What Factors Affect a Marine Biologist Salary?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2019
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A marine biologist salary can depend on specialty, location, and employer as well as experience and qualifications. Entry-level positions for people with low qualifications tend to pay less, with the pay scale rising as people acquire experience and additional degrees or certifications. Careers in this field can require advanced degrees with seven or more years of education, a significant investment, before people start work. In some cases it is possible to maintain an entry level position while in school, although it may take longer to graduate.

One important factor is what a marine biologist focuses on. If a subject is obscure, particularly in the area of pure research, there may not be very much money available, and the marine biologist salary may be relatively low. By contrast, topics of interest, especially things that impact industries based on marine organisms, can pay well. Someone who focuses on fisheries, for instance, may make more than a person who studies an obscure fish without commercial value.

Location also plays a role in a marine biologist salary. Pay scales can vary by nation and what may be considered good or acceptable pay in one place is not in another. Differences in cost of living, social services available to residents, and other factors can influence how much an employer is willing to offer. People working internationally may want to consider this issue; working overseas could provide interesting opportunities but might not pay as well as desired.


Choice of employer is another key influence on a marine biologist salary. Private institutions, especially those run for industry, tend to pay more. Government agencies may offer less pay and sometimes require marine biologists to write grants to support their work, which can eat up valuable research time. In academic institutions, a marine biologist salary can vary depending on experience and reputation. People interested in pursuing careers in academia should get publication credits to boost their position in pay negotiations.

Credentials, experience, and reputation are critical as well. Someone with an advanced degree, membership in prestigious organizations, and formal recognitions of merit may be entitled to more pay, as may someone with more experience in the marine biology community. People who are considered reputable and reliable researchers also tend to be more well-paid. Other marine biologists command high salaries because they have popularized the field through books, films, and other media, and thus have household recognition, which makes institutions eager to hire them and willing to pay for the privilege.


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