A marine scientist carries out scientific research and study on all aspects of the marine environment. This covers oceans, plant and animal life forms, their habitats, and various coastal and marine ecosystems and topographies.
The work undertaken by a marine scientist is applied in the areas of environmental protection, geology, hydrography, food production, medical research, and the protection of rare species.
Marine scientists are employed by governmental departments, regulatory agencies, commercial enterprises in shipping, fisheries, oil and gas industries, military and defence organisations, research institutes and academic institutions.
A marine scientist’s work is carried out in the field, on terrestrial and floating laboratories (marine vessels and platforms) or in an office setting, depending upon the chosen specialism and place of employment.
Salary & benefits
Entry level salaries for graduate and postgraduate degree holders are in the range of £17,000 and £25,000. Scientists with PhDs and up to ten years of work experience can earn salaries between £25,000 and £35,000, and senior scientists with more than ten years’ experience receive salaries between £35,000 and £60,000.
Marine scientists employed in the shipping, energy, food and pharmaceutical industries earn higher salaries in comparison to those in public sector jobs.
Some scientists are engaged in full-time research work on the basis of grants and funds from private and public sources, and their work is usually time-bound and contract-based.
Marine scientists, especially those exclusively engaged in offshore and field research, do not work on a fixed schedule. Rather, their work is dependent on the subject of research and is mostly carried out in adverse weather conditions and environments.
All marine scientists, irrespective of specialism or industry, are required to travel frequently for fieldwork, as well as for professional events such as conferences and seminars, across the globe.
Scientists employed in governmental and regulatory bodies may work on a more regular schedule.
A graduate or higher degree in biology, chemistry, environmental science, geology, and other relevant disciplines is the minimum requirement to become a marine scientist.
While a bachelor’s degree is acceptable, most employers prefer candidates with postgraduate or doctoral degrees, a substantial component of which should be practical or field-based experience.
Strong analytical and reasoning abilities, technical competencies in marine specialist software, as well as practical skills such as diving, working underwater, handling marine vessels and other transports, first aid, and the resilience to live and work in extreme and hazardous environments are other essential requirements.
Training & progression
Theoretical and practical training is mainly gained ‘on-the-job’, and includes subject-matter expertise (SME), technical, practical and personal management skills.
This can include (but is not limited to): marine laws, health and safety, first-aid and basic medical knowledge, emergency planning and handling, crewing and handling sea-going vessels and floating labs, using marine and underwater equipment, working in pressurised conditions, scuba and deep-sea diving, GIS (geographic information system), seismic and acoustic systems (for example, SONAR), risk assessments and teamwork.
Specialist expertise can be gained through completing advanced professional courses offered by the Marine Biological Association (MBA) and other similar professional bodies.
Career growth and promotion is dependent on the type of employer. For instance, marine scientists in government jobs are subject to civil service rules, while private sector professionals are appraised on performance and experience.
Those employed in academia are reviewed against the relevant institution’s policies on tenure, fellowships and funding of research and teaching work.