GUIDE: Get into Marine Conservation (even without a degree!)

by | Last modified on Feb 9, 2024 | Conservation

One of my favorite questions to ask people is ‘if you could retrain, restudy and do something different, what would you do?’ Doctor, musician, and artist are popular answers. But a lot of people also have the same dream as I do…… I wish I’d been a marine biologist! Or I wish I worked as a Marine Conservationist! If you fall into this category, you’ve probably done some internet searching and pondered this option. Maybe you’ve already got a relatable science degree or a marine biolgy degree…..great! But what if you don’t?

What if spending the next 3-4 years getting a Marine Biology degree just isn’t possible for you. And now you’re wondering…..is it ever too late to become a marine biologist? Am I crazy for dreaming of working in Marine Conservation?

In this blog post, I’ll cover different ways you can work in marine conservation and what the reality of this work entails. As well as sharing my own journey to working in the field, even though I don’t have a marine biology or relatable degree.

The obvious route….get a Marine Biology degree!

The most obvious way to becoming a marine biologist is to, of course, start by obtaining a marine biology degree. This is the easy way into the field and the right route to take if you are science-focused and eager to work directly as a researcher.

As you’ll see later in this blog post and by my own journey, getting a marine biology degree isn’t essential. In fact, for many of the more desirable marine conservation jobs, other skills and qualifications may prove more useful.

With a marine biology degree under your belt, there are many different areas of work that you may find yourself in. Including: testing and monitoring marine life, working in labs, analysing data and overseeing research. If you are planning to take this conventional route, have a read of this article or explore some of Sea&me’s YouTube videos to get a sense of what’s involved.

Marine Biologist Salary….how much can you make?

Marine Biologists don’t tend to make a lot. An average Marine Biologist salary is around £30,000 a year in the UK, and $55,000 a year in the USA. With a higher salary aim of £50,000 a year in the UK, and $100,000 a year in the USA.

A Marine Conservationists salary is a lot more varied depending on the area you are interested in. Let’s delve further into working in marine conservation without a degree…….

My dream to work in Ocean Conservation

In case you are new to my blog, let me start with an introduction to give you some context. In 2016, aged 28, I completely changed my life.

Up until that point, I had been switching jobs, confused about who I was and what I wanted to do in my life (you can see all the different jobs I tried here)…..although looking back, I think it was less about the fact that I didn’t know what I wanted to do and more about having a lack of confidence to really pursue my dreams.

The turning point in 2016 was taking a sabbatical to go on my first big adventure, hiking the length of Israel. This challenge built back my confidence and gave me breathing space to start thinking about pursuing different things in life. Shortly after, I founded Love Her Wild – a women’s adventure community – and began crafting a career for myself as a blogger, speaker and expedition leader, organising all-female adventures worldwide. I’ve even had a book published about my story – Three Stripes South!

In short – I started to live life on my terms. With my newfound confidence, I began chasing things that really mattered to me.

While I’m on my quest to craft my dream life, it seemed only right that I somehow find space to pursue that old niggling dream I had to be a marine biologist. The marine world, ocean conservation and anything to do with the sea has always been a passion of mine – despite growing up miles from the ocean.

I wish I’d had a role model or someone to tell me there was such a career as marine biology or ocean conservation as a child. But I didn’t. I ended up with a degree in Film and media. At this point in my life, the financial, time and family commitments (especially since becoming a mum) that come with getting a second degree are out of the question.

So that leaves me with the question – can you become a marine biologist without a degree? In short…..the answer is yes! I’ve made the steps in the right direction to make ocean conservation a part of my life. And I want to share with you what I’ve learnt!

The response to this blog has been pretty overwhelming, esepcially from those who want to help wihtout needing a marine biology degree. As a result, I’ve gone on to write a book – a guide to marine conservation for non-scientists. It includes helpful steps you can take and loads of interviews from people doing their dream ocean conservation job who don’t have a science background. If you’re serious about taking those steps – you’ll want a copy of this book.

GRAB A COPY NOW!!!

become a marine conservationist without a degree
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How to become a marine biologist without a degree

Firstly we need to work out if becoming a marine biologist is actually what you want to do. From my experience, it’s usually not….

Being a marine biologist involves the study of marine organisms, their behaviours and interactions with the environment. It’s science-based. Another area of Marine Science is going into conservation management and policy. But there are other ways to work in this field without needing the science and policy knowledge under your belt.

Ask yourself which of the following you would prefer to do:
  1. Based in a lab analysing data collected on algae to better understand a disease that is damaging the area
  2. Working closely with governments and lawyers to implement policies that will lead to huge changes that will protect our oceans.
  3. Be managing a project on a coral reef, looking after a coral nursery and educating volunteers and visitors by taking them on snorkel trips and teaching them about the marine life and conservation issues
If the answer is 1 then this is the sort of work a marine biologist might do. Number 2 is someone working in environmental management and policy. But if number 3 sounds a bit closer to the dream then what you should be pursuing is marine conservation.

