Some people have felt a natural connection to the ocean their whole lives, and are hoping to spend the majority of their time giving back to the big blue. Does this sound like you?
The world is in need of dedicated individuals who are willing to protect our precious marine ecosystems with their knowledge and expertise. By pursuing a career in ocean conservancy, you can actively contribute to combating the effects of climate change on the ocean. You’ll have the opportunity to conduct vital research, develop innovative solutions, and implement conservation strategies that make a real difference.
Together, we can work towards safeguarding the ocean for future generations, ensuring its biodiversity and the well-being of countless species. If you’ve ever considered a career in ocean conservation, check out this rundown of some common career paths in this realm. You’ll get a glimpse into what these jobs involve, the qualifications you might need, and even the average salaries.
Each career path has its own set of challenges, requirements, and ways to make a positive impact. Don’t be afraid to explore these paths further by reading our linked additional articles or even trying a beginner’s online course.
#1 Marine Biologist
Description: A marine biologist is a scientist who specializes in studying and understanding various aspects of marine life and ecosystems. They conduct research, collect and analyze data, and investigate the behavior, biology, and interactions of marine organisms. Marine biologists also examine the impact of human activities on marine environments and work towards developing strategies for conservation and sustainable management of marine resources.
People in this field may conduct fieldwork, perform experiments in laboratories, or use advanced technologies to study marine organisms and their habitats. You may spend the majority of your time in a lab, or on a boat! Overall, their work contributes to our understanding of the ocean and helps protect and preserve marine ecosystems for future generations.
Qualifications: To embark on a career in marine biology, a strong educational background in marine biology, ecology, or a related field is essential. Postgraduate study is highly common in this career, and most marine biologists pursue graduate degrees in areas like aquatic ecology, conservation, or tropical coastal management.
Salary: The average salary range of a marine biologist is $59,001 and $102,263, according to the Economic Research Institute.
#2 Conservation Scientist
Description: As a conservation scientist, you become a guardian of our natural world, working to protect and preserve our precious ecosystems. Your role involves assessing the health of ecosystems, identifying threats, and developing strategies for their conservation and sustainable management. Through field research, data analysis, and collaboration with stakeholders, you contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, restoration of habitats, and mitigation of environmental risks.
Conservation scientists often get involved in developing and implementing strategies to protect marine environments with the data and conclusions from their research. While marine biologists may focus more on the flora and fauna of the underwater world, a conservation scientist will focus more on how human activity is influencing ecosystems and what we can do to prevent harm.
Qualifications: A degree in environmental science, biology, or a related field, along with strong analytical and problem-solving skills, will help you in this career. Like the field of marine biology, many conservation scientists go on to pursue postgraduate degrees in related research areas.
Salary: The median annual wage for conservation scientists was $63,750 in May 2021.
Description: Wondering what a day in the life looks like as an oceanographer? You’d be exploring the mysterious depths of the ocean, studying its physical properties, currents, and marine life! Your work would involve studying the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the ocean, investigating ocean currents, marine life, and the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere.
Through data collection, analysis, and the use of advanced technologies, you contribute to our understanding of climate change, ocean dynamics, and the health of marine ecosystems. Like the previously listed career options, oceanographers engage in tons of research, and require strong STEM skills.
Qualifications: This career requires a strong background in physics, geology, or oceanography. Online courses in physical oceanography or marine geology can help expand your knowledge.
Salary: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that geoscientists, which includes oceanographers, earn an average salary of $108,350 as of May 2019.
#4 Environmental Educator or Tour Guide
Description: You may not have expected to see this job on the list! Yet, environmental educators working in the tourism industry can be some of the most influential leaders in ocean conservation.
Environmental educators help spread the word about ocean conservation by educating the public, particularly those on vacations to coastal ecosystems. Tourists are often unaware of how their travels and actions impact the marine environments they love to explore. By working as a tour guide with a conservation focus, you’d be able to plan outreach programs, develop educational materials, and inspire others to protect our seas.
Qualifications: While specific qualifications may vary, a degree in environmental education, natural sciences, or a related field, along with excellent communication and interpersonal skills, will enhance your ability to engage and educate others. Your enthusiasm and ability to convey the importance of environmental stewardship can inspire a new generation of nature lovers and environmental advocates.
Salary: Environmental science teachers at postsecondary schools make a median annual salary of $83,040 per year, while tour guide salaries can vary greatly depending on where you are working in the world.
#5 Fisheries Manager
Description: One of the most evolving and important careers in ocean conservation at the moment is fisheries management. As a fisheries manager, you become a key player in ensuring the sustainability and responsible management of our marine resources. Your role involves monitoring fish populations, implementing fishing regulations, and developing strategies to balance ecological preservation with economic interests. By conducting research, collaborating with fishermen and stakeholders, and implementing conservation measures, you contribute to maintaining healthy fish populations and protecting the livelihoods of fishing communities.
Qualifications: A degree in fisheries management, marine biology, or a related field, along with strong analytical and organizational skills, will equip you for this career. Hands-on experience relating to aquaculture can help, too.
