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15 Best Marine Biology Bachelor Degree Programs in the US

Congratulations! You’ve decided that you’d like to pursue a career in marine biology.

Perhaps you recently realized your dream of studying the ocean and its wide variety of life forms, or maybe you’ve always had a passion for marine biology. 

However your desire to study marine biology came to fruition, now it’s time to start evaluating the next steps you can take towards achieving your career ambitions by looking at some of the best marine biology programs in the United States!

The 15 Best Colleges for Marine Biology Programs

Check out our reviews of the best schools for marine biology majors to find the best higher education for your conservancy goals!

Duke University – B.S. Biology with Marine Science Concentration

duke university campus

A large private college in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University’s Marine Biology program is the class of them all.

The university offers a top-notch biology degree with a specialization in Marine biology. What makes Duke’s program particularly special, however, is that the school doesn’t view Marine biology as a separate entity from general Biology. This gives students the ability to gain as much Biology knowledge and experience as possible while also being able to specialize in Marine studies.

Some of the Marine biology courses offered at Duke include:

  • Marine Ecology
  • Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles
  • Comparative Physiology of Marine Animals
  • Sojourn in Singapore: Urban Tropical Ecology (study abroad).

Additionally, Duke requires its students to have extensive research and laboratory experience prior to graduation, so by job search time, they’ll possess both textbook and field knowledge in Marine biology.

 Boston University – BA in Marine Science

Boston University

A large private university in Boston, Massachusetts, Boston University’s Marine biology program is a great option for prospective students. 

Unlike Duke, Boston University offers a specific degree option in Marine Biology, known as the Boston University Marine Program (BUMP). The program offers extensive hands-on training in areas like marine conservation, ocean biology and exploration, and marine ecosystems. Students in this program are also required to take general Biology and Science courses to expand their breadth of knowledge.

Some of the many Marine science courses offered at Boston University include:

  • Marine Biogeochemistry
  • Dynamical Oceanography
  • Aquatic Geochemistry
  • Biology of Sharks

University partnerships with the New England Aquarium, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and University of Belize provide students with plenty of research opportunities, which comprise part of the Marine biology graduation requirements. 

Stony Brook University – B.S in Marine Sciences

 

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A mid-sized public university in Stony Brook (Long Island), New York, Stony Brook University is a renowned STEM college, but has an especially strong Marine science program. 

Like Boston University, Stony Brook’s program is focused in the Marine sciences, but has four areas of specialization within the field including Biological Oceanography, Experimental Marine Biology, Marine Pollution and Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. Students begin with basic biology, chemistry and physics courses before moving into upper division electives.

A few highlighted Marine science courses at Stony Brook University include:

  • Biological Oceanography
  • Experimental Marine Biology
  • Marine Pollution
  • Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

Stony Brook University has state of the art laboratory facilities as well as access to both the Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean coastlines, providing students with prime opportunities for hands-on training and research within the Marine sciences field. Being a public university also means Stony Brook is extremely affordable for New York State residents. 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – B.A in Biology with Minor in Marine Sciences

University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a large, public university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. UNC doesn’t have a Marine science major. Instead, it’s part of the institution’s top-ranked Biology program. 

Students at UNC-Chapel Hill who want to study Marine sciences are advised to declare a general Biology major (123 credit hours), since that’s the umbrella field that encompasses Marine biology. They can then select a Marine sciences minor that consists of a minimum of 12 credit hours.

Among the Marine science courses offered at UNC-Chapel Hill include:

  • Barrier Island Ecology and Geology
  • Modeling of Marine and Earth Systems
  • Marine Phytoplankton
  • Marine Invertebrate Biology

UNC is also home to the Institute of Marine Sciences and the Aquarium Research Center, two premier research institutions that specialize in Marine studies, giving students access to some of the best practical training in the industry. Like Stony Brook, UNC is also a public university, meaning it is very affordable for North Carolina residents. 

University of California, Los Angeles – B.S in Marine Biology

A large public university in Los Angeles, California, UCLA offers a program specializing in the study of Marine biology. 

A feature about this program that stands out is the university’s Marine Biology Quarter (MBQ), where students actively participate in Marine biology expeditions and experiments over the course of a term. This is a requirement for all prospective Marine biology students at UCLA. Students will also have to work hard in this major, with at least 134 credit hours required for graduation.