I fall into category number 3. While I love learning about the science of the ocean, what really makes me tick is being in the water, being hands-on with conservation and, mostly notably, inspiring and enthusing others to care about the marine world.

So, rather than working out how to become a marine biologist, I started looking into how to get into marine conservation.

GoEco marine conservation training Utila Dive Centre

Steps to take towards getting a job in marine conservation

Initially, I thought this would be out of reach without some form of biology or marine-related degree. But, as I researched and connected with people in the field, I found this wasn’t the case.

It’s absolutely possible to become a marine biologist without a degree – maybe not overseeing complicated scientific studies. But certainly assisting marine scientists in their studies or working hands-on in other areas of marine conservation.

Catherine Edsell is a great example (have a read of the interview with Wise Oceans). There are loads of ways to get involved with the marine world, and, from what I found, experience, knowledge and connections can take you just as far as a degree can.

It’s never too late!

Want to know how to get into marine conservation? Here are some ideas to get you started…

 #1 Free marine focused courses

Getting a good basic understanding of marine sciences and conservation issues is a good place to start. Not only will it give you an indication of how interested you really are in the topic (and which areas specifically you like), but will also give you a good knowledge base that can be applied to future opportunities.

Go into this with an open mind. While I love the big stuff – whales, dolphins, manta rays – I was surprised that when I started to learn about the ocean at a deeper level I developed an absolute fascination with celaphods (octopus!!!) and the deep ocean. It really opened up my view of the world.

There are lots of free marine biology courses available so all you need is a bit of time and dedication. Use Google to keep checking for new courses, although here are some to get you started….

Free online marine courses

    • Exploring Our Oceans is an online 4-week Future Learn course run by Southampton University. It’s a fantastic course and I loved working through the videos and quizzes. Future Learn also offer other relevant courses that focus on the environment and conservation.
    • Edx do a fantastic 4-week course on Sharks (you can’t be interested in the oceans and not learn about the sharks!)
    • TED Studies have put together a Marnie Biology series that covers some current conservation issues.
    • Open2Study offer a free online Marine and Antarctic Science course
    • The Open University also offers a free downloadable course called Oceans
    • You might also want to print out a glossary of Marine Biology terms.
    • Although you need to know specifically what you are looking for, Marine Bio has lots of marine biology and conservation information available on the website.
    • National Geographic do some great short conservation courses – including an ocean challenges one

#2 Get reading and get interested

A lot of books that focus on marine biology are academic or just really expensive. Some of the best books I’ve read through are just personal accounts or easy to read studies on a particular sea creature or conservation issue.

It’s a good way to hone in on your interests. Plus the personal stories often give me an insight into the area of marine conservation and how different individuals got jobs in this field. When you then start to work in the water or raising awareness you have a bit of background knowledge.

If you are serious about this, you should check out my post on the 60 best ocean and conservation books any marine conservationist should read!

If you are short on time though, these are the top ones I’d recommend that are most talked about. If you read all of these you are going to have a REALLY good understanding of our oceans and the biggest threats….

How to get into marine conservation

 #3 Spark your enthusiasm with documentaries

When it comes to documentaries, there is nothing quite like the Blue Planet. Once you’ve gone through this box set, there are some really great films that will keep you informed about some of the biggest issues that our oceans are facing.

#4 Learn the skills you need

If you want to be hands-on with conservation then you are going to need some training. Becoming a skipper or licenced boat driver could be useful. Really though, I don’t think there is any better way to get up close and personal with the oceans than diving.

Becoming a recognised diver

To get recognised as a competent diver, you are going to need PADI qualifications. At the very least Advanced Open Water (which is one level higher than Open Water and combined they take a week to complete). The next level which can really open doors is becoming a Divemaster. With this qualification, you can start to take a lead role in diving. If you are really serious, you can go all the way to Instructor level but this is where the courses get pricey.

Knowing how to dive is great, but marine conservationists need more than just this. They need to be able to recognise undersea components and learn useful skills such as identifying, surveying and gathering data.

Become a marine conservation diver

I did a lot of research to try and find a diving-focused course that would give me an array of skills in marine conservation. I found some great organisations (and some not so great) but time again found that for the price, you were actually getting very little transferable experience. I was very clear that I wanted training, not to be volunteering.

Then I discovered Utila Dive Centre’s (UDC) GoEco course, a new program that was exactly what I was looking for. Over a month, I worked closely with UDC’s resident marine biologist. I learnt how to ID fish, invertebrates, and coral. Gained 6 recognised conservation PADI qualifications. Studied a variety of Utila’s resident wildlife, including dolphins, whale sharks, and turtles. Carried out dozens of marine conservation surveys, learnt how to safely contain Lionfish and carried out advocacy projects, including beach cleanups and ocean debris collection. That’s a lot crammed into 4 weeks!

By the end of the month, I felt like a competent and capable marine conservationist and even went on to set up my own marine project. So I can really recommend the GoEco course! You can read all about my experience on the course here.

