Colleges with good Marine Science/ Marine Biology Undergraduate programs?

I am a high school junior, and I am making a list of colleges I will be applying to next school year. I want to major in marine biology or marine science. I have done some research on my own, but I would love more advice!

Please suggest more options or suggest which one has the best program.
Thank you so much for your help^^

Colleges on my list:
Northeastern University
Boston University
Duke University
Cornell University
California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB)
California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)
University of Miami

Have a great rest of your day<3

Are you in-state for CA? If not are the UCs and Cal States affordable?

UNC-W has an exceptional marine biology program, that uses all of the marine environments in the area. Their website is awful, but the program is really strong.


Are you a CA resident? If so, UC-Davis should be on your list.

Other suggestions: Stony Brook University, Eckerd College

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Seconding Eckerd in FL. My son was looking for the same thing and Eckerd topped his list after visits. The main difference they have is they are right on the water meaning one can roll out of bed and walk to the lab (vs others like Miami where the lab is not on campus) and no graduate students getting to do the “fun” stuff. Undergrads participate from freshman year. They are extremely well respected in the field as evidenced by their being the top school producing Hollings Scholars.


U Maine has a good marine biology prgram.

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I’m a current senior and applied for Marine Bio/Science at some of the schools on your list (7 UCs and Northeastern). I also applied (and was admitted) the University of Oregon, which (from what I can tell) has a really great and hands-on Marine Bio program. They have the Oregon Institute of Marine Bio (OIMB) where you can do research and live for some time during undergrad. I would also recommend checking out Occidental in LA, which has a really cool Marine Bio program and tons of research going on for a smaller college. I would recommend checking them out and lmk if you have any other questions!


URI and UMaine have overall lower tuitions with a lot of merit opportunities and very good marine biology programs

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U New England is also worth a look, as is U Tampa, and, if you don’t mind living far from home, maybe look at U Hawai’i, Hilo.

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Echo above that University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) has a great marine biology program and great coastal location.

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University of Washington and Oregon State University have two of the top programs on the west coast.

If you want to include graduate school, then University of Washington ranks as the top School of Oceanography on the planet.

If you are from CA or looking at CA schools then you should add Humboldt State to your list.


home state, stats and budget would help.

I studied marine science at Duke (more specifically, Earth & Ocean Sciences) and absolutely loved it. Most biology majors at Duke are pre-med and more interested in biochemistry and molecular biology, so undergraduates in ecology, marine bio, and environmental science get small classes, lots of faculty attention, and more resources than they can take advantage of. The marine lab is a great place to spend a year, and the research opportunities there provide a great springboard for grad school.

That said, I am hesitant to suggest particular schools for you without knowing more about your stats, your financial situation, and what you’re looking for in a college. While it’s true that schools mentioned above like UDub and UNCW have strong marine science programs, you do NOT need to attend a college with a top-notch marine bio program (or even a marine bio program at all) to get into a PhD program. The important thing is getting a solid grounding in the natural sciences as well as statistics and computer science. There is plenty of time for specialization at the graduate level.


Thank you so much for sharing​:pleading_face::two_hearts: I am looking into all the colleges you guys have suggested! I will reach out if I have any more questions.

Here are my stats:
-Weighted GPA: 4.86
-Unweighted GPA: 4.00
-PSAT: 1340 (I didn’t study for that T^T but I’ve been taking practice tests Khan Academy and prep books after receiving the result)
-Founded a marine biology club at my school/ also formed my school’s first National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) team this school year
-Math Team, Girls in Engineering, Science, and Math (GEMS)'s PR, Neuroscience Club’s Media Rep, Korean Culture Club’s VP, Varsity Badminton Team, Korean Fan Dance, Japanese Honor Society
-Babysit and work at my aunt’s restaurant after school almost every day for several hours
-Volunteer at a meditation center since 7th grade

  • have taken Honors/ AP classes (my school’s scheduling is very bad so I have taken 3 AP’s so far)
    -2 Dual Enrollment classes (Biology I and General Psychology)

More Info:

