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Careers in Sea Mammal Fields

by Stephanie Dube Dwilson

Working with sea mammals can be a very fulfilling career. Each day, you're aware of interacting with a creature you would never get to be with in a "normal" life. The job opportunities for someone who wants to work with marine mammals are numerous. If you're interested in developing a career focused on sea mammals, including seals, dolphins, porpoises, whales, manatees, otters, walruses or polar bears -- yes, polar bears are considered marine mammals -- start your journey by getting a bachelor's degree in marine science or a similar field. A master's degree, however, will help you find better-paying jobs and more opportunities.

Education

Sea mammals are fascinating animals that live in a world very different from our land-based one. Educating others about these creatures is a field you might consider if you want to work with sea mammals. For example, as a professor you could teach college students about the intricate lives of these animals. As a high school teacher, you could take your students on field trips to a local aquarium where many of these animals are featured. Another possibility is being a sea mammal trainer. You get to work with whales and dolphins and other sea animals by helping them interact with people, teaching them to perform in shows at animal theme parks, and sharing your expertise with park visitors. Training is done through conditioning exercises involving mental stimulation, exercise and encouragement.

Conservation and Policy

Some sea mammals are endangered, and if you're a person who's passionate about helping them survive, you would find many opportunities for service. Organizations focused on endangered animals, zoos, federal agencies, and even universities hire people whose prime focus is saving endangered species. Or, you might want to work with legal policies, helping pass laws that protect endangered sea mammals. For example, you could be a lawyer who specializes in animal conservation or, if you're planning on going into politics, your platform might involve saving endangered sea mammals. Finally, commercial fishing entities and oil drilling companies hire conservationists to make sure their operations aren't endangering any sea animals.

Research

If you are a scientist at heart, and love observing animals and finding new discoveries about them in their natural habitats, you might be interested in being a zoologist or a biologist. As a whale biologist, for example, you could study whales to find out more about how they communicate with one another and details about their intelligence. This type of research won't always be glamorous -- it might involve observing animals in rainy, uncomfortable weather or spending hours writing about your research findings for peer-reviewed journals. But if you are fascinated by a particular species, this could be the right job for you. Many biologists work for universities and also teach, or work for scientific or marine animal-focused organizations.

Health

If your interest is in sea mammal health, you're a good fit for a marine veterinarian career. These veterinarians rehabilitate hurt mammals, like dolphins who get injured when caught in fishing lines, and care for orphaned animals. Your expertise would be needed at zoos, wildlife organizations and animal theme parks across the country. If an animal is sick, you'll identify the cause and administer the right medicine, nursing him back to health. If you want to help animals be healthy but don't want to spend quite so many years in school, be a veterinarian assistant. You'll most likely need a bachelor's degree and, in some states, to be certified.

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