For other suggestions of conservation skills-based experiences also check out Operation Wallacea, Gili Eco Trust (they do a very cool biorock coral reef conservation course) and SOURCE.

Diving scholarship

For any women who are looking to advance their diving experience and qualifications, check out the Women’s Divers Hall of Fame. They offer a number of scholarships that you can apply for, for all levels and interests.

How to become a marine biologist

#5 Become a citizen scientist

What’s great once you’ve got a few skills under your belt, like the ones I got on the GoEco Program, is that you are then free to carry out marine biology conservation whenever and wherever. Anyone can become a citizen scientist.

For example:

Every time I go diving, I can now do a Fish ID tally (which is really fun and addictive!!!). I upload this information to REEF, which is free to join. All you need to be able to do this is a good knowledge of fish identification, which you can get from the PADI Fish ID speciality, or even by teaching yourself. REEF has a simple fish ID test that you need to pass to become a surveyor.

Similarly, you can do the same with the CoralWatch program by reporting the health of corals using a simple colour chart. I learnt how to do this on the PADI CoralWatch speciality and can also include this data gathering to future dives or even shallow snorkels.

The data for REEF and CoralWatch data is used by scientists around the world to monitor our seas and support theories and evidence. So the data you gather is really important and directly contributing to marine conservation.

Reef Check also offers a training program where once certified, you can participate in data gathering dives.

On the GoEco Program, I learnt all about the invasive Lionfish species and the damage it is doing to the reefs. With the PADI Lionfish Containment speciality from Utila Dive Centre, I am now qualified to safely and humanely contain Lionfish and, as a result, help protect the reefs and fish.

Organisations like Orca offer short marine observation courses so you can learn how to spot and ID whales and dolphins. With this under your belt, you can then volunteer to join commercial ferries, turning the journey into a marine conservation mission.

If you find yourself in a position where you might be spotting Whale Sharks, learn from Wild Book how to upload information to help identify each shark. We know very little about these creatures so this sort of information from citizen scientists proves invaluable to ongoing studies.

Or how about matching whale sounds in your spare time with Whale FM to help scientists out?

#6 Volunteer, intern and get involved

A good place to start is local. Get involved with beach cleanups or maybe see if there is a way you can help at your local aquarium. For many though, helping with marine conservation will involve looking overseas.

Overseas volunteering

Voluntourism is a big industry and marine-focused volunteering seems to be exceptionally expensive. There are some reasonably priced opportunities such as Wildtracks in Belize who rescue manatees or La Tortuga Feliz in Costa Rica who protect sea turtles. Or CBMWC takes seasonal volunteers ‘for free’ (!!) to help with dolphin research.

If you are considering volunteering, James Borell put together 10 questions to ask yourself as a conservation volunteer.

Set up something yourself

If this is proving too expensive, one approach is to find a way to set up or influence your own marine conservation project. This could be working with dolphin tour companies in the Philippines and joining tours to educate members of the public about conservation issues, or becoming involved with a dive centre where you can carry out surveys or Lionfish containment for a set amount of time. Or launching a project in your home-town to reduce plastic waste on the beaches.

Can you think of any other organisations you could connect with to set up a marine conservation initiative?

Here’s a great article for inspiration on a young advocate who set up her own Whale Shark project in Madagascar.

Whale shark swimming in Mafia Island

Volunteer on a research project

You might also feel that volunteering on a research project is better value in terms of the experience it gives you, or maybe through connections you might make.

Check out organisations like eXXpeditions or Biosphere Expeditions. I did a 10-day whale and dolphin conservation project with Biosphere Expeditions which was brilliant and gave me a good overview of whale conservation.

Get a job in marine conservation

With a bit of experience and knowledge behind you, why not take a leap and see if you can get a job in marine conservation? Probably to start with you will want to focus on entry-level ocean conservation jobs.

Wise Oceans is a resourceful website which lists all sorts of marine-focused jobs, internships and volunteering opportunities. Occasionally, you can also find jobs (paid and unpaid) on Environment Job, Conservation Careers and Conservation Job.

#7 Support the seas and shout about it

Probably after doing all the above research and getting involved with projects, you are feeling pretty frustrated and upset with the current situation with our oceans! One way you can really help make a difference is to become an advocate. Change begins with education.

Share what you have learnt, any way you can. Volunteer with great advocacy organisations like the Marine Conservation Society or Sea Shepherd to help fundraise and raise awareness. Sea Shepherd also takes volunteers on their boats (and as land crew) to help stop illegal practices in the oceans. Giving money is often a highly effective way to make a differnece. Support any organisation that you feel passionate about such as the Blue Marine Foundation or Marine Megafauna Foundation.

Don’t just preach. Make changes in your life that you know will help our oceans…..

