Best Marine Biology Schools

Updated on January 3, 2024

Marine biology is the study of marine organisms and their environments. Studying this fascinating field allows students to explore the oceans and work with incredible sea creatures. For those interested in marine biology, choosing the right college is crucial. The best marine biology schools provide excellent academics along with access to the ocean and marine life. This article profiles the top 10 marine biology colleges based on factors like academics, research opportunities, facilities, and location.

University of California, Santa Barbara

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 32%

Avg SAT Score: 1325

Tuition: $14,000 (in-state), $44,000 (out-of-state)


UC Santa Barbara lies on the California coast, providing its Marine Science Institute direct access to the Pacific Ocean. Undergraduate students can earn a B.S. in Aquatic Biology or Marine Biology. At the graduate level, UC Santa Barbara offers both M.S. and Ph.D. programs in Marine Science. Facilities include a marine lab, research vessels, and the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area.

University of Miami

Location: Coral Gables, FL

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 27%

Avg SAT Score: 1390

Tuition: $52,000


The University of Miami’s marine and atmospheric science programs rank among the best in the world. Undergraduates can major in Marine Science or Marine Affairs, while the graduate school offers an M.S. and Ph.D. in Marine Biology and Fisheries. Facilities include an on-campus marina with research vessels and the nearby Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Oregon State University

Location: Corvallis, OR

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 82%

Avg SAT Score: 1170

Tuition: $11,000 (in-state), $32,000 (out-of-state)


Oregon State University provides easy access to the Pacific Ocean for its Marine Biology program. Undergraduates can major in Marine Biology while graduate students earn an M.S. or Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife. Facilities include the Hatfield Marine Science Center and OSU’s research vessel.

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Location: Honolulu, HI

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 58%

Avg SAT Score: 1215

Tuition: $11,000 (in-state), $34,000 (out-of-state)


Located on the island of Oʻahu, the University of Hawaii at Manoa boasts an ideal location for marine biology students. Undergraduates can major in Marine Biology while graduate students earn an M.S. or Ph.D. in Zoology with an emphasis on Marine Biology. Facilities include the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and research vessels.

Texas A&M University

Location: College Station, TX

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Avg SAT Score: 1260

Tuition: $11,000 (in-state), $38,000 (out-of-state)


Texas A&M offers outstanding marine biology and oceanography programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Undergraduates can major in Marine Biology or Marine Fisheries. At the graduate level, students earn an M.S. or Ph.D in Marine Biology or Oceanography. Facilities include an aquaculture facility, marine lab, and research vessel.

University of North Carolina Wilmington

Location: Wilmington, NC

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 73%

Avg SAT Score: 1140

Tuition: $7,000 (in-state), $21,000 (out-of-state)


Located near the Atlantic Ocean, UNC Wilmington provides excellent marine biology programs and facilities. Undergraduates can major in Marine Biology while graduate students earn an M.S. in Marine Science. Facilities include a marine science center, aquarium, and research vessels.

University of Rhode Island

Location: Kingston, RI

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 73%

Avg SAT Score: 1140

Tuition: $14,000 (in-state), $33,000 (out-of-state)


URI allows students to study marine life in the Northeast thanks to its ideal location near the Atlantic Ocean. Undergraduates can major in Marine Biology while graduate students earn an M.S. or Ph.D. Facilities include the Graduate School of Oceanography, research vessels, and the Narragansett Bay Campus.

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Location: Fairbanks, AK

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 72%

Avg SAT Score: 1090

Tuition: $8,000 (in-state), $25,000 (out-of-state)


Located in Alaska, the University of Alaska Fairbanks provides access to rich marine ecosystems for hands-on research. Students can earn a B.S. in Fisheries or Marine Biology, an M.S. in Marine Biology, or a Ph.D. in Marine Biology. Facilities include the SFOS Marine Center and various research vessels.

Western Washington University

Location: Bellingham, WA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 80%

Avg SAT Score: 1140

Tuition: $8,000 (in-state), $21,000 (out-of-state)


WWU’s location on the Puget Sound allows for ample marine research opportunities. Undergraduates can major in Marine Biology while graduate students earn an M.S. in Marine and Estuarine Science. Facilities include the Shannon Point Marine Center and access to vessels.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What degree do you need to be a marine biologist?

Most marine biologist positions require at least a master’s degree. Common graduate degrees include a Master of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in marine biology, biological or marine sciences. Some research positions may require a Ph.D.

How competitive is marine biology?

Marine biology is a popular, competitive field attracting many passionate students. Applicants generally need a strong academic record with coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics along with research experience. Standing out through internships, publications, presentations, and field experience is crucial.

What classes do you take for marine biology?

Typical courses include marine biology, oceanography, ecology, genetics, cell biology, microbiology, evolution, calculus, biostatistics, and more. Labs teach field research techniques. Specialized electives depend on interests like marine mammals, coral reef ecology, fisheries science, and marine conservation.

What skills are needed for marine biology?

Marine biologists need observation, critical thinking, and analysis skills to study organisms and environments. Communication skills are necessary to publish research and work collaboratively. Field skills like water sampling, species identification, and equipment operation are vital. Experience collecting data, using statistics, and computer programming is advantageous.

Can you major in marine biology as an undergrad?

Yes, many universities offer undergraduate majors in marine biology leading to a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. This four year degree provides foundational knowledge while allowing students to specialize through internships and independent research. After gaining field experience, students can pursue advanced degrees.

What entry level jobs can you get with a marine biology degree?

With a bachelor’s degree, graduates find work as biological technicians, environmental consultants, aquarium staff, wildlife rehabilitators, conservation personnel, water quality testers, and environmental policy associates. An undergraduate degree qualifies graduates for research assistant and fisheries technician jobs.

What is the highest paying job in marine biology?

The top paying marine biology career is a biological/marine scientist which conduct research to advance knowledge of living organisms. They earn an average annual salary of $74,760. Senior scientists and university professors earn upwards of $100,000 per year.

Should I get a PhD in marine biology?

Earning a PhD allows marine biologists to lead independent research projects and supervise teams more readily than those without doctorates. While a master’s degree is sufficient for some positions, getting a PhD can increase job prospects and salary potential substantially. Those interested in university research and teaching require a PhD.

How much do marine biologist make per year?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average marine biologist salary is $67,430 per year. However, pay ranges considerably based on factors like education level, specialization, years of experience, research funding, and employer type. Published university researchers earn over $100,000 annually.

What colleges have marine biology majors?

Many coastal colleges have marine biology programs due to access to oceans for fieldwork. Notable undergraduate majors include University of California Santa Barbara, University of Miami, Hawaii Pacific University, Eckerd College, University of Rhode Island, University of North Carolina Wilmington, and Savannah State University. Both liberal arts colleges and large research universities offer marine biology.

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