Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

Marine biology and biological oceanography are exciting fields for students interested in the natural world. Learn which schools have the best programs.
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If you're an aspiring scientist who loves the ocean, you may want to consider a bachelor's in marine biology or biological oceanography. In these scientific disciplines, students study the seas, the organisms that live in them, and how different biological and ecological factors impact ocean ecosystems. Marine biology and biological oceanography students can go on to pursue careers in research, conservation, environmental consultancy, and more.

As with many bachelor's degree programs, the time it takes to earn a degree in marine biology or biological oceanography and the cost of your education varies depending on a few different factors. Full-time programs typically take four years to complete. The cost depends on whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition, win scholarships, and more. Part-time or partially online programs

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Due to fieldwork requirements, a marine biology and biological oceanography degree cannot be completed fully online. However, part-time or partially online programs can provide more flexibility and allow you to potentially save money on living expenses.

Our Top Pick

University of California, Los Angeles - Los Angeles, California

Why It's #1: The University of California, Los Angeles, is home to our top-ranked marine biology and biological oceanography program of 2022. With a beautiful Southern California location and an impressive 92% graduation rate, UCLA's program is appealing to aspiring marine biologists. As a state school, UCLA offers relatively affordable in-state tuition. Residents of California pay $11,442 per year for undergraduate programs before aid. Over 61% of students receive financial aid.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Bachelor's in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

#1 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

University of California-Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year

In State | $11,928

Out of State | $42,954

Credits to Graduate

180

Program Information

N/A

UCLA's bachelor of science program in marine biology provides students with extensive education in both biological science and oceanography. Students have the opportunity within the program to specialize in sub-fields, such as physiology of marine organisms and subtidal and intertidal ecology.

As a highly selective school, UCLA requires applicants to have high GPAs from high school and write an admissions essay. The UC system does not consider SAT or ACT scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
12%
Students Enrolled
44,371
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#2 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

Northeastern University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit Hour

In State | $1,847

Out of State | $1,847

Credits to Graduate

137

Program Information

N/A

The BS in marine biology at Northeastern University is a rigorous, flexible program that combines foundations in biology with hands-on opportunities. Northeastern's Three Seas program, currently in its 38th year, allows students to do fieldwork in Maine, Panama, or the Pacific Northwest, giving them up-close experience with marine life in the wild.

Students applying to Northeastern must submit an application, transcripts, and optional SAT/ACT scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$52,420
Out-of-state
$52,420
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
18%
Students Enrolled
22,207
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
#3 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

Boston University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year

In State | $61,050

Out of State | $61,050

Credits to Graduate

128

Program Information

N/A

Boston University's BA in marine science is offered through BUMP, the Boston University Marine Program. This is an interdisciplinary degree, with students completing their core liberal arts courses in addition to specialized marine biology courses through the Marine Semester system, which offers a variety of marine science courses every autumn.

BU requires applicants to submit an application form, high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, and optional SAT/ACT scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,720
Out-of-state
$54,720
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
19%
Students Enrolled
33,720
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
#4 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

  • Seattle, WA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year

In State | $12,076

Out of State | $39,906

Credits to Graduate

106-113

Program Information

N/A

The University of Washington in Seattle offers a BS in marine biology with four core areas of focus. Students concentrate on marine ecology, marine physiology, marine evolutionary biology, and conservation and management during the program. All students complete on-site fieldwork during their studies.

UW does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores. However, prospective students must complete an application and submit transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,370
Out-of-state
$37,071
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
52%
Students Enrolled
47,576
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
#5 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

University of California-San Diego

  • La Jolla, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year

In State | $17,361

Out of State | $60,576

Credits to Graduate

180

Program Information

N/A

UCSD offers a BS in marine biology through the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. UCSD's coastal location provides easy access to the Pacific Ocean for field trips and tidal research, a mandatory laboratory and field course, and electives.

The University of California system does not accept SAT or ACT scores. Applicants need to fill out an application form with essays, provide references, and submit all relevant transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
31%
Students Enrolled
38,736
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
1% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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#6 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

University of Miami

  • Coral Gables, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $55,440

Out of State | $55,440

Credits to Graduate

123-135

Program Information

N/A

Students at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science can choose from majors in marine science, marine biology, and oceanography. Students may take electives related to forms of marine science outside their major. UM's coastal location provides fieldwork opportunities. The university also maintains a research partnership in the Galapagos Islands.