    • stop eating fish, with so much bycatch and the current state of our oceans, there is no such thing as sustainable fishing really
    • make as many steps as you can towards a plastic-free life
    • wear reef friendly sunscreen
How about setting up a blog? A podcast? A video series? Or going into schools in your area to run workshops.There’s great scope for a YouTuber like Sea&Me but from the perspective of a non-scientist marine conservationist.(If you do go down the route of growing a personal brand – buy and read Crush It!….it provides a realistic blueprint for growing a following for yourself!)Anything that excites you that can help spread the word about ocean conservation!A word on setting something up as well. This could be a great way to educate and give back to the cause, while also giving you a chance to connect with the ocean. If you launched a YouTube series for example where you make short films about ocean conservation projects around the world, you would likely be able to visit them and participate for a few days for free in exchange for the exposure on your platform.I’ve accessed many exciting ocean projects and experiences in exchange for blogging about them!How to be a marine biologist without a degree

#8 Get a qualification

You might want to get a formal qualification to recognise what you know and to support your interest. If you are serious about becoming a marine biologist or marine conservationist, then this could be the easiest way in.

Getting a degree might not be an option for many, but A levels and diplomas are widely available at nearby colleges and also online. I’ve spoken with a handful of universities that have also said with a relevant A level or diploma, some experience, and enthusiasm, they would accept people onto a marine-related masters, even if their degree wasn’t in a relevant subject.

Here are some distant learning options to take a look at:

There are also options to entirely self-study for a qualification. Here is an interesting article, with resources, put together by a dad who had helped his son self-study for a Marine Science A Level.

Other non-accredited courses

I can also really recommend having a read of this blog by James Borell about getting a job in conservation…he’s got some great advice!

Marine Conservation for non-scientists…the ultimate guide

This post has only touched on some of the ways into marine conservation without needing a marine biology degree. For a more in-depth guide, make sure to grab a copy of my book Marine Conservation for non-scientists.The most valuable part of the book is without doubt the interviews and hearing from others in the field and how they got to doing their dream job without a science background. They share their journeys, what they learnt along the way and their advice to others. They really are very inspiring!!GRAB YOUR COPY NOW!
become a marine conservationist without a degree
how to become a marine biologist

Getting a job in Marine Conservation

Hopefully, you are feeling a little more inspired knowing that there are ways to get into marine biology and conservation without needing to take 4 years out to study.My own journey into marine conservation started just a few of years ago when I did the GoEco course at Utila Dive Centre. This was a catalyst for me and gave me a lot of confidence to pursue this field. I have since set up a whale shark conservation project on Mafia Island. And also gone on to run conservation projects for women worldwide via the Love Her Wild community I founded (such as heading the Paddle Pickup expedition where I organised the first all-female team to kayak the width of the UK against plastic pollution).Most importantly on my journey was recognising the area of conservation that I am most suited to and passionate about. For me, it’s all about inspiring and enthusing others. This is where I can make a real difference! Getting people hands-on and excited about our oceans enough to make positive habit changes that will then go on to make a difference.For you it could be educating children, raising awareness through art, organising events and talks, fundraising for ocean conservation charities or being a public speaking activist. Lean into your skills!Remember that you can’t fix everything, so just find the space in conservation that is the right fit for you. And stop letting worries about ‘do I need a degree’, ‘do I know enough’ or ‘am I good enough’ stop you from pursuing this passion. You have an important role to play…….our oceans need you!

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If you know of any other great websites, courses or organisations that I have missed out from my list, please do let me know in the comments box below. Or just set your intentions and let me know what you hope to do next….I love hearing from other inspiring ocean conservationists!

If you found this post helpful, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel. I give all my advice for free on my website. If you want to say thanks, you can buy me a coffee!

*Any women reading this?* I founded a women’s adventure community called Love Her WIld. Check out our private Facebook page and see what adventures we have coming up.

66 Comments

  1. Wayne

    This is fantastic! You’ve put in so much research to gather all this together – it must have been a labour of love. I’m hoping to switch careers myself and pursue photography based on NGO work and voluntary/conservation work.

    One of the topics I’ll be keen to document will be marine conservation and the efforts to clean coastlines. There’s some great links here you’ve provided that should really help build a network to realise my intentions…..

    Reply
    • admin

      That’s so great to hear Wayne!! It did take ages but as you guessed, I loved doing it!

      Your career change sounds amazing. Wishing you all the luck 🙂

      Reply
      • Matt

        Thank you so much for sharing your valuable insights. I have disturbing dreams about suppressing my passions for so long; and at 53 simply need to change course. Yours is the first website I visited to begin my new journey. You are a generous angel.

        With gratitude.

        Reply
        • Bex Band

          So kind Matt – that means a lot so thank you for saying.
          And good on you for changing your course!! Wishing you all the luck in the world!

          Reply
    • Olga Martinez

      hello my name is Olga martinez I am 20 years old currently in college to become a CMA , I’m enjoy it but my dream has always been to help the ocean and the mammals in the ocean . I’m lost i don’t know what to do could you please give some advice ?

      Reply
  2. Fernando Vergara

    Excellent information! Thank you very much, this is exactly what I was looking for.

