Careers in marine biology and conservation

Here at MCS, we often get asked about how to follow a career in marine biology and conservation. If you are already seriously interested, or just beginning to think about it, we hope you will find this page helpful and informative.

We want you to be inspired by the many different roles that are available and the different routes you can take to get involved in marine conservation. We’ve also got some real life examples of people who work in marine conservation – but who aren’t scientists at all.

Diver studying limpet scars on rock
© Paul Naylor
Scallop study
© Bryce Beukers-Stewart

Now, if you think working as a marine biologist in the field of marine conservation is all about fabulous dives in exotic locations, you may want to stop reading now!

A career in marine science can certainly take you to some amazing places and see wildlife that many people will only dream about but, the reality is that much of your time will be spent at a desk, possibly looking at spreadsheets before heading to another skype meeting!

Still interested?

Great! Our industry needs people who are happy to work hard because then the outdoor times seem even better!

There are lots of ways to get into a career in conservation.

Whilst it’s important, a degree in marine biology isn’t the only way to get into this amazingly rewarding area of work.

Click here for stories from a number of successful marine conservation people who have taken different routes to get to where they are today

I’m interested in a degree in marine biology, where do I start?

For most science-based degrees a good set of GCSEs or National 4/5s are very helpful, particularly good passes in the sciences (double science as a minimum) with maths, IT and geography being beneficial.

Most universities will require A levels or Highers/Advanced Highers to study marine biology or a related degree (further information on this below).

English, Welsh and Northern Irish students

Most UK universities require A level grades to study marine biology, ranging from BCC to AAA. In most cases an A or B in biology is essential with a second science also being required. Make sure you check the university requirements as most vary in what they require for entry and what they will accept as a second science.

Some uni’s require a minimum of 3 A levels AAB (excluding general studies), specifying that one of these must be a grade B in one of the following subjects: psychology, biology/human biology, chemistry, physics, or maths/pure maths/further maths. Other courses stipulate that you must have at least a B specifically in biology.

Scottish students looking to apply to Scottish universities

The requirements are usually for Highers at grades ABBB – AAAA, usually with two of these being science subjects both at grade B. Scottish students may be able to gain direct entry to

2nd year at a university in Scotland if they have sufficient Advanced Higher results, this is dependent upon the requirements of the individual university.

Scottish students looking to study at Uni’s elsewhere in the UK

Advanced Highers are usually accepted as equal to an A level grade and so equivalent results are accepted, however, many universities also accept a mixture of Highers and Advanced Highers dependent upon application.

Which university is best for marine?

Many UK universities offer marine biology courses all of which have their own strengths, weaknesses and specialities.

If there is a particular area you are interested in check out a few different university websites and look at what the lecturers are researching. Unlike at school, universities teach you what they are interested in or what they are currently researching so looking into this can give you a great insight into what you will be learning about.

Don’t be afraid to look more broadly than marine biology courses. Widen your search and think about what you’re really interested in. If you are interested in marine mammals then a course in zoology might actually suit your interests better, or if you are interested in physics or geography, oceanography may be more up your street. There are also courses linked to marine biology like ecology, conservation science or environmental management. If you’re interested in working in natural history broadcasting - how about a course in wildlife film or photography? The possibilities are endless.

Actions you can take

Interested in marine biology?

We have some case studies from a number of successful marine conservationists.

Read more