What I wish I knew before majoring in marine biology

These are the top three things to know before going to school for biology.

When I first started college, I wasn’t sure what to major in. I loved chemistry in high school. I wanted the authority to see that sustainable practices were enforced in corporations, so I went ahead and started off as a chemical engineering major. Soon I learned this was not where I was supposed to be. I jumped from there to biochemistry, sustainable studies, and biology.

It wasn’t until I saw an ad for a semester at the UT Marine Science Institute that I realized my school had a marine science program. The marine introductory class for the degree opened my eyes and I knew I could find so much gratification in this field. And I have – but there are definite drawbacks to this field that I wish I had known.

Whenever I tell anyone my degree, they think my life is fun beach days. Sometimes it is. The reality of graduating with a biology degree is that it’s hard to find any substantial long term work. Possible, but hard.

For my certificate in sustainability, I was required to have an internship. There were about five marine internships in my city and every single marine science student wanted one. After applying to thirty unrelated internships or entry jobs, I finally got an internship for the summer. However, it was unpaid. It only required ten hours a week which worked, since I had to keep my full-time retail job to afford rent. Many other students can’t afford that. If you’re looking for an internship opportunity for biology, odds are it’s unpaid or you have to pay to even receive experience in this field.

Due to how much people love the ocean and the science and conservation, this field is extremely competitive. There are not many opportunities for funding and jobs are scarce. It took me three months after graduating to find a level entry job and it was across the country. Additionally, it was seasonal, so I could only count on this employment for three months. There was no financial resource for moving. Little help was given for finding a job after the termination date. This is not the field to go into if you’re looking for an easy entry job right out of graduation.

Not many people can afford to move across the country with no financial help, find a place to live, and then look for a job after your contract expires. While I have loved the opportunities I’ve had in this field, there were a lot of times I was stressed about what was next and being able to save money. It takes time and economic privilege to be able to get started in this field. I don’t want to discourage anyone from a career in biology, but these issues are not going away anytime soon.

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