    Reply
    • admin

      Great to hear its of use Fernando 🙂

      Reply
    • ishita sarkar

      EXCELLENTLY EXECUTED!! I’ve been lurking on the internet for the past one week or so on this topic and this entire post just made my efforts worth for it!! I’m a college sophomore currently and planning to do Master’s in marine biology and oceanography. But everywhere I see the work is mostly focused on the lab research which is a good thing but I’m more interested in marine mammals conservation especially cetaceans! I’m saving the link to this page because I have to come back here. There’s uncertainty factors running behind the back of my mind currently about my career aspects but I hope I will make it someday. Thank you so much.

      Reply
      • Bex Band

        Thank you for the kind words. Don’t give up on making the dream happen! 🙂

        Reply
  3. Marlies - Dive o'clock

    Great post Bex, I will be sharing it today with my readers and tag you. All the best 🙂

    Reply
    • admin

      Thank you Marlies for sharing 🙂

      Reply
  4. TobyM

    I did a similar thing, I was always fascinated by the sea as a child especially tropical reefs, fish and corals. I learnt to dive, lived on a Tropical Island for many years volunteered for conservation projects helped on reef surveys and the like. Then I decided to get an MSc in Coastal Management which I did with no real science background I got a very good grade. Then reality sort of hit, I couldn’t get work in the field, even to volunteer for an organisation like UNEP or DFID required 5 years in field experience, I couldn’t afford to pay the bills and had to revert back to doing the work I did pre-diving in the end, and for way too long to be able to apply for work in the field and that was almost 15 years ago. I believe there is so little investment in marine conservation that competition for the few paid jobs is so high or they are incredibly underpaid. In the end the folk that got the jobs were the ones that could afford to volunteer (mostly trust funders) and get their feet in the door. I admire your post and its great that you can do this. I hope that more people get involved in conservation, but I would never say its an easy thing to pursue as a career, especially in marine conservation. You might end up a fisheries policy manager if you enjoy crunching statistics, but being lucky enough to jump into tropical seas with Mantas is probably not the reality for most people trying to get into the field.

    Reply
    • admin

      Yes, it really is competitive! I guess going in you need to decide what your main focus is. If you’re keen to work up close with the marine life each day, being a scuba diver instructor is your best bet and to use this position to inspire your clients to look after the oceans. There are lots of different ways to make a difference. Awareness and fundraising is a big one and doesn’t need any specific qualifications and can often be done off your own back. If you’re keen to be on the policy/research side of things though it’s a bit different.
      I hope you find a way back in!

      Reply
  5. Zee

    Hi Bex, i love this blog. Thank you very much for the information and the inspiration. I have a taken the first step and have enrolled for a free marine and antarctic science course online. Having grown up by the sea, I have always been very passionate about marine life and conservation. However I never got the chance to persue my dream. I’ll be 30 this year and was wondering, am I too late to start a career in marine biology? And also how long did it take you to do all the things you mentioned?

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thank you Zee! Amazing, good on you. What is the course you are enrolled in? I’d be interested in joining too!
      So I have done all this in less than 2 years. I decided to use every opportunity to learn about marine biology and join in any conservation efforts I can. I turn 30 this year so am a similar age and I don’t think it is too late at all!! In fact I think you have an advantage. Learning about marine science and these skills is just one part of being a good conservationist. Depending on what interests you and what angle you want to take, you need good organisational skills, good people skills, fundraising abilities, etc – all things that we can learn and take from previous experiences and work.
      So I think you should 100% go for it!! I’ve met some great conservationists who didn’t become passionate about the ocean until later in life. So not too late 🙂
      Bex x

      Reply
  6. Vijay Raghavan

    Hi Bex , I have studied batchlors in computer science have been a software developer for last 6 years and now at 29 decided to quit and study marine science . I have in a week’s time now read 3 email responses from University professors rejecting my application for master and suggesting me to study diploma or relevant course as a prerequisite for doing MSc in marine biology . At 1 a.m I am so glad I didn’t lock my phone and sleep but rather read your article . luckily I felt I am on track as I also planned to do PADI advance open water course first , and for the article I can’t thank you enough . I will religiously explore all the educational links provided and other courses mentioned and volunteer.

    Thank you again for all the effort and time you have put in to stich the wealth of information in this article .

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thank you Vijay!! Reading your words makes me very happy!! Working as a scientist is just one way into this field. Keep building up those experiences and knowledge and see where it takes you. New doors always open!
      The GoEco course I mention in Honduras is a real wealth of knowledge if you can afford it. Of all the things I’ve done, I found the course gave me the insight and confidence I needed to start setting up my own initiatives.
      Good luck! Let me know how you get on 🙂

      Reply
    • Kayden

      I want to be a marine biologist when I am older.

