Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month, we explore the role of a Marine Biologist/Aquarist.

Aquarist Joe shares his insight into a career working with marine life in this video career profile from the Indigo Careers module.

So what is a Marine Biologist?

Marine biologists undertake practical research and analysis into animal and plant life in the world’s seas and oceans. As well as academic research, you could apply your skills in fisheries, research or fish-farming development.

You may undertake research trips above or below the sea’s surface and keep detailed research records. By increasing understanding of the sea, you will be able to make predictions about the effects man will have on the marine ecosystem and how it will cope with these changes.

You may provide specialist advice to organisations such as governments or environmental pressure groups.


While in the laboratory or office you will usually work normal office hours, however some projects and deadlines may require overtime.

When working on projects at sea you will probably be working longer hours. 


You will spend time in an office environment, laboratory and researching in the field. 

Operating at sea might mean you are away for long periods of time, in cramped and possibly uncomfortable conditions. You will be subject to changeable weather conditions and potentially hazardous work environments. Fieldwork may also involve being inside aquariums.

Type of work

Laboratory work will usually involve working with hazardous organic materials as well as chemicals. 

You should have a certain level of physical stamina. 

Things to consider

Stressful aspects
A lot of your research in the field will depend on the tides and weather conditions, which could slow down your progress.  

Make a difference
You will use your skills and knowledge to increase public understanding of the natural environment. 

High starting costs
Finding funding for your projects may prove problematic.  

Marine biologists in senior research positions can earn up to £90,000 a year.  

Very competitive

Competition for jobs remains high.  

Most people have a postgraduate degree and you will need previous experience/passion for the field

To enter this profession you require a degree in a relevant subject such as marine biology, marine science or oceanography. Minimum entry requirements for a degree are usually 2 A levels/3 H grades in relevant science subjects such as Biology along with 5 GCSEs/National 5s at grade C or above, or 4-9 in England, A levels/H grades in Maths, technological subjects or languages would also be beneficial.

Gaining some work experience during the summer break or by taking a gap year is essential. There are organisations such as the Earthwatch Institute, ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece and Operation Wallacea which offer various camp-based or expedition projects. The Marine Biological Association (MBA) runs Marine Science Camps in association with the Field Studies Council (FSC) for people aged 16–24, covering marine conservation, marine citizen science, rocky shore ecology, higher education and careers advice, and can be used for the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Gold Residential. A year’s Young Marine Biologist (YMB) membership or student membership of the MBA is included in the course fee. Experience with scuba diving might also prove necessary if you wish to study animals first hand.

Salary progression
Starting salaries for graduates are usually between £18,500 and £24,000, although they vary greatly depending on the employer and location of the work.

With experience, and for those with a PhD, this could rise to between £26,000 and £35,000.

The highest earning marine biologists, who are at the top of their field, can earn up to £90,000 a year.

Top Tip

It is important to keep your knowledge and skills up to date by engaging in continuing professional development (CPD) and attending conferences.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.