On October 3, I spent a great day at Taylor Middle School in Millbrae. Paul Lucich, the school counselor, had contacted me about participating in their Career Day. I said “Yes” of course! I had never been to this school and was really excited to check it out.
The day started with a nice breakfast in the auditorium. Police officers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, a DJ, and other professionals had also come out for the career fair. Before long, I headed out to meet my first class of students. They were extremely excited because I brought live marine animals with me. Over the course of the day I met with four classes.
I began my talk with a PowerPoint. I introduced the students to what the Marine Science Institute is all about. I continued with the different opportunities to get a career in marine science
There are two distinct paths that can be taken in the field of marine science:
- Educate and teach at a non-profit organization like the Marine Science Institute, or at a high school, college or university
- Enter the research field
Some university faculty members do both successfully. The following information describes the qualifications typically needed for each pathway.
MARINE SCIENCE EDUCATOR
Various levels of expertise exist for marine science educators:
- Our program requires a person to have or be working toward a degree in college; it requires a lot of background reading and research on marine ecosystems and requires energy, enthusiasm, and a strong interest in teaching students.
- Some teaching jobs require a formal science degree like marine biology, ecology or zoology. Science Instructors on our research vessel need this qualification.
- To teach marine biology in high school, you need a Bachelor of Science degree and a teaching credential.
- To teach at a junior college or university, you need at least a Master’s degree in biology, or maybe even a Ph.D.
MARINE SCIENCE RESEARCHER
- To be taken seriously by the research community, you will need to acquire at LEAST:
- A Bachelor of Science (4-5 years)
- A Masters of Science (2-3 years)
- Next, you will need to write funding proposals for money to conduct a research project – unless you can support yourself.
- After conducting your research, you need to publish your results, making sure that everyone knows about the research you just did.
- To really advance in the research community, you will need a Ph.D. (an additional 4-5 years). At that point, you will hopefully continue your research efforts and receive some recognition and funding to do future research projects.
Other needed skills are:
- Strong verbal communication and writing skills (you will be constantly writing grant proposals, research papers, reviewing papers from other researchers, and presenting your research results at professional conferences)
- An ability to act as a team member and a good group work ethic (many research projects today require collaboration with other researchers)
- A love for the environment, a strong commitment to the profession, and a sense of curiosity!
HOW DO I GET THERE?
- Stay in school!
- concentrate on writing skills, math, and science
- Plan on going to college!
- a college degree is the minimum requirement for most of these positions
- Volunteer for a summer in an internship program
- A summer internship is the best way to experience the field first hand to determine if this is the best field for you
- The internship will give you valuable on-the-job experience. When positions with marine science organizations become available, many employers look to fill it with trained individuals.
- Most employers today require work experience, as well as education.
WHAT ARE MY PROSPECTS FOR FINDING A JOB IN MARINE BIOLOGY?
- Tough competition presently exists for jobs in marine biology. There are few jobs available and many people who want to fill them. MSI is one of the few marine biology-oriented job sites in the Bay Area. The Institute provides a unique stepping stone for college graduates interested in marine biology who may have not yet decided which of the two directions to take, education or research.
- Entering the field is a hard thing to do initially. Acquire as much volunteer and work experience as you can. The more experience that you have, the greater the advantage you will have over competitors.
Finally, the students got to touch four different organisms; sea star, kelp crab, whelk, and mussels. They gently handled the critters while learning a few fun facts about them.
The most exciting part of this Career Day was finding out that there was one student who researched MSI and asked if we could participate. It was great to see the students’ interests guiding the day, While talking with some of the teachers they really appreciated that a woman presented to the group, dispelling the myth that scientists are all guys.