      Reply
  7. Jennifer Charles

    This is great information. I was that person that said “I always wanted to be a Marine Biologist”. It has always been my dream. I decided right before I found out I was pregnant with my first child and it never went away. After my kids graduated high school I finally decided to pursue my dream. I am not an old, I just turned 40 but, it does seem like a far reach. I have been going at for about 2 years now but what my desire is to be in the ocean. I feel so defeated sometimes because of my age. I’m going to look more into the websites you suggested to see what other options I have. I am very interested in studying Orca’s. I don’t know anyone in this line of work and not even sure where to start. I have been working in the admin field for many years and I worry I wont be accepted.

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thank you!! Don’t be disheartened. There are more ways to work with marine wildlife than just being a marine biologist. I knew a guy who led kayak tours to see orcas so gets to see them all the time but came from a kayaking background.
      I can really recommend doing the GoEco course in a Utila if you can afford to do it…it really equips you for the skills and confidence to start getting in to marine biology and conservation.

      Reply
    • Jan Townsend

      Goodness Jennifer, I’ve been thinking so much about getting into this field for nearly 6 years now…but have always loved the ocean and marine life…especially dolphins, for most of my life. I thought I was too old to start a career in this. I will be turning 70 next year (doesn’t seem possible), but all of this amazing info makes me see it is possible…even for an old seabird like me! So, you are still very young! Get on with your dream! Jan

      Reply
      • Bex Band

        Lovely words – thanks Jan 🙂

        Reply
  8. Abbi

    What a fantastic article! You’ve clearly put alot of time, thought and passion into this!!

    I turn 30 next year and thus am having a rethink of my career/life. I completed an environmental science foundation (entry level) degree back in 2006, with the hope of studying marine biology – however I realised then that the grind of pure study was not for me!! I then completed a 3 month volunteer project in remote Fiji (the company has expanded hugely since and is now called gap force) where I learnt fish and coral ID, completed surveys and also trained as a PADI dive master.

    It was always my dream from then to find a way into marine conservation or become a fully fledged diving instructor – so I returned to the UK to save funds and became entangled in the money trap. It’s only the past couple of years I have found my way back into the outdoors through becoming an outdoor sports instructor, but Marine life is still at the centre of my heart. I’d put the idea aside as I simply thought I’d never make it without a degree.

    Your article has really given me back confidence and some inspiration to begin studying again and to become a citizen scientist alongside my current outdoor work, hopefully it will send me on a more desired path!! Thank you and well done on a great post!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Amazing Abbi. It’s great to hear you are inspired not to give up on your dreams. I think outdoor work goes perfectly with conservation and changing others attitudes. It sounds like you’ve already got a good basis to start with.
      Have a great 30th birthday and good luck with all your marine conservation plans!! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Diana Chaves

    Dear Bex, I cannot tell you how much your blog has impacted and inspired me! From years I have been frustrated because I did not pursue my degree in Biology. However, life have funny turns and I have had great opportunities in life to be very close to environmental programs in diverse fields. One of my great experiences was working in the Pacific ocean of my country with humpback whales and seaturtles :). At that moment I understood my deep feelings for the ocean. I have been thinking over for a few years now that maybe I should pursue some studies in marine conservation, although thinking I am already 40 sometimes make me feel discourage I confess. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you tons for posting this amazing blog and sharing so much information for the marine biologist from heart! Sheers!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      That’s amazing and so inspiring to hear. Thank you Diana for sharing and touching base! I think there are so many like us who feel the same….it would be such a shame to let age or qualifications deter those who are most passionate. Keep pursuing that dream 🙂 x

      Reply
  10. Tanvi Vaid

    Thank you so much for this article! I’ve taken courses like Business Management and studies all my life and now that I want to get into the marine conservation space, I’ve been extremely disheartened to see that don’t have the requirements. This article really gives me some direction! Was hoping we can chat further regarding people in India looking to pursue the same?

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      So great to know Tanvi – thank you! I’m away for the next couple of months but please do drop me an email on [email protected] 🙂

      Reply
  11. Jay Jalali

    Such an inspiration! Thank you for all this information and useful guidance!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thank you Jay! 🙂

      Reply
  12. Alice

    Hi! I can not tell you how helpful this is – just reading the start of your blog this is exactly how I feel and now ive got some more direction as to where I can go without taking years out to go to uni (which isn’t affordable for me). Just want to thank you, now means I may be able to follow a career in something I am actually passionate and enthusiastic about!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      This is really amazing to hear, thank you for sharing Alice! I really believe marine conservation is absolutely worth pursuing even if you aren’t able to get a formal qualification.
      Don’t give up and good luck!!

      Reply
  13. Christian

    Thank you for this. It’s time for me to stop thinking about doing it, and start actively working towards this goal. Awesome info, thanks again!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Yes! So great to hear Christian…..good luck!