Some courses in UCLA’s Marine Biology program include:

  • Marine Biology Quarter
  • Oceanography
  • Marine Organismic Biology
  • Marine Laboratory

In addition to the MBQ, UCLA is also home to some of the top research facilities in the state of California. The university will also be cheaper for in-state students due to its public status.

Oregon State University – B.S in Biology with Marine Biology Option

OSU

Also located on the West Coast, Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon does not have a major dedicated to Marine biology like UCLA, but students may select it as a concentration within the Biology department.

A notable feature of OSU’s Marine biology option is its Hatfield Marine Science Center residency in Newport, Oregon, where students live for a term and complete courses on-site, giving them essential exposure and experience to practices within the Marine biology field. 

Some of OSU’s course offerings in Marine biology include:

  • Estuarine Ecology
  • Biological Oceanography
  • Aquatic Microbiology
  • Aquatic Biological Invasions

With a location near Portland, Oregon and the Pacific Ocean, OSU is an affordable, public university with some of the best Marine biology resources available. It’s even been named a Most Innovative School by US News and World Report.

University of New Hampshire – B.S in Marine, Estuarine and Freshwater Biology

 

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Now, that’s a title! University of New Hampshire’s Bachelor of Science program in Marine, Estuarine and Freshwater Biology at its main Durham, NH campus offers students a thorough Marine science education.

UNH doesn’t have a residency program or a quarter out to sea like OSU or UCLA, respectively, but it does offer a multitude of quality Marine biology courses and adds freshwater biology courses to the mix due to New Hampshire’s ample freshwater reserves. This makes UNH’s Marine sciences program unique in its own way.

Some of UNH’s course offerings in Marine, Estuarine and Freshwater Biology include:

  • Aquatic Plants in Restoration/Management
  • Aquatic Animal Diversity
  • Introduction to Aquatic Botany
  • Ecology and Marine Environment

If you’re looking for freshwater Marine biology, University of New Hampshire presents an affordable option as a public university. 

University of Maine – B.S in Marine Sciences

university of maine

The University of Maine’s Marine Sciences program has a more mundane name, but it’s still quite effective at delivering quality education within the Marine sciences field thanks to its specific Bachelors of Science in Marine Sciences degree.

Located in Augusta, Maine, the university’s Marine sciences program offers students access to a range of aquatic habitats, but it specializes in marine ecology. UM also offers a Semester by the Sea program, similar to those offered at OSU and UCLA, where students conduct research at Darling Marine Center in Walpole, ME, owned by the university.

Some of UM’s Marine science courses include:

  • Invertebrate Zoology
  • Marine Ecology
  • Coral Reefs
  • Marine Biogeochemistry

If you’re looking for a hands-on Marine sciences experience at a university on the East coast of the United States, UM presents an affordable option as a public university with resources that rival those of others on this list.

California State University, Long Beach – B.S in Marine Biology

 

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The California State University system is the largest public university system in the United States, so why not travel out west and take part in one of the largest Marine biology programs in the country as well?

Students in CSULB’s Marine Biology program can take advantage of a prime Pacific coast location as well as a variety of interesting courses and even a field study opportunity on Santa Catalina Island just off the coast of Los Angeles.

Among the courses offered within CSULB’s marine biology program include:

  • Fish Physiology
  • Aquatic Toxicology
  • Tropical Marine Ecology
  • Marine Microorganisms

CSULB is a great place to study marine biology while also taking advantage of the large university system’s extensive access to research and facilities across the state of California. It’s a public university as well, meaning it can serve as a cost-effective solution for California residents.

University of New England – B.S in Marine Sciences/4+1 M.S Program

UNE

No other college on this list might have as many options to pursue within the marine science field as the University of New England, a private college located in Biddeford, Maine.

Students at UNE can choose from a variety of marine science concentrations, including a standard B.S in Marine Sciences, a 4+1 Masters program in Marine Sciences, B.A in Marine Law, B.S in Marine Entrepreneurship, B.A in Marine Entrepreneurship and many more!

Some of the many courses in Marine sciences at UNE are:

  • Marine Biology
  • Biology of Sharks, Skates and Rays
  • Marine Conservation
  • Experimental Animal Physiology

The possibilities are endless at University of New England and specifically in their Marine sciences program. If you are interested in Marine studies but don’t know what specific area you’d like to investigate, UNE could be a great place to find your niche.

