The best marine biology colleges allow you to explore life underwater as well as on land. With the impact of studying marine life paired with environmental water changes, this career has never been more critical than now. You’ll be dipping your toes into many areas of study once you opt for this degree program.
Those who study marine biology frequently find themselves focusing on how marine organisms interact. As an even more important focus, you’ll spend many months studying how pollution and different ecosystems influence marine environments. As we all know, global warming is a crisis we are currently facing, and marine biologists have a unique career ahead of themselves.
In this list, we explore ten of the top-rated marine biology colleges based on three specific types of criteria:
- Average annual costs well under $22,000
- Authorized and accredited institutions across the United States
- A median starting salary no lower than $30,000 once you graduate
As you browse through the collection of the top-ranked marine biology programs, take note that they are ranked from least to the highest annual cost. All of the ranking criteria have been gathered from numerous university-specific sites and the U.S. Department of Education.
10 Best Marine Biology Colleges
1. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
4 Year; Edinburg, TX
Average Annual Cost: $4,514
The central premise of the marine biology program at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is to prepare students for a career. Many of their courses are also geared towards graduate studies in marine biology and related disciplines. However, they also have an education-packed program for undergraduates.
During your time in school, you’ll explore various biological and physical processes that affect marine organisms. Students will also explore coastal and oceanic ecosystems with an emphasis on marine activity and organisms. Upon graduation, you can explore various careers, including animal technician, environmental lobbyist, laboratory technician, and fisheries biologist.
This program is unique in that it’s developed around the physical location of Rio Grande Valley. Many of your courses provide you direct access to the Gulf of Mexico, where tropical and temperate climates come to a precipice. You’ll be able to unlock the benefits of lab and field courses with the unique ecosystem that Southern Texas offers.
In total, your undergraduate marine biology program contains 120 hours of coursework with major-specific core courses. You’ll also find an assortment of supporting classes revolving around geophysics, chemistry, biology, geology, and more. During your senior year, you can choose more specialized electives, including marine zoology, ichthyology, coral reef ecology, and even independent research.
With a diverse number of faculty members with professional experience in coastal and marine ecology, this school has a high retention rate of 76%. Impressively, 52% of attendees graduate as well, proving their programs are well worth the effort.
2. The University of West Florida
4 Year; Pensacola, FL
Average Annual Cost: $7,406
The marine biology program at The University of West Florida is offered through the Department of Biology. It’s also one of the few universities that offer a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, assisting with future career opportunities. Within the curriculum, you’re going to explore seven fundamental courses that delve into all areas of biology.
Additionally, you can take different elective courses that further explain the practical and theoretical concepts of marine and aquatic biology. There is a multitude of natural areas for studying that you’ll love having at your disposal. The campus is located near estuarine and wetlands marshes and the Gulf of Mexico at the Santa Rosa Island campus.
Students will have the opportunity to study living specimens and state-of-the-art labs for all of their courses. Regarding course content, you’ll delve into marine toxicology, pollution biology, and dozens of other topics. As one of the most in-depth marine biology programs, it’s no wonder they have an 80% retention rate.
3. Rowan College at Gloucester County
2 to 4 Year; Sewell, NJ
Average Annual Cost: $7,913
The college programs at Rowan College at Gloucester County are unique in that they encompass an assortment of majors. Students will find programs ranging from construction trades to biological and biomedical sciences. As a marine biology enthusiast, you’ll be most interested in their ecology, evolution, and population biology programs.
With this college, you’ll be able to earn an associate’s degree, which is a fabulous starting point for your future career. The school has seen approximately nine to ten graduates between general biology and this program’s specialist associate’s degree. Another notable element of their biology program is that it’s ranked #11 in the entirety of the United States.
Fortunately, there are many flexible options when it comes to choosing your ideal method of study. Students can opt to participate in full-time or part-time courses and transfer from other universities for degree-specific classes. Compared to different colleges, Rowan College at Gloucester County has an adequate retention rate of 64% and a graduation rate of 26%.
4. Southern Maine Community College
2 to 4 Year; South Portland, ME
Average Annual Cost: $10,647
The marine biology program offered by Southern Maine Community College is similar to Rowan College. You’ll be able to earn an associate’s degree with a program that focuses primarily on ecology, evolution, and population biology. Additionally, the program sees an adequate number of annual graduates at around seven students.
With a 55% retention rate, most of their 5,687 enrolled students remain in their studies, and 25% of enrolled participants graduate. You’ll have complete control over your program as full-time and part-time courses are available, ideal for working students. It’s also important to note you’re likely to acquire an average salary upon graduation.
Depending on your field of study, most graduates earn anywhere from $19,683 to $56,351 annually. If you can take a co-op program, you could be placed with a reputable company that offers a career after graduation. Alternatively, you can use your degree to find placement elsewhere.
5. Brigham Young University-Hawaii
4 Year; Laie, HI
Average Annual Cost: $14,051
Brigham Young University-Hawaii is a fantastic solution for aspiring marine biologists looking for bachelor’s degrees. This program is designed to grant you foundational knowledge in life sciences, focusing on molecular biology, marine biology, anatomy, and more. With this major, you’re guaranteed to have the skills necessary for various careers in the public and private sectors.
The school itself is located on the island of Oahu, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, which offers many learning opportunities. As a marine biology student, you can explore the different types of marine life and their natural habitats on scenic beaches. Upon graduation, you’ll find various career opportunities, including a marine biologist, marine life researcher, and environmental scientist.
Another impressive feature of this four-year degree program is that after graduating, you can further your studies. Brigham Young University-Hawaii has an impressively designed graduate program, helping you acquire a higher-tier degree. In fact, this school has one of the highest graduation rates at 65%, with a retention rate of 62%.