      Reply
  14. Claire Kelly

    This is incredible! Thank you for these amazing resources and tips!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thank you Claire 🙂

      Reply
  15. Lisa

    Hi Bex,

    Thank you for the wonderful blog. Unfortunately even those of us with a biologist background, it’s not an easy field to get into. I am a PADI Divemaster and have done marine conservation/research work in Costa Rica, Florida, Thailand, Vietnam, and west coast of Canada, but I found I struggled with finding positions that are longer than a few months and that can put food on the table. Furthermore, unfortunately most of my experience aren’t recognized here in Canada because they are non-Canadian, so whenever I am home and between jobs, I struggle with finding a job at home, and eventually end up being abroad again to continue the cycle. I am looking at going back to school for a professional Master degree to get some so call Canadian experience and to fill in some gaps in knowledge in policy and other fields, also because it’s unlikely to find a job for a period of time post-COVID. I am also finding a little tired from having moved around so much the past several years (especially when I got repatriated from Vietnam due to COVID), and hoping to get longer term positions.

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      It sounds like it’s been a struggle! I really hope you are able to find something soon.

      Reply
    • Coral Ann Turner

      Very interesting & informative! I will look into marine conservation courses & volunteer at Aquarium & travel abroad, even if it results as a hobby & helps to preserve sealife.🧜🐟 🐠🐬🦈🐳 🐢🦭

      Reply
      • Bex Band

        Amazing! Good luck with your endeavours Lisa. Like you say….it all helps 🙂

        Reply
  16. Emily

    Hi Bex,
    Fantastic post, really interesting and some great links. I have just completed a handful of the free OU courses, and particularly liked the Oceans one. I have been tempted for a while now to enrol on the level 3 Oxford diploma. Have you completed this course yourself or know of anyone that has? There are only a few reviews online and they are from some time ago now. I am undecided whether to enrol or not, it looks interesting regardless but thought I would ask on the off chance if you know of any feedback on that course?
    Thank you for your time and sharing such an interesting post

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thanks Emily! I haven’t done the course myself. I wonder if it’s worth contacting them to ask if you can speak with some students directly to get their feedback. I’ve had my eye on the course for some time!

      Reply
  17. Nicole

    THANK YOU! I literally have been spending the last month trying to work the numbers and decide if its worth going to study a bachelor level course in marine science. However, i think i really just need to get involved and learning as much as I can.
    Thanks for the tips, ill definitely be implementing a few of these to live my dream life (even if i still have to work an office job for my 9-5 in the meantime).

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Good on you Nicole! I’m glad you realised there’s another way. Studying is hugely expensive and often there’s a better way you can spend your time and resources to help you get to the end point quicker!
      Thanks for reading and good luck 🙂

      Reply
  18. Chrystal

    Wow!!! This answered a lot of my questions! College isn’t for everyone and I was hoping this would be a good field to get into and not need a degree and have to go back to school again, this time for something completely different. So thank you for putting this information together in one place! Very informative and I hope to go through them one by one and check them out!
    I was wondering however, if there was a reason why research on lion fish kept popping up in your article. Is this a personal love for doing work with them or just something you recommend for getting great experience working with all fish in particular and a good place to start? Just curious!
    I was looking to hopefully find a way to work with sea turtles, preferably be the one physically helping them in the water as well as working in possibly a rehabilitation center being as hands on as possible, but not full on vet work/being a vet for marine life (which I know would require a full vet degree and then some for marine life on top of that). I’m wondering how an education/experience from that type of a job aspect would differ from the recommendations you offered listed here for marine conservation. Any additional info on doing that or letting me know if that’s still possible without a degree or if you have any recommendations about which way to purse to do that, that would be greatly appreciated as well! Thanks so much!! I can’t wait to still dive into the information here!!

    Reply
    • Gil Drori

      Great to hear you found it helpful! My advice would be to do some research and reach out to others who are doing your dream job and working with turtles. They’d be able to give much more specific advice. The Lion Fish projects is a good example of how you can very easily have a direct and hands on approach to conservation without a science background. Other than protecting turtle eggs it may not be so straightforward with turtles. Hope that helps 🙂

      Reply
  19. Jessica

    This is fantastic and so informative! Just the article I’ve been looking for.

    Over lockdown I’ve been watching so many documentaries about coral reefs and the effects climate change have on them, my favourites were Chasing Coral, My Octopus Teacher and of course David Attenborough. After studying Travel and Tourism at college, the topic I was interested the most in was responsible tourism. I would love to get into Marine Conservation and teach younger generations how their actions matter in fighting the climate crisis.

    Thank you for all resources listed, I can’t wait to get learning!! 🐠

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thank you for reading. What a great ambition you have – inspiring the younger generation is so important and will create all the scientists and campaigners of tomorrow. Good luck!! 🙂

      Reply
  20. Teddy

    Thank you so much for writing this!! It really inspired me to put my foot forward and believe that switching careers or at least getting my feet wet is possible.

    I first started my interest in marine conservation a couple years ago when I did independent research for my university on the impacts of climate change and their correlation to coral bleaching. During that time I wanted to make the greatest impact on reducing CO2 emissions and found the best way to do that would be to pursue a graduate degree in transportation engineering as 1/4 of all our emissions come from the way we get around and another 1/4 from the energy we use (in America).

