Oceans of Opportunity in Marine Science

If you love water and have a keen aptitude for science, studying marine science just might be for you. Imagine learning to research the effect of weather trends on the ocean, or finding out how to develop new forms of medicine from marine plant life.

According to Bernie Brockerville, a placement officer at a marine institute, the field of marine science offers students coming out of various marine-related programs an almost 100 percent placement rate.

What is Marine Science?

Marine science is the general term used for any research conducted in relation to the ocean and the coastal or inland waters connected to the oceans. The field of marine science is made up of many different disciplines, including physics, geology, physical oceanography, archeology, anthropology, engineering and numerous high-tech jobs.

No matter what your particular interest is, if you love the ocean, marine science will probably have an area that will interest you. Are you curious about the healing effect of ocean plant life? Would you like to dive to the bottom of the sea to study deep-sea archeology? Or are you interested in managing a fish farm and producing alternative resources of food?

These are just a few of the fascinating jobs that fall under the heading of marine science.

Marine scientists can be found working for universities or colleges, government agencies and public or privately run laboratories. Salaries for scientists in the field reflect the level of education and experience a person brings to the job.

According to placement experts and guidance counselors, the starting salary for someone with a diploma in any of the general marine science fields is about $35,000.

There is, however, an increasing demand for highly specialized scientists in the areas of marine technology and engineering, as well as the study of coastal oceanography.

Marine Technology and Engineering

The Marine Institute has several scientific and technical programs in the areas of seafood processing and aquaculture. They also offer a number of programs in marine engineering technology. This is a field that will allow someone graduating from it to find work on board a ship as a fourth class engineer.

According to Bernie Brockerville, "In our nautical science programs, many of the young people graduating begin their careers as first or second mates on ships -- and some even start out working as deckhands!"

Medicine and the Ocean

For years we have taken the oceans for granted, dumping chemicals, pollution and other environmental wastes into it. Today, however, science is tapping the vast secrets of the ocean in an attempt to unlock the secrets of global warming, and to explore innovative new markets for marine and plant life that can help to fight diseases such as leukemia, HIV and cancer.

High-tech industries and pharmaceutical companies who are developing new medicines and products are only just beginning to realize the vast untapped potential of the ocean. The oceans contain a rich array of plant and animal life that can be utilized for health purposes.

Coastal Oceanography

Seventy-one percent of Earth is made up of ocean waters and almost three-quarters of the world's population live in coastal regions. The possibilities for interesting and meaningful work in a marine-related field are endless. The ocean is still one of the last great undiscovered mysteries on our planet. As land resources become scarcer, the ocean may hold the key to future food sources for humans and animals.

The study of coastal oceanography involves the study of the effects of pollution on coastal erosion as well as marine geology, geography and management of the coastal areas.

According to Annette Steel, who works at a marine research station, one of the most important things for students considering a career in marine science is to get hands-on experience. They should also look into summer programs or check out the federal student employment programs that help students seeking work in the field to get hands-on experience.

Why is there such a terrific interest in marine science and the study of the ocean? According to Emily Speight of the Marine Technology Society in Washington, District of Columbia, it can be partly explained by our increased environmental awareness, which has been heightened by the El Nino effect and global warming.

"Young people today seem more aware about the environment and in my 18 years at the society, I would say the last few years have been the busiest," says Speight.

For any marine science-related careers, it is a good idea to take as many science and math courses as possible, including biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, and fish biology. A good university program will help students get a work placement so that they will get both classroom experience and hands-on work in the field.

If you are thinking about a career in marine science, remember to check out your local aquariums and zoos for summer or volunteer work, as well as the federal department of fisheries, the state fish and wildlife branches and the many wildlife rescue centers located throughout the country.

Oh, and remember it also helps to love the water. Most marine scientists also have their scuba diving certificate. Remember that it is important to get your feet wet, so to speak, and get as much hands-on experience as possible.