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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by Ellery Weil

Published on July 14, 2022

Edited by Kristina Beek
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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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Ready to start your journey?

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

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#1

University of California-Los Angeles

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 12%
Graduation Rate 92%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#2

Northeastern University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 18%
Graduation Rate 89%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#3

Boston University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 19%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#4

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

School Information
Location Seattle, Washington
Admission Rate 52%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#5

University of California-San Diego

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Admission Rate 31%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 1% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#6

University of Miami

School Information
Location Coral Gables, Florida
Admission Rate 27%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#7

Texas A & M University-College Station

School Information
Location College Station, Texas
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 82%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#8

Florida International University

School Information
Location Miami, Florida
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 63%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#9

The University of West Florida

School Information
Location Pensacola, Florida
Admission Rate 31%
Graduation Rate 46%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 66% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#10

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

School Information
Location Edinburg, Texas
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 46%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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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.

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

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