Top 20 Best Colleges for Marine Biology

Best colleges for marine biology
May 8, 2024
7 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/8/24

Embarking on a journey to explore the mysteries of the ocean starts with a solid education from the best colleges for marine biology. 

The United States is home to some of the best marine biology programs, offering students a unique blend of coursework, research opportunities, and hands-on experience to prepare them for careers in marine science. This article delves into these institutions, spotlighting what sets each program apart, so you can choose one that aligns perfectly with your interests and career goals. 

Whether drawn to the study of marine life, conservation, or the vast unknowns of oceanography, these colleges offer pathways to meaningful careers focused on understanding and safeguarding our oceanic world. Let’s get started!

Best Schools That Offer Marine Biology Degrees in the USA

Here’s our list of the country’s best schools for marine biology. The following table details key information, including their locations, acceptance rates, and tuition fees.

College Location Acceptance Rate Tuition Fee Marine Biology Courses
University of Washington Seattle, WA 56% $12,076 (WA residents), $39,881 (non-residents) Marine Invertebrate Diversity, Marine Ecology, Marine Evolutionary Biology
Brown University Providence, RI 8% $61,950 Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Biology of Fishes
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL 76% $33,300 Marine Mammals of the Salish Sea, Marine Ecology of the Salish Sea, Marine Zoology
Duke University Durham, NC 8% $61,593 Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Fisheries Ecology
University of Miami Coral Gables, FL 33% $55,360 Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Biology of Fishes
University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 14% $13,900 (CA residents), $43,992 (non-residents) Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Integrative Environmental Physiology
Northeastern University Boston, MA 20% $58,522 Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Conservation Genetics
Florida International University Miami, FL 58% $17,959 (FL residents), $37,159 (non-residents) Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Marine Pollution
Auburn University Auburn, AL 85% $31,000 Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Fisheries Management
Syracuse University Syracuse, NY 69% $57,720 Marine Biology, Fisheries Ecology, Conservation Genetics
University of Oregon Eugene, OR 83% $12,120 (OR residents), $39,264 (non-residents) Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Fisheries Management
Rollins College Winter Park, FL 61% $57,000 Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Fisheries Management
University of California, Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA 37% $13,900 (CA residents), $43,992 (non-residents) Marine Biology, Marine Ecology, Integrative Environmental Physiology
Samford University Birmingham, AL 84% $41,500 Marine Biology, Fisheries Management, Conservation Genetics
University of California, Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA 65% $13,900 (CA residents), $43,992 (non-residents) Marine Biology, Fisheries Ecology, Conservation Genetics
Boston University Boston, MA 20% $61,050 Marine Biology, Fisheries Management, Conservation Genetics
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 5% Not specified Marine Biology, Fisheries Ecology, Conservation Genetics
Eckerd College Saint Petersburg, FL 69% Not specified Marine Biology, Fisheries Management
University of South Carolina Columbia, SC 68% Not specified Marine Biology
Florida Southern College Lakeland, FL 50% Not specified (Courses not listed)

1. University of Washington

Renowned for its deep dive into marine biodiversity, organismal processes, and conservation, the University of Washington stands out with its integrative field experiences, notably at Friday Harbor Labs. These hands-on experiences allow students to immerse themselves in marine research, translating theoretical knowledge into impactful scientific inquiry. 

The university's marine biology curriculum is designed to offer a holistic understanding of marine ecosystems, encouraging students to tackle contemporary environmental challenges. Additionally, students have access to a wide range of marine organisms and ecosystems due to the university's unique geographic location, enhancing their learning and research opportunities.

2. Brown University

With its marine biology track, Brown University facilitates field research for its students through a notable partnership with the Marine Biological Laboratory. This collaboration not only broadens the educational scope with advanced studies in biomedicine and environmental science but also integrates students into a dynamic research community. 

Students at Brown have the unique opportunity to work on groundbreaking projects, from studying marine organism genetics to addressing climate change impacts on marine ecosystems. Furthermore, this program prepares students for diverse career paths in marine science, from research and conservation to policy and education.

3. Nova Southeastern University

Distinguished for its focus on uncharted marine environments, Nova Southeastern University features the Oceanographic Campus, which offers students direct access to marine life and ecosystems. This facility supports a wide range of specialized research in zoology, sharks, and coral communities, among others, utilizing state-of-the-art technology and methodologies. 

The university encourages students to participate in ongoing research projects, contributing to significant discoveries in marine science. Beyond the campus, students can engage in fieldwork and internships that broaden their practical skills and global understanding of marine biology.

4. Duke University

Duke University's biology department allows majors to focus on marine biology through courses held at the esteemed Duke University Marine Laboratory. This specialized concentration is complemented by interdisciplinary studies available through the Marine Science & Conservation major or minor, equipping students with a broad skill set for environmental careers. 

