How Do I Become an Aquatic Biologist?

If you enjoy studying aquatic plant and animal life, you might want to consider pursuing a career as an aquatic biologist. An advanced college degree, strong research skills, solid communication skills, and a passion for aquatic life forms are all required to become an aquatic biologist. Taking the right courses as early as high school will give you the foundational knowledge you’ll need to finish the advanced educational requirements and land a job in this field.

A marine biologist is frequently confused with an aquatic biologist. A freshwater aquatic biologist studies life forms in a freshwater environment, whereas a saltwater aquatic biologist studies life forms in a saltwater environment. Regardless, depending on an individual’s career goals, the job title can have a variety of meanings. Some people who work in this field want to manage aquatic wildlife, while others want to research water-borne microbes. Nonetheless, an aquatic biologist’s primary goal is to study, observe, and interact with aquatic life forms and the environmental factors that influence them.

To become an aquatic biologist, you must have a curious mind and a strong desire to solve problems. This means that science and math classes are extremely important in high school. It is not sufficient to simply pose the questions; rather, the answers must be demonstrated conclusively. To understand how living organisms work, students will need a strong foundation in biological and chemical sciences. In order to understand how to interpret, compile, and manipulate data, students must also learn advanced mathematical applications.

To qualify for an entry-level position in the field or to prepare for graduate study, students will need to earn a bachelor’s degree while in college. Students usually do not specialize in aquatic biology at this level of study, and an undergraduate degree will not prepare a student to work as an aquatic biologist. Instead, students will typically pursue a degree in biological sciences, concentrating on chemistry, biology, engineering, computer science, physics, and mathematics. This builds on what students learned in high school and provides the foundational knowledge needed for field applications and graduate specialization.

Aquatic biology is a specialty for master’s and doctoral students. Because not all universities offer graduate study in the field, students must conduct thorough research and enroll in a strong program dedicated to the field. Students can expect to study in a classroom, conduct research in a laboratory, and apply research in the field at the graduate level.

A master’s program typically lasts two years and ends with a thesis. A doctorate degree can take up to six years to complete and includes a dissertation. A doctorate will provide a student with the best chance of becoming an aquatic biologist.

Students are prepared to enter the workforce as aquatic biologists after graduation. As of 2011, the field of aquatic biology had few job openings, with far more graduates than available positions. Despite the demand, this is still a small field within the realm of biological sciences. As a result, coveted research positions are extremely competitive, and obtaining a doctorate does not guarantee employment. Instead, students should focus their doctoral research on issues that matter in the field of aquatic biology, as this will give them the best chance to demonstrate their ability to make significant contributions to the field.