How do I prepare for a career in Marine Affairs?
While it is possible to enter a program in marine affairs with little background knowledge in the field, you should have a solid foundation in math and science if you want to pursue the Bachelor of Science degree. For the Bachelor of Arts degree, a strong combination of science, research, writing, and communication skills are most valuable. A passion for the coast and ocean is also a major advantage in the field. To gain useful experience, consider volunteering with state agencies or private organizations that work with marine or aquatic systems. This will give you the opportunity to not only work and form relationships with marine science professionals, but also develop interests that you may wish to pursue in college. Educational programs are also helpful for aspiring marine scientists. For example, organizations such as the National Audubon Society, Outward Bound, Sea Explorers (a co-ed branch of the Boy Scouts), and various universities and regional environmental centers may offer summer programs that can provide valuable marine experiences. And, never pass up a chance to talk to people who are involved in marine science and policy, such as at a school career day presentation or at a local aquarium or science museum. To find positions you can also ask your guidance counselor or try the EPA’s High School Environmental Center .
As with any area of academic focus, preparation for a career in marine affairs must begin with the development of a solid foundation of knowledge. The Department of Marine Affairs has two different degree paths: a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts. Regardless of whether you pursue a B.S. or a B.A., you will take courses in a common core that will firmly ground you in the fundamentals of ocean and coastal management. From there, you should choose marine affairs electives in an area of interest, such as fisheries, coastal management, coastal hazards, marine pollution, shipping and ports, coastal communities, or coastal governance. If you pursue a B.S., you will have required science courses, but should take elective science courses that will provide depth in an area of interest, such as marine biology, ocean geomorphology, or fisheries science. Similarly, if you pursue a B.A., you should choose an area of interest, such as marine history or archeology, political science, economics, or anthropology.
As an undergraduate pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree and eventually a graduate degree in marine affairs, you should major in marine affairs, chemistry, biology, geology, or engineering and include course work in the other sciences. Undergraduate electives in marine science are helpful to focus your area of future interest. For the Bachelor of Arts degree and eventual graduate degree in marine affairs, you should major in marine affairs, political science, public administration, geography, psychology, economics, or related field, and take other relevant courses. It is also useful to tailor your undergraduate education to fit your needs; if you can choose which research or projects you’re involved in, select topics related to marine affairs. This will provide you with background knowledge of marine and coastal issues that may not be available in other fields.
Finally, by taking part in co-curricular activities, you can further the depth and breadth of your learning and preparation for a career. As a student of marine affairs, you may be interested in social and environmental issues. If you join groups of students interested in social and environmental topics, you can get different points of view and expand your view of the world. Learning to see the world in new ways is a vital part of your college education. Co-curricular activities, along with traditional and experiential learning, will help you do just that.
Depending on their career goals, some students go to graduate school for either a master’s degree or a doctorate (Ph.D.). A graduate degree in marine affairs can be very useful in the fields of ocean and coastal management and policy, as many employers in both the private and public sectors seek candidates with advanced degrees. The University of Rhode Island’s Marine Affairs Graduate Program is highly regarded throughout the nation and around the world, and is one of the leading programs in the field.
If you are interested in entering the master’s or Ph.D. programs in marine affairs, you should contact prospective mentors (see Marine Affairs Faculty) to learn more about their research programs, whether they have openings for new students in the upcoming academic year, and to arrange campus visits. You may also contact the Director of Graduate Studies in marine affairs, Dr. Austin Becker.
The Leadership Alliance has prepared a valuable guide to preparing for and applying to graduate school.