Prospective students need to send in their applications, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and optional SAT or ACT scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,400
Out-of-state
$50,400
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
27%
Students Enrolled
17,811
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#7 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

Texas A & M University-College Station

  • College Station, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year

In State | $13,012

Out of State | $40,896

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

N/A

Texas A&M offers a bachelor's program in marine biology that allows students to study sea life in Galveston Bay. Students focus on marine science while learning how to build a career through Texas A&M's networking program. All students have the opportunity to work extensively in labs and in the field. 

Prospective learners, both in and out of state, need to submit applications and official transcripts. SAT and ACT scores are optional.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,941
Out-of-state
$34,190
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
68,726
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#8 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

Florida International University

  • Miami, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Semester

In State | $3,084

Out of State | $9,283

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

N/A

Students at Florida International University have the opportunity to earn a BS in marine biology. Learners receive a broad education in the natural sciences, including biology, ecology, physics, and chemistry. Throughout the program, they also take advantage of the Florida coast for hands-on marine research in both botany and zoology.

Prospective students must fill out FIU's application and submit their transcripts, recommendations, and SAT or ACT scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,721
Out-of-state
$16,529
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
58,711
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#9 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

The University of West Florida

  • Pensacola, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $212

Out of State | $641

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

N/A

Located directly on the Gulf of Mexico, the University of West Florida offers a bachelor's program in marine biology. Students in the program take seven core courses plus electives. They can use the university's dedicated boats for field expeditions to local marshes and wetlands, with the opportunity to get involved in special projects with faculty.

Prospective students should apply through the university website. Applicants must submit transcripts and SAT/ACT scores. UWF offers rolling admissions.

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,735
Out-of-state
$16,004
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
31%
Students Enrolled
12,557
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
66% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#10 Best Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

  • Edinburg, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $55.53

Out of State | $139.93

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | Yes

At the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, students in the BS in marine biology program are encouraged to prepare for a career in the sciences or further postgraduate education. Students take core courses and have the opportunity to enroll in electives including coral reef ecology, and marine animal field studies.

Students are not required to submit SAT or ACT scores with their application and transcripts when applying to UTRGV. However, they are strongly encouraged to do so to qualify for greater financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,664
Out-of-state
$16,792
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
29,113
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Popular Online Marine Biology & Biological Oceanography Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Bachelor's in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 77 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must offer a bachelor's degree program in the given subject.
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography Programs

Is a bachelor's in marine biology and biological oceanography worth it?

Whether or not a bachelor's degree in marine biology and biological oceanography is "worth it" to you is a personal decision.

Remember that marine biology is not traditionally offered as an online course due to lab and fieldwork requirements. If you are passionate about the subject and will be able to complete the degree in four years or less, the opportunities offered by a marine biology and biological oceanography degree will likely be worth it to you.

However, if you are less interested in the subject, and the financial burden outweighs the benefits of the degree, you may want to consider other majors.

What can I do with a bachelor's in marine biology and biological oceanography?

Professionals with degrees in marine biology and biological oceanography have access to many career paths. Graduates can go on to become biologists working with marine life or scientists in labs seeking new information about the oceans and the creatures that live there.

Many marine biology graduates who are passionate about conservation might be interested in careers with conservation charities and nonprofits. They can also work as environmental consultants helping companies make choices that do the least harm to marine life. With further education, graduates may also go on to careers in business, medicine, and more.

What continuing education is available for marine biology and biological oceanography graduates?

Graduates of marine biology and biological oceanography undergraduate programs may be interested in continuing their education at the postgraduate level.Many marine biology and biological oceanography graduates pursuing careers in research go on to MS and Ph.D. programs immediately after obtaining their undergraduate degrees.

However, for those who do not want to immediately pursue postgrad education, there are many job opportunities that offer field training. Many students also opt to work for a few years after finishing their undergraduate degrees before returning to grad school.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in marine biology and biological oceanography?

Given the wide variety of different careers available to graduates with a bachelor's degree in marine biology and biological oceanography, salaries vary significantly. According to Payscale, marine biologists made an average salary of $52,030 per year in May 2022.

However, that figure varies depending on your location and experience level, with the highest-paid marine biologists making up to $97,000 per year.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in marine biology and biological oceanography?

While the average marine biologist made $52,030 per year as of May 2022, according to Payscale, other marine biology and biological oceanography careers can pay more or less. Marine engineers earned an average of $79,980 per year, according to Payscale, with more experienced marine engineers making salaries over six figures.

If you want to maximize your earning potential after graduation, make sure to do your research about different marine biology career paths and their average starting salaries.

Image Credit: Georgette Douwma / Stone / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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