Salary: Salaries in this field can vary greatly commensurate with experience and education level. While some job openings in this field will require very little formal education, more managerial positions that require degrees will come with higher salaries. Top earners in the field can make well over 6-figures.
#6 Marine Policy Analyst
Description: Dive into the world of policy and regulations, analyzing their impact on ocean conservation as an analyst and advocate. Through policy research, analysis, and effective communication, you work to raise awareness about pressing environmental issues and advocate for sustainable practices. Whether it’s promoting legislation to mitigate pollution, supporting marine protected areas, or addressing the impact of climate change on coastal communities, your work has a direct impact on policy decisions and conservation efforts.
Qualifications: A degree in policy, law, or a related field is super valuable in this field. A background in environmental policy, law, or marine science, combined with strong advocacy and communication skills, will enable you to drive positive change. Should you pursue this career path, it’s useful to have general knowledge of governmental and political processes.
Salary: While salaries can vary in this niche field, political scientists at large are known to make a median of $122,510 per year as of May 2021. Those with specializations or relevant experience are likely to earn more.
#7 Marine Conservation Planner
Description: A marine conservation planner with a community focus plays a vital role in developing and implementing conservation strategies for marine environments, with a special emphasis on engaging and involving local communities. This rewarding career combines environmental stewardship with social advocacy to create sustainable solutions that benefit both the marine ecosystem and the communities that depend on it. These professionals work closely with stakeholders, including fishermen, local residents, and government agencies, to gather input, identify conservation priorities, and design effective management plans.
Qualifications: Community development and conservation planners typically hold degrees in environmental science, marine biology, or a related field, along with excellent communication and collaboration skills. Passion for community engagement, cultural sensitivity, and a deep understanding of the interconnectedness between people and the marine environment are essential qualities for success in this role.
Salary: The median annual wage for conservation scientists was $63,750 in May 2021 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Like other roles in this realm, salaries can vary greatly depending on experience level and regional location.
#8 Marine Ecologist
Description: This captivating field of study provides insights into the relationships between species, their habitats, and the broader ecological processes in marine ecosystems. Marine ecologists employ various research methods such as field surveys, statistical analyses, and modeling techniques to explore population dynamics, species distribution, and ecosystem functioning. They often work in diverse settings, from coral reefs to deep-sea environments, studying everything from microscopic plankton to majestic marine mammals.
Qualifications: A strong background in ecology, biology, or related disciplines is essential, along with fieldwork experience and a passion for understanding the complexities of marine ecosystems.
Salary: The median annual wage for environmental scientists and specialists was $76,530 in May 2021.
#9 Dive Instructor & Scientist
Description: Combine your love for diving with scientific research! Being a dive instructor offers an exciting opportunity to share the wonders of the underwater world with others while promoting safe and responsible diving practices.
As a dive instructor, you have the privilege of introducing students to the joy and beauty of scuba diving, teaching them essential skills, and guiding them on underwater adventures. You can even share important messaging around sustainability and conservation with tourists on vacation in coastal areas.
Qualifications: This role requires not only extensive diving experience and certifications but also excellent communication and instructional abilities. Dive instructors help students gain confidence, develop diving techniques, and instill a deep respect for marine life and fragile ecosystems. Their expertise extends beyond teaching diving skills; they also educate divers about conservation practices, marine biology, and the importance of preserving our oceans. A genuine passion for diving, a commitment to safety, and a desire to inspire others to become stewards of the ocean are the hallmarks of a great dive instructor.
Salary: According to salary.com, Scuba Diving Instructors in the United States make an average salary of $50,136 per year. Again, this can vary greatly depending on the number of hours worked, and the region in which one is leading diving tours.
#10 Marine Engineer
Description: Marine engineers play a crucial role in designing and developing innovative solutions for marine structures, vessels, and offshore systems. They blend their engineering skills with a deep understanding of the unique challenges posed by the marine environment. Whether it’s designing ships, underwater robotics, offshore wind farms, or coastal infrastructure, marine engineers find creative ways to harness the power of the ocean while minimizing environmental impact. Their work involves analyzing and optimizing structures for strength, stability, and performance, considering factors such as wave forces, corrosion, and sustainability.
Qualifications: To become a marine engineer, a strong foundation in engineering principles, particularly in fields like naval architecture, mechanical, or civil engineering, is necessary. Curiosity, problem-solving abilities, and a keen interest in sustainable technologies are key attributes that distinguish marine engineers in their pursuit of shaping a more resilient and efficient marine industry.
Salary: The mean annual wage of Marine Engineers and Architects in the United States is $105,560 as of May 2022.
In each of these conversation-centric careers, you have the opportunity to make a significant impact on our sustainable management of the ocean. Whether you’re drawn to community engagement, ecological exploration, diving adventures, or engineering marvels, these professions offer avenues to connect with the marine world and contribute to its well-being. So, dive in, explore your passions, and consider the awe-inspiring possibilities that await you in these ocean conservancy careers!