Since I was 6 I wanted to become a marine biologist. From computer coding to field-work and policy-making, there are so many aspects to this career and every step of the way I have absolutely loved it. So, in this competitive field, how can you succeed? Here is my advice…
1. Get the right qualifications.
To become a Marine Biologist you’re going to need the correct qualifications, and this often means going to University. Study either a BSc in Marine Biology directly or in a related field; for example, I did my degree in Biological Sciences at a university that I knew offered marine modules.
The advantage of doing a Biology, rather than a Marine Biology, degree for me was that it didn’t limit what I was learning. I was able to gain skills in many different fields: bioinformatics, biochemistry, physics etc., all of which I still use today! This also enabled me to discover which aspect of biology I enjoyed the most, and incorporate them into my research.
Visit universities, speak to researchers there and find what suits you best. It’s not just about league tables- make sure you know the universities ethos towards marine research and know the module choices- they have to suit your career path!
If you want to go directly into research or field-work, I’d also highly recommend gaining PADI diving qualifications- this is something many organisations require. Many NGOs, charities and other conservation organisations are big on outreach programs; if you can show you have had experience in science education or even gain qualifications this will also put you in good stead!
2. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer!
Gaining experience in marine biology outside of your university career is really important. Many of these experiences can be paid internships or jobs, but volunteering really shows your dedication and passion!
There are some awesome organisations out there that offer volunteering opportunities; often you have to pay for ones abroad, the money of which goes towards the organisations work. Fundraising is a lot of fun and can help you afford these experiences, it also shows good organisation skills! If this is out of your budget, however, contact your local wildlife centre, other academics or even schools if you’re passionate about education! Just Google, Google, Google…
Check out some sites:
3. Diversity is key.
As a marine biologist, I get the pleasure of working with people from all over the globe, which enables me to share ideas and new perspectives, speak about conservation with other passionate people and make new contacts. Showing that you have a desire to open your mind to people from all over the world and collaborate is really important; protecting our environment is, after all, a global issue!
4. You have to enjoy it!
The word passion is probably overused, even in this blog post. But you have to have to love your research and be able to communicate that to the rest of the world in order to make a difference. After all, marine biology is often a labour of love. In a world where conservation and protecting our environment faces political, social and economic challenges, passion and dedication will keep you going. And, if it’s there, employers and colleagues will see it too!
5. Just ask.
This is probably the biggest piece of advice I can give an aspiring scientist, in any field. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t actively asked people for opportunities and advice.
If you want to join an organisation, ask them how you can get involved- highlight the skills you have that you think would be useful to them.
If you see your dream job advertised, ask the organisation what they look for in candidates and work towards it.
If you love an academic’s research and want to do a project (undergraduate dissertation, postgraduate research) with them, send them an e-mail. Trust me, it says a lot to an academic that you have approached them with a passion for their work- they will also share your enthusiasm!
Be innovative with your ideas too; if you approach someone directly make sure you’ve done your reading and have at least a basic knowledge of their field- they’re much more likely to take you on!
And remember: you won’t always get a reply, but keep showing your dedication and don’t give up!