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The survival of humanity is linked to the health of our coasts and oceans. However for those of us passionate about our oceans, there are hardly any resources that share which are the top Universities and courses to study Marine Biology, or Oceanology. Don't worry- OPP has you covered! Take your studies beyond the books and deep dive into the available courses to develop the practical skills & experiences to thrive in this industry and hopefully, directly contribute to the future of humanity and the survival of the ecological world.

Wide range of research functions in the Marine Biology sector (Source: Ocean Purpose Project)

What do Marine Biologists do? They study marine organisms, their behaviour, the effects of human activity on those animals, and everything in between. Many Universities offer Marine biology as a course and similar courses related to the ocean. To be a marine biologist you need to work hard and work smart. This article will help you navigate that.

Before we share the top universities to consider, it's important for us to introduce the difference between Marine Biology and Oceanology as academic disciples. Marine biology is not the only course that Universities offer, as marine science has a wide range of disciplines. Here are some of the variations.

Marine Biology / Environmental science

Marine science / environmental science is imperative to understand and respond to important issues that plague our planet, like global warming, tourism and pollution on our oceans. Under this course, you are able to learn marine biological systems in great detail, and the application of ecological principles and environmental management strategies.


Oceanography is the interdisciplinary study of the global oceans, coastal areas, ocean trenches and many more. Oceanography is slightly different from Marine Biology, but is generally more focused on the interactions of specific parameters within the marine environment. For many universities, Oceanography is divided into four sub-disciplines:

  1. Chemical Oceanography -- the study of the composition and properties of seawater, pollution, the atmosphere and ocean life.

  2. Physical Oceanography -- the study of waves, currents, tides etc.

  3. Geological Oceanography -- the study of sediments, rocks and the structure of the seafloor etc.

  4. Biological Oceanography -- the study of marine organisms and their behaviour.

Overall, it is a versatile degree that offers you a foundation of the physical and biological sciences, as well as the understanding of how marine systems interact with each other.

1) James Cook University, Queensland Australia & James Cook University, Singapore

Course offered: Marine Science, Marine biology and Aquaculture

Degree: Undergraduate, Masters, Phd

These courses at JCU (James Cook University) provide you with the access to a unique learning environment with research stations, laboratories and the Great Barrier Reef right at your doorstep. Under this course, you will develop an expert understanding of how to protect and manage marine resources, as well as learning innovative ways to maintain sustainable fishing industries. Ocean Purpose Project also signed a historic agreement and MOU with JCU to further research into marine research, seaweed specifically so you can work with us as interns if you like!

(Signing of MOU with Dean Professor Chris Rudd OBE, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Head of Campus, Singapore. Source: Ocean Purpose Project)

This is the university for you if you want real hands-on experience in the oceans, and industry knowledge instead of solely theory based learning.


2) Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Course offered: Oceanography

Degree: course offered under The Asian School of Environment as part of Bachelor of Science (Environmental Earth Systems Science)

The course focuses on physical ocean circulation, including interactions between the ocean and climate. It will then examine ocean chemistry and its interactions with ocean biology, especially nutrient cycling, biological production and decomposition, and ocean carbon uptake. As part of that, this course will consider how chemical tracers can shed light on oceanographic processes, and it will wrap up with a look at optical oceanography.

As part of the Asian School of the Environment (ASE), this course is offered at NTU in an interdisciplinary School focused on Asian environmental challenges. The ASE integrates earth and environmental life science, ecology, engineering and technology, human ecology​, hum​anities, and the social sciences to address key issues of the environment and sustainability. The School offers a Doctor of Philosophy, a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Earth Systems Science, a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Earth Systems Science and Public Policy and Global Affairs and a minor open to all students at NTU in Environmental Sustainability.

3) Ocean University China, College of Marine Sciences, Qingdao, China

Courses offered: Marine Science

Degree: Undergraduate, Masters, Phd

OUC (Ocean University of China) is a comprehensive university with strengths in oceanography and fisheries science. It has been approved as one of the national key universities in China. OUC has graduated a large number of specialists in marine science for China and is the cradle of China’s marine professionals.

This university will fit you if you want to study under comprehensive research faculties and industrial experiences, with the chance of collaborating with international facilities.

4) University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Courses offered: Marine Biology, Ecology, Conservation biology

Degree: Undergraduate, Masters, Phd

You will discover how the diversity of marine organisms behave and how they interact with their environment. The Marine Biology course will offer you the opportunity to investigate biological phenomena from local to a global scale.

Particular modules are:

  • Marine and ecology conservation

  • Taxonomy and systematics

  • Aquaculture and fisheries

  • Animal behaviour

This course will also allow you to take part in fieldwork at UQ’s (University of Queensland) Heron Island Research Station on the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay research station on North Stradbroke Island.

Why UQ? Well UQ gives you access to impressive marine facilities with hands-on industrial level experience near Australia’s actual marine environment.

