Here’s what I teach my students about finding a job in marine biology and conservation – Southern Fried Science

Here’s what I teach my students about finding a job in marine biology and conservation – Southern Fried Science

Our field is competitive, some job postings are confusing, and some career advice is contradictory or incorrect. Here I will introduce some exercises that I have my students do, and I hope you find them helpful.

Graphic via Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a heartbreaking post by a future marine biologist in one of my professional Facebook groups. People are giving up on their dreams (at best), some even fall into serious financial difficulties or end up standing far from home. People report that they now think they needed to take elective classes to get a job but graduated without taking them, or that they spent five to eight years getting their Ph.D. But they learned that their dream job didn’t require that. After spending years training for a job, people realize that the job doesn’t pay them enough to support themselves and their families and they must pursue another career entirely. Every day, students and recent graduates complain that the job market is complex and confusing, or that the advice they received from their mentors was ineffective.

I love my career, hate seeing students upset, and want to help people in any way I can. With that in mind, here is an abbreviated version of an exercise I have my students do in class to learn about the marine biology and conservation job market. Please note that while most of the principles described here are broadly applicable, local circumstances may differ in some countries, and not all of them make sense outside of the U.S. context.

What types of jobs are typically available?

Generally speaking, I’ve found that many people don’t always clearly understand the difference between working in marine biology and working in marine conservation. Recognizing that positions are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, that these lines often blur, and that there is much work that does not fit into any of these categories, Here’s a quick look at what types of organizations employ marine scientists. . This is very basic and I haven’t even begun to cover all the nuances there are, but many people don’t even know this, so let’s start with the basics.

-academic world. Universities are where most scientific research takes place. Relevant positions here include faculty positions, postdoctoral positions (requires a Ph.D.), graduate student positions (both leading to a master’s or Ph.D.), and research/field technician positions. Contains positions. Work here is typically a mix of research and teaching.

-Government agency. In the United States, jobs are available in government agencies at both the federal and state (coastal states) levels. Government agencies employ not only research scientists but also managers and regulators whose job it is to integrate science into conservation and management plans. Please note that you should seek USAJobs-specific advice, as is how you apply for (almost) all federal jobs and is probably the worst website ever created by mankind.

-Environmental non-profit organization. If you want to do “nature conservation” rather than “scientific research”, this type of position is often the perfect opportunity. Environmental nonprofits hire advocates and campaign leaders to persuade the public and government officials to help protect the oceans, and this is where an understanding of marine biology comes in handy. These groups are also increasingly employing scientific advisors, whose job is to advise staff constituencies, and even scientific researchers to conduct research related to the group’s goals. (See above about blurred lines between positions).

●Aquariums, zoos, environmental education centers. If you want to work directly with animals (helping care for animals in captivity) or talk to the public about marine science and conservation (as a teacher or environmental educator), this is the career path for you. There is a possibility that

What should I look for in a job?

The reason I don’t like doing anything other than the most common career advice on social media is because I don’t know you very well. I don’t know your hopes and dreams. I don’t know what you want to compromise or what might be a deal breaker for you. I don’t know about your family life or hobbies. So instead of telling you how to make a decision, I’ll tell you how to find the information you need to make your own choices.

I have my students look up job listings on current job posting sites (I’ll explain how to search later) and have them look at the job listings that are currently posted, even though they haven’t actually applied yet. Masu. The reason is simple. The most effective way to find out what kinds of jobs are available, what they are like, and what they require is to find out what kinds of jobs are available, what they are like, and what they require. is. they are in need.

I ask my students to look for the following information in job advertisements they find on job sites and think about it accordingly.

-Where would you like to live if you got this job? Some jobs can be done completely remotely, while others require travel. If you had to move for this job, would you want to live somewhere else that would make you happy? When I talk about this on social media, of course marine biology jobs are close to the coast, and there are Some people may respond flippantly by saying that students who don’t want to immigrate are lazy, but of course the situation is more complicated than that. Maybe your partner has a great job where you currently live and you can’t move. Maybe you need to live near family who can help care for you. Many coastal states are not particularly friendly towards LGBTQ+ people and other minorities. Maybe your life isn’t complete if you can’t go ballroom dancing once a week at an active ballroom club. The reasons are your own, but you should consider them carefully before taking a job that doesn’t satisfy you. Because work is not the only important part of life.

-What would your day be like if you got this job? If you take a look at the actual job description, you might be surprised. You’re unlikely to get a job that involves scuba diving on coral reefs all day every day, to say the least. Are those assignments enjoyable for you? Do you feel challenged and valued? (Also, a universal truth in most fields is that the higher up in your career you are, the more supervision and management you will have.) It’s also worth noting that you’ll be doing an administrator job).

-How free can you be? Some people really like to just complete the tasks assigned to them with a lot of guidance and supervision, while others prefer the flexibility of being free to express their creativity. Most entry-level jobs have relatively little flexibility, and you’re far more likely to become a cog in the proverbial machine than to help design its structure or output.

-What job security and advancement opportunities are there? Some positions are clearly temporary (seasonal field technicians, maternity leave, one-year fellowships, etc.). It may not make sense to move to the other side of the world for a six-month job with no possibility of extension.

-What skills or degrees does the job require? If the job doesn’t require a Ph.D., and that you would be happy doing this job (or something similar) throughout your career. If you can, it might not be worth it to get a Ph.D. If the job requires a master’s degree, you should probably plan on having a master’s degree do this job, or something similar. For jobs that explicitly require technical skills such as ARCGIS, Python, MARXAN, or rescue diver certification, you should strongly consider acquiring those skills through elective courses while in school. You need to recognize the difference between “necessary skills” and “desired skills.” Because one or the other is required. If a job ad lists 10 desired skills and she doesn’t have any of them, she’s probably not a good candidate for the position, but if she has 2 or he has 3, then You should probably apply. No one has all 10, and anyone advertising a job knows that.

– What is the reward for that job? None of us are pursuing this career to get rich, but we all have bills to pay and our Some have families to support. If you can’t live on the salary you’re given, can’t afford to take the job, and need to consider a different career path, consider spending several years pursuing a stressful and technical graduate degree. It’s probably best to learn it now rather than after you’ve spent too much time on it. Many jobs do not publish salaries, which is a bad thing. However, it’s common to find a similar job offering a salary and assume it’s fairly similar. And if you’re looking for your first job and have little experience, “pay commensurate with experience” is not a good sign.

Discussion with students

Students are asked to research different types of jobs, specifically, to find jobs that are their dream, jobs that seem miserable to them, and jobs that surprise them that they didn’t know about. You will be asked for it. After you have students search for jobs and record all of the above information, you can do this individually or in small groups depending on the size of your class. I will gather everyone again for discussion.

Students are asked to share the job they found and any relevant information about the job. Students are asked to discuss whether anything surprised them. Students are asked to consider whether their current degree program provides the types of skills needed for these jobs, or whether new classes or programs are needed. And at the end, students can ask questions.

Job bulletin board

There are many job boards for marine biology, but here is the one I use for my courses. If you research and compare these three, you will find most of the currently posted jobs. Also, check back regularly as jobs are added weekly.

SevenSeas Marine Jobs

career in conservation

Florida SeaGrant Facebook page (weekly job postings)


If you are a student or prospective student interested in marine biology as a career, we recommend you try this exercise. If you are teaching students, you may want to incorporate some version of this into your courses or lab meetings. Anyone is free to change this, but if you find a way to make it work better, please let us know.

I can’t help create more jobs, higher-paying jobs, or jobs in different locations, but I can help solve a confusing part of the marine biology and conservation job market. I hope so.

Have fun job hunting!

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