Find out what you can expect from a marine biology degree course in the UK. You can learn about the various names the subject is given, what a typical course covers, and which qualifications and interest will improve your chances of winning a university place. You can also find out which universities have a good reputation in this field, and what prospects are available to graduates.
There are a number of marine and maritime courses available at university and you will need to be aware of the differences between each one when you are applying.
What is marine biology?
Marine biology will appear under many names, including marine and freshwater biology, applied marine biology, coastal marine biology and freshwater science, together with joint or combined courses with a range of other subjects. If you are interested in marine biology then you should also look at oceanography and maritime studies.
Marine biology involves the study of the major forms of life in the oceans including:
- the interaction between marine organisms and the molecular and biochemical responses to environmental variables such as pollution
- the physical and chemical interactions between the oceans and the atmosphere
- many types of marine environment from the high shore to the ocean floor and hydrothermal vents
- marine field techniques.
Courses are a combination of theoretical and practical study including field work.
You will need to have good A level grades in at least two science subjects (A/B), the most useful being biology and chemistry. Mathematics at this level or possibly at AS could be advantageous. Competition for places at the top universities is strong and you will need to offer other qualities as well as good grades. These will include evidence of your interest in biology and the oceans, together with knowledge of the environmental factors affecting the sea and developments in harnessing the power of the oceans. You will need to show that you have read widely, including technical journals. Prospective students will also need a strong package of GCSEs, including mathematics, English and science at A to C grades. As most courses include fieldwork you would be advised to have a good swimming ability, and some students will also have a diving qualification, although this is something that you could obtain at university.
Not surprisingly, most universities offering marine biology are located near the sea, and universities with a good reputation for teaching and research include:
- National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton
- Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation (CEEC), University of East Anglia
- Marine Biology BSc Honours, Newcastle University
- BSc (Hons) Marine and Freshwater Biology, University of Essex
- Marine Biology BSc (Hons), University of Liverpool
- Cardiff University
- School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University
- Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre (MBERC), University of Plymouth
The UCAS points range from 350 at Southampton to 220/200 points for more applied courses at a number of institutions and 120 points for Essex (freshwater biology).
Studying a science degree opens up many career options after graduating. Some graduates will go on into further related study and research, and these opportunities are likely to become more available as the importance of the oceans to the environment are appreciated. Other graduates could move into teaching, as there is a growing demand for science teachers, while others will find employment with the main graduate employers. A science degree allows you to gain many skills that are in demand by the top employers including analytical, research, team working, computer and communication skills.
Further information is available from the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.