The 10 Best Marine Biology Colleges in the US

More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and of this water, more than 96 percent is held by oceans. These statistics certainly shed some light on why the field of marine biology is incredibly important. What happens amongst animals, plants, organisms, and ecosystems under the sea can have a drastic effect on the entire planet, including human beings.

Today, students who graduate from a marine biology program are greatly in-demand. Many go on to enter enriching professional careers after their studies, working as environmental consultants, marine engineers, research scientists, policy advisors, and much more. For those who prefer the classroom, graduate and PhD opportunities abound for marine biology students eager to continue exploring the academic field.

Choosing the right university to study marine biology can give students the scholastic foundation and field experience they need to kick-start a promising career. Here are the 10 best colleges in the U.S. to study marine biology.

10. University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL)

University of Miami
Chad Cooper, Main Gate University of Miami, CC BY 2.0

Located just a few miles from the shores of southern Florida, the University of Miami’s Department of Marine Biology and Ecology gives passionate students the classroom education and hands-on training they need to become experts in the most important issues facing the world’s oceans today.

Undergraduates in the Marine Biology and Ecology track have a huge choice of degree programs, including Geological Sciences, Marine Affairs, Oceanography, and Marine Science. Students can elect a focus based on research interest or consider what’s most relevant to their intended future career: in the past, graduates of the University of Miami program have gone on to prestigious positions in conservation, environmental policy and law, business, and much more. 

For post-grad students, the university offers a Master of Professional Science with degree tracks in Marine Mammal Science, and Tropical Marine Ecosystem Management.

9. Boston University (Boston, MA)

Boston University
Brian Chang-Yun Hsu, Marsh Chapel, CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the top private research universities anywhere in the country, Boston University offers inspiring coursework and exciting opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to pursue cutting-edge research in the field of marine biology.

The program emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach: bringing together faculty and resources from Boston University’s Department of Biology and its Department of Earth & Environment, so that students can get involved in a wide range of marine biology topic areas such as evolution, ecology, and conservation science. 

Moreover, hands-on research areas cover a number of critical ocean issues like climate change and overfishing. During their time at Boston University, students can continually benefit from the school’s ties with local organizations in the greater Boston area including the New England Aquarium.

8. Samford University (Birmingham, AL)

Samford University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Attracting science students from across the country with its small classes, one-to-one faculty attention, and emphasis on real-world experience, the marine science bachelor’s program at Samford University gives students the foundation they need to excel in the marine biology field.

A key feature of Samford’s marine biology program is the required semester students spend working at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. 

Located off the coast of Alabama in Mobile Bay, it is the state’s primary center for marine research and education. During their time at the lab, students benefit from the mentorship of lab faculty and the chance to conduct up-close marine field research: an unparalleled experience that can benefit students immensely when it’s time to to apply for grad school or head out into the workforce. 

7. University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)

b r e n t, Janss Steps, Royce Hall in Background, UCLA, CC BY 2.0

Students interested in marine animals and their environment will find a thriving marine biology program at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Coming under the college’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the marine biology major introduces students to a robust life sciences core curriculum, along with research projects that get students out of the classroom and amongst the sea life they are studying. 

A favorite for students is the Marine Biology Quarter (MBQ) in which undergrads experience what life is really like for a marine biologist. During this hands-on time for experimentation and data collection, students will interact with not only expert science faculty members, but also a cadre of sharks, clownfish, dolphins, pufferfish, and all sorts of other non-matriculating marine visitors to their vibrant classroom-at-sea.

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