the only way to get involved is to make the change your little corner of the world. You know you can influence change wherever you are, right? And this can make a huge impact. You can get involved in ocean policy and vote or contact your local representatives to ensure that conservation is at the forefront of what is happening in the policy. You can become a patron in sustainable seafood as well as use your social media platforms for good. You can help your friends become aware of the impact humans have on the ocean and bring this project to life all around your a little community.
Support Ocean Protection
There are so many non-profit organizations that are protecting the ocean that you will learn all about as a marine biologist. But before you become one, you can learn and support these organizations now. There are plenty out there who need volunteers and financial support as well as advocates who can spread the word. Get involved in local groups, especially if you live near the water. They will be present wherever there is an ocean! If you have the means financially, go for funding. If you don’t, there are 1 million volunteer opportunities that you can be a part of. Take the initiative today!
One of the greatest statements any individual or organization can make is to say that they will not buy from a seller. You can choose not to buy anything that harms ocean life. We see harm done to ocean life all around us in shops and stores at every turn. Jewelry made out of precious corals and hair accessories made out of turtles. We see shark teeth necklaces and all other kinds of skin from sea animals that create pretty items for people to buy.
Be part of the change by deciding that you will not purchase anything that exploits or harms these animals. Then go public about it. Post on your social media, talk about it with friends, talk about it with people at the store, find ways to get the word out. Most people don’t purchase these things out of malice, but out of lack of knowledge and awareness. You can bring it to them.
More Reusable, Less Plastic
Using less plastic products is a huge deal in this day and age. With things so easily accessible to us, we use and expose of plastic non stop throughout the day. But this plastic that is so convenient for us is a thing that ends up killing so many animals in the ocean. It can literally destroy marine life as we know it and already is. The number of animals that are being found with different plastic items in their stomachs after consuming them, thinking it was food, is sad.
Here are some ideas for how you can counteract this: get a reusable water bottle and carry it around with you instead of using bottled water. Get containers that you do not dispose of and reuse them as many times as you can. Get a reusable bag or a tote bag for when you are shopping, for anything at all, anything instead of getting plastic bags and bringing 1 million of them home just to throw them away. Remember to recycle whenever you can. Even the new fad of getting a Diva Cup instead of using tampons and pads is one of the world changers. A Diva Cup can be used for years and years because it is made of silicone, as where tampons only get one wear. All of these seem like small things, but they are huge.
Final Thoughts on Marine Biologist Salary
Marine biologists dedicate their lives to the study and conservation of marine life. This is an important job as humans continually impinge on their territory, intentionally or unintentionally. The average marine biologist salary runs between $40,000 to $50,000, and the position often requires more than just a basic degree to get a job.
If all of this still sounds appealing, then a career as a marine biologist might be for you.