University of Washington – B.S in Marine Biology

university of washington

Another premier public institution on the West Coast, the University of Washington in the City of Seattle offers an immersive degree program in Marine Biology.

Field study is highly recommended as part of a student’s degree program in the UW Marine Biology department, most easily completed at the university’s Friday Harbor facility on the San Juan Islands just off the coast of Washington State. Students in this program will need to work hard, as they’ll need 180 quarter credits to graduate.

Courses offered in UW’s Marine Biology program include:

  • Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of Marine Organisms
  • Marine Botany
  • Integrative Oceans
  • Hydrothermal Systems

Students looking for a wide range of research and fieldwork opportunities should definitely consider the University of Washington’s Marine biology program. As a public university, it is especially affordable for Washington state residents.

Eckerd College – B.S in Marine Science

Eckerd College

If you want a truly unique Marine science experience while partaking in your undergraduate studies, Eckerd College’s B.S in Marine Sciences offers just that.

Located in the Tampa Bay, Florida area, Eckerd takes advantage of that prime sea location by offering classes on the water or even on University-owned boats! Eckerd also offers many research opportunities such as a Dolphin Project or on a study abroad program on the Bermuda Islands. Yeah, that’s pretty special.

Of course, Eckerd College also offers traditional classes in Marine sciences:

  • Marine Biology
  • Marine Geology
  • Coastal Geology 

If you’re looking to do a lot of international fieldwork with your Marine Sciences degree, Eckerd College can pave the way for you. As a private college, it’ll be more costly than some of the other listed options, but the opportunities afforded to Eckerd’s students could very well be worth the price tag.

California State University, Monterey Bay – B.S in Marine Biology

Looking to study Marine Biology in California but prefer to be closer to the Bay Area? Look no further than California State University, Monterey Bay’s B.S in Marine Biology degree offering.

Part of the large CSU public university system, Monterey Bay has access to some of most extensive resources available in the industry, including field study opportunities at their Moss Landing Marine Lab or at the Monterey Bay Aquarium nearby the campus.

Some of the courses offered at CSUMB for Marine Biology include:

  • Small Boat Field Techniques
  • Marine Fish Ecology
  • Robotics for Ecological Research
  • Management in the Marine Environment

The pristine location along the Pacific Ocean and plethora of research opportunities make CSUMB a quality, affordable place to study Marine Biology.

University of Hawaii at Hilo – B.A/B.S in Marine Science

From a geographical standpoint, what better place to study Marine science than on an island (or chain of islands) than Hawaii? The University of Hawaii at Hilo provides just that opportunity. 

Located on the Island of Hawaii in the City of Hilo, this public university offers both a B.A and a B.S in Marine Sciences, which is definitely rare among other universities on this list. Students can take scuba diving expeditions and vessel trips for fieldwork experience and research opportunities.

Hilo offers some of the following courses in Marine Sciences:

  • Marine Debris in the Pacific
  • Biological Oceanography
  • Techniques in Marine Monitoring
  • Marine Organisms

The University of Hawaii at Hilo may not have the name recognition of other institutions even within its own state, but the Marine Sciences program is just as good as any other on this list.

University of Tampa – B.S in Marine Science BiologyUTampa

Last but certainly not least on this list of top 15 schools for Marine Biology is the University of Tampa, located in Florida. 

Sharing an advantageous bay location with Eckerd College, University of Tampa offers much in the way of experiential learning, including an opportunity to study at the university’s Marine Science Field Station nearby the campus. Of course, traditional learning is also an option for students in this program.

Courses offered by University of Tampa in Marine Science Biology include:

  • Physical Oceanography
  • Marine Botany
  • Introduction to Marine Science
  • General Chemistry

Most of the University of Tampa’s faculty in the Biology Department actually devote their studies to Marine life, rendering the school’s biology sector an extension, effectively, of the Marine Science Biology program. This is a unique circumstance compared to other schools on this list, making University of Tampa a fine choice to round out this list in Marine Biology programs.

Final Thoughts

A Marine Biology degree can land you a variety of different science-related jobs, opportunities to travel and chances to conduct research on marine organisms and their relationship to bodies of water.

 Pursuing a job in the Marine Biology field is also a smart financial decision, as median salaries for Marine biologists come close to $75,000 a year, and in many cases, even more than that as you advance within the industry.

If Marine Biology sounds like the right career path for you, apply to one of these 15 schools and get started today!

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