The marine lab offers a unique setting for study and research on coastal and oceanic environments, fostering a deep connection with the sea. Duke students also benefit from international fieldwork opportunities, further enhancing their global perspective and professional network in marine sciences.

5. University of Miami

The University of Miami is celebrated for its rigorous Marine Biology & Ecology (BSMAS) degree, which provides a robust foundation in biology coupled with practical research experiences in areas like biomedicine and ecology. Emphasizing quantitative skills, this program involves students in diverse research projects, from coral reef conservation to genomic studies of marine species. 

The university's proximity to diverse marine ecosystems offers unparalleled opportunities for field studies, while partnerships with marine research organizations expand students' professional horizons. This comprehensive approach ensures graduates are well-prepared for careers in research, conservation, and beyond, equipped with both theoretical knowledge and practical expertise.

6. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

The Marine Biology major at UCLA is distinctive for its Marine Biology Quarter (MBQ), where students are immersed in marine biology research, fostering the development of independent research projects. 

This opportunity not only enhances students' research skills but also opens the door to publication in prestigious journals, underlining the program’s commitment to academic excellence and real-world impact.

7. Northeastern University

The Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at Northeastern University addresses the urgent issue of climate change through hands-on learning at the Marine Science Center in Nahant, Mass. 

The comprehensive Three Seas Program further distinguishes this curriculum by offering global study and research experiences, including in the diverse ecosystems of the Gulf of Maine, tropical coastal Panama, and the Pacific Northwest, preparing students for global marine biology challenges.

8. Florida International University (FIU)

FIU’s Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology program lays a strong foundation across marine biology disciplines, enriched by the option for students to pursue Honors through original research projects. These projects, mentored by faculty, culminate in a thesis presentation, demonstrating the program’s dedication to student development and contribution to the marine biology field.

9. Auburn University

Auburn University’s Marine Biology major is structured around core biological concepts and elective courses, with mandatory participation in summer courses at marine labs to foster real-world skills. This approach not only facilitates internships and research but also aims to produce graduates ready for the diverse challenges and opportunities in marine biology and related fields.

10. Syracuse University

Syracuse University allows students to specialize in marine biology within the biology major, providing access to advanced research opportunities and internships. The standout Marine Ecology of the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa course offers unique insights through field trips, promoting a comparative understanding of marine ecosystems across continents.

11. University of Oregon

The University of Oregon’s Marine Biology degree is distinctive for its emphasis on field-based learning, particularly at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB). The availability of study abroad programs, like the Tropical Marine Biology course in Panama, further enriches students' education, broadening their perspective on global marine issues.

12. Rollins College

Leveraging its Florida locale, Rollins College offers intensive hands-on laboratory and field research opportunities in marine biology. The addition of the Student-Faculty Collaborative Program enhances this educational experience by fostering mentorship and research collaboration, preparing students for meaningful careers in marine sciences.

13. University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

UCSB stands out for its aquatic biology undergraduate major, integrating coursework with practical laboratory and field experience. Situated near the Pacific Ocean, UCSB leverages its location and the resources of the Marine Science Institute to lead in oceanographic research, offering students unparalleled access to marine study and research opportunities.

14. Samford University

Samford University’s BS in marine science emphasizes practical training in marine biology through coursework, field studies, and laboratory research. The program is particularly noted for its summer experiences at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, where students gain firsthand insight into marine science, enhancing their readiness for professional roles in the field.

15. University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz)

The marine biology major at UC Santa Cruz is grounded in fundamental principles essential for understanding marine life. The program’s location and the Coastal Biology Building provide a hub for extensive research and experiential learning, including collaborative field programs and partnerships with marine-focused organizations, equipping students with comprehensive knowledge and practical skills.

16. Boston University

The BA in Marine Science program at Boston University is characterized by its interdisciplinary approach and the unique Marine Semester, which immerses students in research-based study across various marine settings. This curriculum not only broadens students’ understanding of oceanography but also actively involves them in research, preparing them for impactful careers in marine science and conservation.

17. Harvard University

Harvard University's Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology delivers an exceptional Integrative Biology concentration, featuring a pathway dedicated to Marine Biology & Biological Oceanography. This advanced program immerses students in a variety of experiential learning opportunities, notably including expeditions to the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro for hands-on study of marine ecosystems. 

Students benefit from Harvard's extensive resources and research opportunities, enabling them to conduct significant scientific investigations into the complexities of marine life and its preservation. Through collaborations with leading marine scientists and institutions worldwide, participants are well-prepared to make impactful contributions to marine biology and environmental conservation.