  • I live in Chicago, IL
  • The budget is unlimited (my grandpa’s siblings are willing to pay if I get into a good college/ but my dad’s income is around 30K)
  • First-generation student
  • Immigrant(moved to the US when I was 13, self-taught English)
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Word of advice here. I spent 15 years of my life working as a marine fisheries biologist for NOAA in Seattle, Alaska, and Washington DC. before getting married, relocating, and getting into teaching. An undergraduate degree in marine science gets you nothing in terms of a science career. At a minimum you are going to need a masters degree for entry level policy oriented jobs and a PhD for any serious scientific jobs in marine science. There are some alternate routes like ocean engineering. But if you are thinking you want a career in marine science, you are looking at graduate school. So you should be looking at undergraduate schools that have a high placement rate for students going into top PhD research programs in the sciences.

Also, most of the money and research jobs in marine science and oceanography are related to climate issues and things like chemical oceanography. Studying things like CO2 absorption and productivity. And not things like studying dolphins or coral reefs or such. If I was your age and looking to start a new career in ocean sciences, I’d be looking at climate change adaptation, which is as much engineering as science. Cities and countries around the planet are going to be paying enormous sums of money to science and engineering firms to help them engineer against rising sea levels and such.

What does that mean for you, just starting a career in marine science? It means finding the best biology programs you can find as you are going to need a core undergraduate education that is heavy in both biology and chemistry. Don’t be obsessed with finding a program with a top marine biology department. You just want a top biology program that has marine science classes available. You are likely not going to take more than 3 or 4 marine science classes anyway as an undergrad. And there are a lot of interesting summer programs you can do around the world. Then gear up a good undergrad research portfolio that will impress grad schools and think about graduate studies at one of the top 5 marine science programs in the country (University of Washington, UC-San Diego, University of Miami, MIT, Oregon State, etc.)

In your shoes, I’d be looking at the Ivies and near equivalents with top undergrad biology programs with the idea that the purpose of your undergrad experience is to launch you into graduate school, not directly into a career in marine science. Of course all things being equal, it doesn’t hurt to find one near the ocean so Stanford, Duke, Rice, etc. and not Washington U. or Northwestern in the center of the continent.


Make sure that your grandpa’s siblings know how much US universities cost, because it is probably a lot more than universities in the country you immigrated from.

Make sure you ask about future positions in Marine biology, and your return on your education investment.
I was surprised to learn that all of our tour guides, in Maui, on the ship charters, were marine biologists. They prepared and served our meals. They loaded our gear and got in some teaching and research on the tours.
They also relied on tips from the tourists.
My sister, in Maui, said that the Marine biologists weren’t very well paid, and in the expensive Hawaiian islands, it doesn’t go far.
Take care to research your future.

Alternatively, a college with a well regarded marine biology program which has a lower “rank” overall, may be much cheaper, since there is a good chance for merit scholarships, considering @SealWorshipper’s profile.

Of course, applying to one of the more “prestigious” colleges, like Duke or Stanford, is also financially a really good idea, since, with your Father’s income, you would likely attend for little to nothing.

So, my general advice is to apply to full need met schools on one hand, and to schools which provide really good merit scholarships on the other. It will likely mean that your list of colleges will be made up of reaches and safeties, with few, if any, matches. But that, to me, looks like your best strategy, financially.

In any case, based on your profile, you are competitive for any college.

The point is that someone wishing to pursue a career in marine science needs to realize that the end-point of undergraduate education is to launch into a top PhD program in oceanography. There are no meaningful marine science careers with a terminal BS in marine science. So it is basically just like med school or law school. Your undergrad is just a launch pad into graduate studies.

Some schools are far better at placement into graduate programs than others. That would be my criteria for examining undergraduate programs, not what specific marine science classes they might offer.

Absolutely. That is why I referred to reputation of the program among Marine Biologists. I just pointed out that the reputation of the program doesn’t always match with the reputation of the college. So an undergrad in ecology from UC Davis is a better launch pad to a PhD program than an undergrad in ecology from UCLA.

is there any place or website to find this sort of information? or to find which schools have the best marine bio/oceanography-specific grad school placement?