    Anyway, I was really fascinated that you created a project of your own and I would love to do something similar. How did you get started? Do you perhaps have an article documenting your process? I have always wanted to save corals, seagrass, and mangroves and the multitude of marine life that depend on them.

    Thank you again for this inspiring article.

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thank you Teddy! It’s great to hear you feel inspired to start your own project – if you have that inclination then it really is the best way, even though it’s not always easy. I’ll write a full breakdown of how I set-up the project when I release the Marine Conservation for Non-scientists book I’m working on so make sure you are following my newsletter as I’ll share it there.
      I did a lot of online courses and did the GoEco course alongside some hands on volunteering. I got my Divemaster and first aid qualifications and spent a lot of time in the area I wanted to set up the project. I think felt like I had the right amount of experience and skills to make it happen so I started going through the motions one step at a time. It really was as simple as that!

      Reply
  21. Krissy

    Wow! Thank you so much for his incredibly informative post! I’ve been an RN for 13 years and I have 3 young children. I have always dreamed of being a marine biologist (but nursing seemed more practical and safe). You made me realize it’s marine conservation I want to do! And I don’t need to go back to school full time to do it! Thank you for all of the links and all of the great information and encouragement! I’m excited for your book!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Amazing Krissy! Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It sounds like you’ve had an amazing career in nursing and raising your children but it’s time to pursue your passion. Wishing you well with the next steps – and I hope to be putting updates about the book very soon 🙂

      Reply
  22. Oliver

    What an amazing post, so inspiring and so many fantastic links to explore. I’m 45 and work as a Data Visualisation Analyst in the education sector. Like so many others here, my passion has always been the sea. I would love to work in marine conservation, perhaps putting my data analysis/communications experience to use. This post has inspired me to try to make that dream a reality. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      You are welcome Oliver! I really hope you can find a way to make your passion a part of your life – no doubt those data analysis and communications skills will prove useful!

      Reply
  23. Melissa

    Thank you thank you thank you for this information!!! I am 25 and live in Australia. I have travelled working in the tourism industry since I left school and am tossing up studying coastal and marine science at uni next year. However, your info has shown how I can open up my own pathways without studying for 3 years and work in the areas I actually. want to! Your article is going to be my bible for the next few months while I pour over the courses, reading material and documentaries you have listed. We are currently in covid lockdown but I have been waiting for summer to start earning some diving qualifications.

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thats so great to hear Melissa – good luck getting those diving qualifications!

      Reply
  24. Sophie

    This is exactly what I’ve been look for! I just started college and was planning on taking marine biology, sadly the major is not available in my country. I panicked and started my research for things that I can do without a marine biology degree and I found your blog!!! It’s amazing! I found everything I need in here 🙂 Thank You!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      I’m so pleased it’s been helpful!! It’s a shame you can’t do your major in Marine Biology but definitely don’t give up hope as there’s lots of other ways ‘in’ 🙂

      Reply
  25. Steven

    This is great information. My son is 9 years old and for over a year he’s been saying he wants to be a marine biologist. He loves watching films and documentaries on sea animals. We saw: Chasing Coral, My Octopus Teacher…etc.

    Realizing he’s really into marine life, I bought him 3 serious big boy books: 1. Sharks of the world, 2. Smithsonian – Oceanology, 3. Handbook of whales, dolphins, and porpoises of the world.
    He’s been lugging these big books around everyday and reading with interest. He really loves sharks and dolphins and knows more aquatic life than me.

    He loves the water. I have him taking swimming lessons since he’s 1 year old and now he’s in the swim team.

    Do you have any pointers on how I can guide a young boy to be a marine biologist?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      He sounds like an amazing young boy! I think you are already doing exactly the right things. Diving will be a useful skill for him to learn when he’s a teenager. There are some programs for young people in marine conservation and even a summer camp in Canada so maybe see if you can find out more about these.

      Reply
  26. Alix Thomas

    Hi,
    Thank you so much for posting this as it was really inspiring. Currently Im a 19 year old college student. This is actually my second time trying college after I took a break because it’s very overwhelming. My dream has always been to go into marine biology or marine conservation, but I’ve always been scared I’ll fail that goal by not getting a degree. Seeing this blog post made me realize that my passions are possible degree or not. I’ll definitely check out the links you included too.

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      That’s great to hear Alix….don’t give up on that dream! 🙂

      Reply
  27. Hannes Thor Thorhallsson

    Hello my name is Hannes, I´m 31 years old and I want to get into marine biology because I love the ocean and the sea animals. I am interested in ichthyology and oceanography. However I need to improve my knowledge in the basic sciences like math, biology and chemistry. I have looked into websites like brilliant.org and khan academy but I am also considering hiring a private tutor. Do you have any advide for me? Such as websites that can teach me more about math and biology and what books to read?

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Hi Hannah – I don’t have any experience of this but it seems like you have a good plan in place. I’d suggest contacting the organisations directly.
      Good luck 🙂

      Reply

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