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What Is the Average Income for Marine Biology Majors?

by Rick Suttle

Marine biology is a branch of science that falls under the broader category of wildlife biology, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who study or major in it usually become marine biologists, studying the genetics, diseases, behavior and life processes of marine animals: marine mammals like whales, seals and dolphins, fish and sharks and other creatures that live in the sea. As a marine biologist, you may work as a field researcher, aquarium assistant, environmental consultant or college professor. You can expect to earn a salary averaging above $60,000 annually.

Salary and Qualifications

A marine biologist earned an average annual salary of $62,500 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent made over $95,430 per year. To become a marine biologist, you'll need the minimum of a bachelor's degree in marine or wildlife biology. If you plan to become a college professor, you'll need a Ph.D. in marine biology. Employers may also prefer that you have one or more years of industry experience before they hire you. Other key requirements include observation, critical thinking, interpersonal, problem-solving, communication and computer skills.

Salary by Industry

A marine biologist's salary can vary somewhat by industry. These scientists earned some of the highest salaries of $78,540 working for the federal government, according to 2012 BLS data, either as researchers or caretakers in national zoos -- the Smithsonian's National Zoo, for example. Those employed in the scientific research and development services industry also earned above-average salaries of $66,340 annually. If you worked as a marine biologist at a local government agency or zoo, you'd earn $62,110 per year. In a college or university, you'd make $61,330.

Salary by State

Marine biologists' salaries were highest in Washington, D.C., at $102,980 per year, according to the BLS. Those in Maryland, Connecticut and New Jersey also earned relatively high salaries of $97,870, $88,550 and $80,170 per year. If you were a marine biologist in California or Oregon, you'd make $69,300 or $65,620, respectively. In Montana or Florida, you'd earn a bit less -- $58,690 or $52,220, respectively.

Job Outlook

The BLS only predicts a 7-percent increase in jobs for zoologists and wildlife biologists, including marine biologists, through 2020, half the growth rate for all occupations combined. More marine biologists may study the effects of human population increases and environmental degradation on various marine species. You may also consider living on the East, West or Gulf coasts if you prefer researching marine animals in their natural habitat.

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