6. Northwest Missouri State University
4 Year; Maryville, MO
Average Annual Cost: $12,354
As a marine biology student at Northwest Missouri State University, you’ll have plenty of benefits at your disposal. This program boasts an 83% placement rate, meaning most graduates land career placements within six months of graduating. Most of them also find themselves working as either marine biologists for private institutions or federal government agencies.
This degree program stands out from the rest because it focuses on practical, real-world skills in your program. Every course features profession-based learning experiences, giving you the hands-on education you crave. Students will explore various tenets of marine biology, including organisms’ natural habitats, ecology, and unicellular ocean life.
There are many unique learning opportunities through the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and the Garrett-Strong Science Building. Students can explore 26 different labs, a 300-gallon cold saltwater aquarium, two museums, and the Conservation Pond. The options don’t end there, as students will also visit Mozingo Lake, offering water-based survey learning opportunities and monitoring techniques.
Outside of your studies on campus, students can also take advantage of internships to help you with future career placement. Another unique facet of the marine biology program at Northwest Missouri State University is studying abroad. Students can apply for international experience to help further their academic achievements either through traditional or faculty-led programs.
The Northwest Missouri State University boasts a graduation rate of 51% paired with a 77% retention rate. These figures alone show how beneficial the program can be for marine biology majors searching for life-changing experiences.
7. University of North Alabama
4 Year; Florence, AL
Average Annual Cost: $14,130
Studying underwater worlds has never been a more exciting concept than at the University of North Alabama. Their unique program gives students academic and field experiences they’ll remember for their lifetime. You’ll be able to take an assortment of undergraduate and graduate courses to help further your education.
The majority of standard courses for your major are offered through the main university campus. You can take specialized and graduate courses through the Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory in Mobile, Alabama. When pursuing a degree in this field, it’s essential to consider prerequisites to ensure your academic planner is up-to-date.
In the four-year program, you’ll be brought through an assortment of compulsory and elective courses. Students will study evolution, life sciences, humanities, history, marine botany, invertebrate zoology, organic chemistry, and more. There’s no doubt the University of North Alabama offers an assortment of marine-related courses to help prepare you for your future.
With a 75% retention rate, this marine biology program is one of the most impressive in the country. Also, the university boasts a 46% graduation rate, which is exceptional for such a diverse collection of areas of study.
8. Saint Cloud State University
4 Year; Saint Cloud, MN
Average Annual Cost: $14,267
Saint Cloud State University’s marine biology program is available through the Department of Biological Sciences. With their undergraduate program, you can acquire a Bachelor of Science in Biology: Biodiversity, Ecology, and Evolution. Their courses also help students obtain a B.S. in Molecular Biology, Biomedical Science, and Life Science Education.
One of the more unique offerings of the school is a Histotechnician Certificate which you can acquire along with your standard degree courses. You’ll find an assortment of elective and compulsory courses to assist with many biology-related professions. Also, all of the programs are offered in flexible formats to accommodate your preferred method of study.
If you decide on a graduate degree after your undergrad program, you can earn a Master of Arts or Master of Science in Biological Sciences. These graduate degrees can help you acquire more hands-on experiences in marine biology. You’ll also have access to many fabulous facilities during your undergraduate and graduate studies.
The Saint Cloud State University is home to specialized labs that give you hands-on learning in cell and tissue cultures, aquatic toxicology, and more. They also have an incredible number of specimen collections for teaching and researching, especially for zoology enthusiasts. Paired with the greenhouse, vivarium, and herbarium, studying opportunities are considerably diverse.
Students often take full and part-time studies at Saint Cloud State University. The school has a 70% retention rate and 50% graduation rate out of their degree programs. With the numerous opportunities for marine biologist majors, it’s an impressive program to consider.
9. Troy University
4 Year; Troy, AL
Average Annual Cost: $14,285
With enrollment at Troy University, students can earn a bachelor’s degree in marine biology. This degree program combines field and academic experience to help prepare you for several rewarding careers. In your program, you’ll have access to several university-led research opportunities as well as marine labs.
Students can spend their summers studying at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, delving into Oceanography, Marine Ecology, and Vertebrate Zoology. You’ll also have access to several foundation courses during your freshman and sophomore years at the school. Upon graduation, several careers are possible, including a microbiologist, soil and water conservationist, and fish and game warden.
Your last two years of study will primarily be at the Troy Campus and focus mainly on upper-level studies. This unique combination of in-class and hands-on learning experiences will help you become a more well-rounded student. Troy University features a retention rate of 77% and a 33% graduation rate.
10. Bemidji State University
4 Year; Bemidji, MN
Average Annual Cost: $15,868
Minnesota-based students will want to consider Bemidji State University as it’s the only in-state four-year aquatic biology degree program. Located in the Biology Department, this program takes advantage of impressive lakeside facilities that offer many hands-on learning experiences. As a 77-credit program, you’ll be able to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Aquatic Biology.
Within your studies, you can choose from three specific areas of emphasis which will affect your compulsory and elective courses. Wetlands Ecology is the first program that focuses primarily on wetlands’ importance for biodiversity, global nutrients, and water management. Students can also choose Fisheries Biology as an area of focus, exploring limnology, economics, and chemistry in aquatic sciences.
As the third option, Aquatic Systems is a discipline that explores the diversity of aquatic systems as a whole. You’ll study streams, lakes, wetlands, and rivers while exploring all of their unique organisms ranging from fish to bacteria. Students will get a fantastic bearing on the effects of nutrients, pollution, light, and how they affect each aquatic system.
The specialized areas of study are what make Bemidji State University a unique option for marine biologists. The school has a total retention rate of 72% and a graduation rate of 49%. With access to several unique learning opportunities, it’s undoubtedly one of the better options.