Top Marine Biology Colleges in California

Marine Biology Colleges in California

Photo by timmenzies, Flickr

These marine biology colleges all offer both classroom and hands-on learning while you work towards your bachelor’s degree. Some of these California marine science college programs will have you traveling the seas on research vessels or conducting research in protected preserves. Many also offer masters and Ph.D. programs

Competition into many of these marine biology programs is fierce. To prepare for this major take as much science and higher-level math as you can, including biology, chemistry, statistics, calculus, and physics. This can be done at the high school or community college level.


Colleges Offering a Marine Science Concentration

These California colleges offer bachelor’s degrees with a marine science concentration. With one of these, you major in another science, usually biology, and take additional courses focused on marine biology. Such a program allows you to get a well-rounded science education and prepares you for jobs in a range of science fields.

University of California Berkeley

UC Berkeley offers an undergraduate degree in earth and planetary science with several specializations, one of which is marine science. Course for this major include the planet Earth, introduction to oceans, chemistry, biology, and biological oceanography. The program has several opportunities available for students to do lab research and field work with the professors. Students can continue on to earn a master’s and/or Ph.D. in this field as well at UC Berkeley.

A highlight of the type of fieldwork available through the UC Berkeley programs is located at the Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station. Advanced undergraduate and graduate students can spend a year at this facility in the South Pacific conducting studies and working with the local community. Projects at the Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station have included work on climate change, designing sustainable communities, marine conservation, and research on coral reef communities.

Hopkin's Marine Station

Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, photo by docentjoyce, Flickr

Stanford University

Stanford University located in Palo Alto, California also offers a bachelor’s degree in biology with a marine biology focus. Courses for this specialization include oceanic biology, marine ecology, and Stanford at Sea. Stanford at Sea is a two-part course. One part is located at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove and the other part is onboard the R/V Robert C. Seamans. This is an intense course with five weeks of classroom work and labs and then five weeks aboard the research vessel on the Pacific Ocean. The ship usually sets sail from Hawaii and travels south to reefs, atolls, and small islands. As expected, there are a limited number of spaces in this course.

Graduate work at Stanford is often done at the Hopkins Marine Station near the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

San Francisco State University

Attending SFSU puts you right on the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. At SFSU, you can earn a bachelor’s in biology with a concentration on marine biology and limnology. Students can then further pursue an emphasis in a more specific field such as marine invertebrate zoology, marine botany, or limnology.

San Francisco State University is home to the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, a marine an estuary research facility. This 36-acre bay property allows staff and students to study the Bay and the region’s wetlands. The Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies program is home to the Summer Biological Research in Ecological and Evolutionary Developmental Biology (BREED) program. In this program, students spend 10 weeks in the summer working with researchers and graduates students in research activities. Past programs have included sampling water, mapping, restoration, snorkeling, and camping trips.

Sonoma State University

At Sonoma State University, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in biology with a marine biology concentration. Marine biology focused courses for this degree include aquatic botany, marine ecology, and invertebrate biology. The master’s program is research based where students will work on original research as part of their studies.

Sonoma State University owns and manages the SSU Field Stations and Nature Preserves. These are protected natural areas used by students and staff for education and research. Students and staff also provide tours to school groups and science training programs for teachers. Internship, volunteer, and even paid opportunities are available for students at the preserves.

San Diego State University

The SDSU degree in biology includes an emphasis in marine biology option. Courses for this major include genetics, algae biology, and marine larval ecology. In this program, students may study at the SDSU Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory where studies on the local coastal environment occur.

University of California Davis

At UC Davis you can major in biological sciences with an emphasis on marine biology. You can also earn a minor in oceanography with your biology major. For the marine biology  degree emphasis, students are required to take a series of courses at the Bodega Marine Laboratory. Located in Bodega Bay, CA, this lab students and staff study the coastal systems and have help contribute to conservation and management policies along the California coast.

San Jose State University

Despite its inland location, San Jose State University puts you near center of many coastal environments, including the San Francisco Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. SJSU does offer a BS degree in biological science with a concentration in marine biology. Once the lower division coursework is completed, students complete their degree studies at the college’s Moss Landing location. Coursework for this concentration include marine botany, marine birds and mammals, and marine ecology.


California Colleges Offering a Marine Biology Major

These colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in a marine science, rather than as a concentration of another degree. These are for students whose sole focus is the marine sciences.

University of California Los Angeles

UCLA offers a marine biology major through the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. As part of the program, undergraduates enroll in the Marine Biology Quarter field program for one quarter. This program gives hands on experience in the field and past students have worked in Hawaii, Catalina Island, Tahiti, and at the Bodega Marine Laboratory. Other courses to complete the marine biology bachelor’s degree may include ecology and evolutionary biology, geography, and marine organismic biology. UCLA also offers graduate programs in marine biology.

University of California Santa Cruz

Top Marine Biology Colleges in California

Blue whale skeleton at Long Marine Laboratoy. Photo by Sequoia Huges, Flickr

UCSC offers for undergraduate students a bachelor of science degree in marine biology. UCSC prides itself on providing a program that is heavy on the laboratory and fieldwork courses that students must take. Course work may include marine mammal biology, biological oceanography, ecosystems, and more.

The idyllic campus location, overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz, California, also provides students with ample opportunity for hands-on experience with organizations such as the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, California Coastal Commission, and National Marine Sanctuary Program.

UC Santa Cruz is also the location of the Institute of Marine Sciences. Here students and staff study various aspects of the local marine ecosystem including pollution, fishing, and diversity of marine life. This research is conducted at UCSC labs and the nearby Long Marine Laboratory, which houses dolphins, otters, and other marine animals.

California State University Long Beach

California State University Long Beach also offers an undergraduate degree in marine biology. Course requirements include invertebrate zoology, ichthyology, and phycology. Students will have the opportunity to conduct research on the schools research boats, on campus Marine Lab, and on Catalina Island. The school relationships with local marine facilities also gives students the chance to volunteer or apply for internships at the Marine Mammal Center, Long Beach Aquarium, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and more.

In the Catalina semester class, students spend the semester living on Catalina Island taking courses with outdoor field experience. Diving certification is offered as well.

Humboldt State University

Humboldt State University, located in northernmost California along the coast,  stands out in offering multiple marine science majors. This include Oceanography, Marine Fisheries, and Marine Biology. With any of these majors, students will get significant hands-on laboratory and field experience in the college’s Telonicher Marine Laboratory and on the Coral Sea research vessel. Most students in any of these marine science degrees will have spent up to about 100 hours at sea. The on campus salmon hatchery is also part of the marine programs. Graduate programs in marine biology and other natural sciences are also offered at HSU.

California State University Monterey Bay

At Cal State Monterey Bay, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in marine science. With the college located close to the nation’s largest marine sanctuary and the world renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, students get a lot of field experience in the marine sciences. Courses for this degree include the oceans, politics and the environment, Hydrology, and Scientific Diving Techniques. Students may have the opportunity to volunteer or work at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the colleges Marine Landscape Ecology Lab, on restoration projects, and may other marine research projects.

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