18. Eckerd College

At Eckerd College, the Marine Science program is distinguished by its commitment to providing students with personal attention throughout their academic journey, especially during coursework and fieldwork. The program's flagship "Scientist at Sea" initiative and the Eckerd College Dolphin Project stand out, encouraging students to develop and lead their own research projects in real-world marine environments. 

Eckerd's strategic location near rich marine ecosystems enhances this hands-on experience, offering students unparalleled opportunities to study marine biodiversity directly. Furthermore, the college fosters a community of marine science enthusiasts, encouraging collaboration and innovation among students and faculty.

19. University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina offers a comprehensive marine science major that emphasizes interdisciplinary knowledge and hands-on field experiences, beginning with immersive study at the Baruch Institute in North Inlet Estuary. 

This rigorous program is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in marine science, further enriched by opportunities for original research, participation in seminars, and interactions with professionals in the field. 

The university's strategic partnerships with coastal research facilities and marine conservation organizations enable students to gain practical insights and experience, equipping them for a broad range of careers in marine science. 

20. Florida Southern College

At Florida Southern College, students have the chance to learn beyond the classroom through independent studies, research projects, and off-campus expeditions. The strong outdoor component of the program ensures that students are constantly in the field, observing and collecting data, which is crucial for studying in a diverse environment. 

Opportunities to travel to locations like Costa Rica, Jamaica, and the Bahamas further enrich the students' educational experiences and understanding of global marine ecosystems.

How to Choose the Right College for You?

Choosing the right college for marine biology involves considering several critical factors to ensure the program aligns with your academic and career aspirations. Look for colleges with robust marine biology curriculums that offer a wide range of courses covering various aspects of marine science, from oceanography to marine ecology. 

Research opportunities are paramount; seek institutions that provide hands-on, field-based learning experiences, internships, and access to marine research facilities. Location matters, too—colleges near coastlines or marine research centers offer invaluable practical experience. 

Finally, consider the faculty's expertise, the availability of specialized equipment and facilities, and the college's connections with marine organizations and research projects.

How Much Do Marine Biologists Make?

In the US, marine biologists make around $86,385 annually, but this can significantly differ based on various factors, including education, specialization, experience, location, and the employer. Salaries range from $35,038 to $137,732 per year. Newcomers start at about $56,914, while veterans in the field may earn up to $125,556. 

Notably, positions in research and development or within federal government agencies tend to offer higher compensation. Moreover, marine biologists who hold advanced degrees or occupy senior research or managerial roles typically see higher earnings, reflecting the value of expertise and leadership in the field.


Below, we’ll answer key questions about colleges that offer marine biology program opportunities.

1. What Colleges Specialize in Marine Biology?

Some well-known institutions that specialize in marine biology include the University of Washington, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in affiliation with MIT, and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.

2. Which Marine Biology Colleges Are Known for Their Research Opportunities?

Colleges recognized for their excellence in marine biology research usually feature cutting-edge facilities, dedicated research vessels, and collaborations with leading marine research institutions. 

Universities such as the University of Washington, Duke University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara provide comprehensive research programs that allow both undergraduate and graduate students to engage in innovative marine research projects.

3. What Are the Admission Requirements for Marine Biology?

Admission requirements for marine biology programs vary by institution but generally include a strong foundation in science and mathematics. Prospective students should have completed courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and higher-level mathematics such as calculus. 

Additionally, competitive programs may require letters of recommendation, a statement of  purpose, and extracurricular activities or experiences related to marine science.

Final Thoughts

Colleges with marine biology programs play a pivotal role in setting the foundation for a successful career in marine biology. These programs provide essential training and exposure to marine ecosystems, enabling students to develop the necessary skills and knowledge for their future careers. 

Pursuing a degree in marine biology unlocks a world of possibilities to delve into the intricacies of marine ecosystems and plays a vital role in their conservation and sustainable management. Selecting the right college requires careful consideration of the program's academic rigor, research opportunities, location, and facilities.

A career in marine biology is immensely rewarding and challenging, offering unique opportunities to significantly contribute to our understanding and preservation of marine environments. 

Whether your passion is deep-sea research, marine conservation, or aquatic veterinary medicine, choosing among the best colleges for marine biology will lay down the educational groundwork essential for success in this dynamic field.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Thanks ! You're now subscribed!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get A Free Consultation

Speak to a college admissions expert about how we can help you get into your dream school
Schedule a Call

You May Also Like

Before you go, here are a few facts about us!
The Quad Factor: Working with us can increase your chances of admission by 11x!

The Best of the Best: Our team comprises of only 99th percentile tutors and admissions counselors from top-ranking universities, meaning you work with only the most experienced, talented experts.

The Free Consultation: Our experts would love to get to know you, your background, goals, and needs. From there, they match you with a best-fit consultant who will create a detailed project plan and application strategy focused on your success.