Marine biology is an exciting field that focuses on biological life in the ocean. From microscopic algae to the 200-ton blue whale, marine biologists are concerned with all matters of oceanic matter. Colleges and universities offer several degree types in marine biology that lead to careers in the industry. Pursuing a marine biology degree requires investing time that will ultimately pay off by giving the student a wealth of knowledge in oceanic life.

Associate Degree

An associate degree may be offered through four-year colleges and universities, but the degree is more commonly a part of the community and junior college curriculum. An associate degree in marine biology normally takes two years to complete and is a popular program for students to take who plan on transferring to a four-year college to pursue a bachelor's degree. For example, Daytona State College's website informs students that the associate degree in marine biology has been designed to prepare students for transfer to universities offering higher degree programs.

Bachelor's Degree

A Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology takes four years of education. A B.S. teaches students the biological principles and skills needed to master labs, exams and classroom and field courses within the marine biology core curriculum. A typical B.S. requires four years. University of Alaska Southeast offers a B.S. in marine biology that teaches core courses like conservative biology, marine mammalogy, psychology of marine animals, introduction of ichthyology and marine ecology. General education classes like calculus and biology, as well as field study projects and research, are also part of the curriculum.

Master's Degree

A Master of Science in marine biology can take one or even two to three years depending on the university and its curriculum. Some M.S. degree programs require one grand research project with a thesis and no classes, while others require a thesis and additional courses -- a heavier curriculum that takes more time to complete. Nova Southeastern University's M.S. in marine biology requires two to three years of dedication and includes courses like marine chemistry and biostatistics. Students also take specialized courses like coral reproduction, Alaska coastal ecology and biology of sharks and rays.


A Ph.D. in marine biology typically takes three to four years to complete and focuses on research that leads to the publication of an original work. University of North Carolina - Wilmington's Ph.D. program in marine biology engages graduate students in advanced training that will lead to developing a research plan based on an original thesis. Students will spend years testing and developing their theories under the mentorship of one or more faculty members while writing their papers. Upon completion of the research thesis, each student must defend the work before a panel before the degree can be awarded.