5) University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

Courses offered: Marine and Antarctic Science

Degree: Undergraduate, Masters, Phd

Under this one-of-a-kind course, you will attain the skills and knowledge for a career in the exciting, growing and globally critical marine, fisheries and Antarctic sectors. You can combine your passion for the sciences and your love of the outdoors with their field trips to coastal areas in Tasmania, practical classes at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic studies (IMAS), their world class centre of excellence of research and education.

This University is for you if you wish to impart your knowledge on the complexities of our marine environments through a career in research or through the sustainable aquaculture industry. Your learning experience will also benefit from the university’s strong relationship and proximity to international experts and industry leading facilities like the Australian Antarctic Division.

6) Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

Courses offered: Marine Ecology, Marine Engineering

Degree: Undergraduate, Masters, Phd

Aarhus University in Denmark is one of the leading universities in research, particularly in ecological sciences. The department of Ecoscience in this esteemed marine biology institution is recognised around the world as today’s leading institution for the study and research of marine science. It has produced experts and researchers that are well established in the field. You will get to have industry knowledge as well as research focused skills that will aptly prepare you for your career in the marine industry.


7) Sorbonne University, Paris, France

Courses offered: Marine Biology, Oceanography

Degree: Undergraduate, Masters, Phd

At the faculty of Science and Engineering, you will gain knowledge from its research teams and experts in the marine industry. This approach ensures consistent innovation and relevant excellence within the community. The faculty’s success is visible through the number of well trained marine scientists from Sorbonne University, excelling in the discipline internationally.

This university is for you if you want to study in a world class faculty with a new, international outlook, multidisciplinary courses, dynamic learning and research environments that foster excellence and innovation.

8) National University of Singapore, Singapore

Courses offered: Aquatic Ecology

Degree: Undergraduate **This course is to be taken as a minor only

This course exposes you to the important disciplines of marine and freshwater ecological studies while developing skills, knowledge and experience in the industry. While this is a Minor, it will complement aptly with the primary discipline of students from the Life Sciences Major and Geography Major.

This university is for you if you want exposure to career opportunities at relevant governmental and private institutions in Singapore.

9) Duke University, North Carolina, USA

Courses offered: Biology with Marine Science Concentration

Degree: Undergraduate

This university offers you a specialisation in Marine Biology, which gives you knowledge and experience in Biology as well as Marine systems. Some classes include:

  • Marine ecology

  • Biology and conservation of Sea Turtles

  • Comparative Physiology of marine Animals

  • Sojourn in Singapore: Urban Tropical Ecology (Study abroad)

You will get extensive research and laboratory skills that will help you in your future careers.

10) Mindanao State University, Iligan Institute of Technology, Iligan, Philippines

Courses offered: Marine Biology

Degree: Undergraduate

A degree under MSU-IIT will provide you with knowledge and skills of the theories and concepts of modern biological sciences, as well as the marine systems and aquatic life. The Mindanao State University has long been recognized as the premier university in the Southern Philippines. The various curricula offered by its seven autonomous campuses sufficiently provide an answer to the varied manpower needs of the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan (MISUPALA) Region. MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology, in particular, has been identified as a center of excellence in various disciplines of science and technology with high recommendations from the seaweed aquaculture industry. As such, it is expected to continuously provide training development of manpower resources in the region through its undergraduate and graduate programs.

11) University of Southampton, England, United Kingdom

Courses offered: Marine Biology

Degree: Undergraduate

The University of Southampton will allow you to explore all forms of marine life. You will gain advanced knowledge and skills to solve environmental challenges, as well as interdisciplinary knowledge on the biological sciences, chemistry, physics and maths in relation to the marine environment.

This University will appeal to you if you want a hands-on-experience on their research vessels carrying out boat-based field work, which will give you a competitive edge in your career.

12) University of Algarve, Portugal

Courses offered: Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of marine organisms, Genetics of Populations, Endocrinology, Biophysics, Aquaculture, Biodiversity and Ecology of marine populations and communities, Ecohydrology, Organic Chemistry, Environmental Technologies and the Study and Management of Fisheries Resources

Degree: Undergraduate

The University of Algarve is a leader in teaching and research in marine sciences, fisheries, aquaculture, biodiversity and conservation in Portugal. The University, with approximately 9500 students, offers a variety of BSc, MSc and PhD programmes in these areas. The largest research centre is the Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) an independent multidisciplinary, non-profit research organization within the University of Algarve system. CCMAR is one of the foremost marine science research centres in Portugal, classified as "Excellent" in the 2014 research assessment of the Foundation for Science and Technology. The ongoing research in CCMAR focuses on various aspects of marine life and ecosystems and hosts 110 scientists, 40 PhD students and 100 young scientists and technicians.

Reviewing Pasir Ris seaweeds during research sessions at Ocean Purpose Project. (Source: Ocean Purpose Project)

Hopefully these 12 recommendations will spur your interest in becoming a marine biologist, or at least gaining a perspective on what's possible in this field. Your journey towards studying the Marine Sciences starts here, and so does our journey towards cleaner, more sustainable practices in the Ocean.

Did we leave out an amazing University or Polytechnic course? Let us know who we should feature in our next blog post!

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