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How to Break into a Marine Animal Field without a Marine Biology Degree!

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Have you always wanted to work with whales and dolphins, but didn’t think it was possible because you don’t have a degree in marine science?

While it is true that many marine positions do require advanced scientific degrees (for good reason), there are plenty of roles inside marine organizations that rely on completely different skill sets and levels of education. For example, most organizations have roles in areas such as administration, fundraising, marketing, and public outreach.

While the marine field is competitive, these tips can help you to get your foot in the door!

Assess your Skills: Everyone has valuable skills and life experience that they can offer. Do you have good people skills? Do you have supervisory experience? Are you good with numbers and finances? Are you a technical person who is good at troubleshooting? Are you a creative person? Can you create newsletters and media buzz? Take a moment to jot down a minimum of three to five areas that you excel in. If you are having trouble, ask family and friends to help you compile a list. They know where you shine!

Get an Education: Getting an education does not always mean going back to school. Many organizations offer relevant training courses and certification programs that you can complete online. For example, the World Cetacean Alliance offers excellent courses on becoming a responsible whale watching guide and understanding whale and dolphin behaviors.

Volunteer: Nonprofit organizations absolutely love volunteers! There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities ranging from grassroot campaigning to assisting in marine mammal strandings. Most organizations will openly list volunteer opportunities on their websites.

With a valuable skill set, marine mammal knowledge, and hands on relevant volunteer experience, you can present yourself to a hiring manager as a well-rounded candidate well ahead of the competition!

Where to find the Jobs

Marine life volunteer and job boards are a great way to begin both your volunteer and job search. Start to compile a list of organizations that you would like to work for. If you see that a company is hiring for a position that you are not qualified for, save that company anyways and check back regularly for new positions being offered that may be a better fit. Be open minded when applying for positions. Remember, not every candidate will have every qualification listed on the job description. Do not be afraid to send in your resume even if you don’t fit every checkbox. On the flip side, you may find a role that isn’t quite what you had envisioned for yourself. Consider if this job will help you to build your network and advance. Will it be a valuable stepping stone in getting the position you desire?

Think outside of the Box

Often times, we are so focused on scouring the internet for our dream job, that we overlook career paths that we may be able to create on our own. While this seems simplistic, take a moment to jot down the things that make you happy. Really reflect on what you enjoy. Now look back at the skills that you wrote down in your self-assessment. Can you merge those skills with what you enjoy to create your own full or part time dream job?

In my own example:

I like children. I like whales.

I have an English degree.

I can write books that teach children about whales!

I have an artist in my family.

I can collaborate with them.

I can sell beautiful art promoting sea life!

Result: I run Twisted Orca, a family friendly whale conservation site that sells children’s marine conservation books and exclusive ocean themed art!

If you can commit today to starting an action plan to meet your goals, you will be amazed where you will be

in just one years’ time. Passion, knowledge and experience are a powerful combination! You’ve got this!

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