Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010
About 70 percent of the earth is covered by bodies of water, and only five percent of that has been explored by scientists. And nearly 70 percent of the protein human beings consume comes from the sea. It would not be a stretch to say marine science curriculums are some of the most important within which a graduate student could study. It’s also a fascinating area that beckons students to “dive in.”
Studying in the field
Marine science curriculums are extremely broad and can center on the study of the ocean, its ecosystems and its life forms, as well as on the impact of society on marine environments. Students in marine science courses may research issues such as pollution, recreation, aquaculture and ocean dumping.
Marine science graduate curriculums typically focus on a particular branch of the earth sciences and involve such study fields as:
Students working toward a masters or PhD degree in marine science will examine the physiology, biochemistry and ecology of marine plants and animals. Marine science courses require work in the classroom, laboratory and in the field. Students will collect data and use their computer and mathematical skills to process and analyze that data.
Marine science curriculums on the graduate level demand that students develop strong research, critical thinking, problem-solving, analytical and communication skills. They can expect to take marine science courses which cover biogeochemistry, mariculture and environmental monitoring. Other classes may include marine policy, advanced paleontology, hydrodynamics and air-sea interaction.
Because marine science curriculums cover such a broad area of study, students tend to choose a specific concentration. A few of the many marine science concentrations available include:
- Marine Biology
- Marine Chemistry
- Ocean Engineering
- Marine Mammology
- Marine Fishery Biology
Oceanography focuses on the biological, chemical and physical aspects of the ocean, and is one of the largest and most popular concentrations offered by graduate marine science curriculums. Within an oceanography marine science concentration, students can choose biological, chemical, geological or physical oceanography, as well as ocean engineering or environmental science.
Regardless of the concentration they choose, students wishing to earn a masters or PhD degree in marine science must enjoy being outdoors, as well as have a background in a basic science such as biology, chemistry, geology, physics or applied mathematics. As they explore the interaction between marine environments and the earth, biosphere and atmosphere in their marine science courses, students will engage in hands-on learning.
Students enrolled in a marine science graduate curriculum tend to have a strong commitment to protecting and preserving the earth’s bodies of water and the plant and animal life that calls those waters home. They will apply this commitment as they learn to use cutting-edge technologies and research.
Job opportunities in the field
Careers in marine science often bring to mind an image of probing the depths of the ocean in scuba gear, alongside dolphins and other fascinating marine life. However, graduates of marine science curriculums spend most of their time in laboratories and offices rather than swimming among dolphins, whales and sharks.
Marine scientists devote much of their careers to researching and writing scientific literature, grants and proposals. That is not to say that completion of marine science courses will never put you in contact with the ecosystems and creatures in the field. Marine scientists do spend time in the field, and those occasions bring on demanding work that can sometimes last around the clock.
Marine science careers offer as much variety in as they do in marine science concentrations. Those who earn a masters or PhD degree in marine science can become marine biologists, who command average annual salaries of $50,000. Oceanographers can earn an average of $70,000, while an ocean engineer can take home as much as $90,000 annually.
The average annual salary of a marine-policy specialist is around $55,000. Many graduates become professors, who can earn an average of $70,000 per year. Graduates who choose to become research scientists in the field can expect an average annual salary of about $80,000, while a water-purification chemist can command an average salary of $70,000.
Students may decide to focus their marine science careers on fisheries, marine minerals and energy, or shipping and ports. They may also enter marine science careers in maritime security, coastal management and environmental protection. Graduates with a masters or PhD degree in marine science can seek employment by state and local governments, colleges and universities, and in private industries, where they can command the highest salaries.
No matter which career a graduate may choose, marine science graduate curriculums offer a plethora of exciting possibilities. Find the one that works best for you now.