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Marine scientists research the sea and study its interactions with its organisms, sea floors, coastal areas and the atmosphere.

Marine science is a broad discipline, so many choose to specialise in a particular field such as a particular species.

What does a marine scientist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Marine scientists may work in the field, in an office setting or on a sea vessel such as a floating laboratory.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • planning and undertaking laboratory-based experiments and research
  • collecting samples at sea
  • keeping up to date with scientific and research developments
  • attending relevant training courses
  • recording, analysing and interpreting data from biological or physical processes
  • using tracking technology to study particular organisms
  • writing research papers, reports and reviews
  • ensuring that data is recorded accurately
  • using problem-solving skills to develop solutions to research challenges
  • using computer databases and software to analyse and manage data
  • developing and maintaining a network of contacts
  • making presentations
  • identifying new funding sources and applying for grants
  • planning and organising field research trips
  • generating new research hypotheses and theories
  • testing out theories and hypotheses

Typical employers of marine scientists

  • Marine laboratories
  • Universities
  • Government agencies
  • Oil and gas prospectors and renewable energy companies
  • Specialist research organisations and consultancies
  • Engineering companies
  • Fisheries
  • Marine conservation groups
  • Coastal management organisations

Job vacancies are advertised online, by careers services, in national newspapers, in relevant scientific publications such as New Scientist, The Marine Biologist, Marine Science and Technology, journals published by the professional institutions and their respective websites. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funds a number of undergraduate research experience placements and postgraduate studentships each year – further details are provided on the NERC website.

  • The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.
  • If you'd like to find out what your salary might look like, take a look at our article on how much you might earn in science on our TARGETcareers website.

Qualifications and training required

A good degree in a subject such as marine science, marine biology, geology, ecology, biology, oceanography, zoology or marine or maritime studies is usually necessary. A relevant postgraduate qualification (whether a PhD or a research-based MSc) is also helpful, particularly for permanent positions. Postdoctoral research, practical research or laboratory work experience is beneficial, and generally required for academic posts. Read our article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options and visit the science section of TARGETpostgrad for lots more advice.

Practical skills such as boat handling, scuba diving, first aid and engine maintenance may also prove advantageous.

Key skills for marine scientists

  • Patience and determination
  • Creativity and flexibility
  • A logical and scientific mind
  • Numerical ability
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Teamworking and interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • A basic understanding of oceanography
  • The ability to draw conclusions from findings

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