What’s It Like Being A Marine Biology Student?
Here is a question I receive often! And the answer?
I won’t sugar coat it; getting a degree in any sort of science is difficult, and marine biology is no exception. For me, the most challenging aspects of this degree is the math and chemistry courses. I have never been math savvy, and I’m convinced chemistry was sent to me straight from my own personal hell (looking at you, organic chemistry). A degree in marine biology is typically very heavy in these kinds of courses, and even though I may not like them, they actually are important in building your foundation of knowledge of the natural world. If you want to understand how a whale migrates across entire oceans or what causes sea cucumbers to spit their guts out their rear end when frightened, you must have that basic knowledge of math and chemistry.
Typically, you will spend your first two years of your degree taking classes that have nothing to do with marine biology! It sucks, I know, but most universities require that everyone take a certain number of general education classes, regardless of your degree. For example, I’ve had to take courses in english, history, philosophy, sociology, and psychology in order to fulfill these requirements.
I am now a junior, so most of my courses are related solely to marine science and/or biology in general. I’ve taken courses in animal physiology, invertebrate zoology, marine ornithology/herpetology, genetics, vertebrate zoology, ecology, ect. These courses are also challenging in their own way, but I find them very interesting and I’ve learned a lot.
If I had one piece of advice to any new marine biology students out there, it would be this: get as much hands-on, in the field experience as you possibly can before you graduate. Experience is vital when it comes to being able to get jobs later on. You can have a shiny new bachelor’s degree with a 4.0 GPA, but if you have no experience of any kind, you’ll likely be passed over in favor of somebody who does when it comes to jobs. A great way to get experience while you’re in college is to approach professors whose interests are similar to yours. Ask them if they need any help around their lab, or if they’re in need of an assistant for their next project.
Overall, a degree in marine biology can be difficult, especially if you’re not great at math or chemistry, but if it is truly your passion, it is absolutely worth all of the hard work.