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Old 24 April 2013, 16:34   #1
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Marine Biology- Possible Career path?

I am currently in my final year of GCSEs. I will be going on to sixth form and will be taking Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Geography. I have been thinking about numerous possible Degrees and there are 3 that I would particularly like to do and that is: Veterinary, Marine Biology or Ecology. I am very enthused by all 3 areas. At the moment Marine Biology is my preferred choice. Do any of you have any experience in this area/subject I.e. done a degree in it or had a career in it?

I have been looking at Swansea University and they seem to offer a good course structure and claim to be the first Uni to introduce the course. The Gower is also where my static caravan is and where I do all my boat, fishing and exploring so this seems to stand out to me. Anybody been to Swansea and can give me feedback?

Thanks,

Henry
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Old 24 April 2013, 17:10   #2
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Hi
My girlfriend studied BSc Marine Biology (and HSE commercial Diving) at Plymouth Uni, since she has worked in various jobs at Aquariums, Fish Breeding programs etc, but has basically given up and returned to university to re-train. Seemingly its a very hard field to get anywhere in unless you can commit several years to voluntary work to get the required experience and contacts. Just look at how many universities offer the course, how many students they take in each year, and how many marine biology related jobs are out there. The sums don't add up...

However as a university and place to study I highly recommend Plymouth. I studied engineering and also took the HSE Commercial Scuba course with my degree which has led me on to a very interesting and varied career which I thoroughly enjoy. I get to fish, spend lots of time on boats, dive and socialise and get paid for all of it!
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Old 24 April 2013, 17:11   #3
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By the way send me a PM if you want to talk to Helen, I'm sure she'd happily talk to you if you want any advice..
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Old 24 April 2013, 17:14   #4
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thanks for the advice! Including the commercial diving also looks interesting! I will just have to see how it plans out. I would really love a job like that.

Dream career path- Monty Halls! He is so lucky with what he does and I would love to aspire to be like him
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Old 24 April 2013, 17:18   #5
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Hi Henry. My girlfriend's sister is currently studying veterinary. Unlike the other two, it's a 7 year course. It's also very hard core - you need some serious dedication. You'll also loose a lot of your holidays doing placements, some of which are used by farmers etc to get slave labour in the form of students. It's also a pretty expensive degree in terms of extras you need such as books, boots, protective clothing etc etc. Doesn't sound like much but it all adds up over 7 years. A car is also very handy for getting to placements and things as you will be expected to make your own way there. I would say if you're seriously thinking about this course you

a: need to be top of your game when it comes to your A level exams. Veterinary is a very competitive course and you'll need As and A*s to make the cut. Getting some experience on farms/petting zoos/stables etc before you apply (eg weekends, school holidays during A level years) will also be expected on your personal statement.

b: Very financially supportive parents. This is an expensive course to fund, and it's 7 years long. You probably won't have time for anything other than a very part time job while you're studying, and student loans don't go anywhere near covering all your basic living costs. Don't forget you'll often be doing placements during the holidays (often unpaid) when your friends are all working in bars and drinking their wages in the evenings!

A very good friend of mine studied marine biology at Portsmouth when I was there (about 7 years ago). Portsmouth also professes to be a top institution for this course. He became very bored with the course - it wasn't what he thought it was going to be (he thought he was going to be out on boats doing practical study most of the time. In reality he spent a LOT of time doing scientific study in the classroom). He got so bored with it he changed degrees after the second year and now works on Super yachts (earning considerably more than a marine biologist!).

Sorry if both of those sound a bit negative, just sharing the real life experiences of those I know.
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Old 24 April 2013, 17:23   #6
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Hi
My girlfriend studied BSc Marine Biology (and HSE commercial Diving) at Plymouth Uni, since she has worked in various jobs at Aquariums, Fish Breeding programs etc, but has basically given up and returned to university to re-train. Seemingly its a very hard field to get anywhere in unless you can commit several years to voluntary work to get the required experience and contacts. Just look at how many universities offer the course, how many students they take in each year, and how many marine biology related jobs are out there. The sums don't add up...

However as a university and place to study I highly recommend Plymouth. I studied engineering and also took the HSE Commercial Scuba course with my degree which has led me on to a very interesting and varied career which I thoroughly enjoy. I get to fish, spend lots of time on boats, dive and socialise and get paid for all of it!

Plymouth is lovely place to go to Uni. Whilst I was a Portsmouth (also a fab place for a student) my girlfriend was a Plymouth so I spent a lot of time there. Incidentally her house mate was doing marine biology. Loads of opportunities for those who love the sea!
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Old 24 April 2013, 18:49   #7
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Henry, I don't want to be negative BUT...

I knew about half a dozen people who studied marine biology undergrads when I did my (unrelated) degree. I don't think any of them found permanent jobs in marine bio (and they were smart folks who did a lot of interesting things during holidays etc). None of them work in the area at all 10+ yrs later. There are simply very few jobs paid sensible money doing interesting stuff. You will earn as much on a checkout in tesco - so you need to do it for the love. Love doesn't buy nice stuff. If you just want to study something interesting and possibly do some cool expeditions on the way then it might be a sensible choice. As a career plan, you'd need to be thoroughly committed, extremely bright and perhaps interested in going into accademia (research papers, university politics, grant proposals, teaching students - 80% of the job is not marine bio!).

I know a similar number of people who trained as vets. Not all practice, but they are all still involved in animal health. They are all financially quite comfortable. I'm sure they could all afford to buy a 6m 200 HP rib if they wished to and have the time to use it for pleasure! It is undoubtedly a hard course, with touch entry requirements.

I don't know anyone who studied ecology. Take your time and think through what you want to do in 20 yrs time. Whilst nobody can predict that - if your plan is to be a Monty Halls, then his money is made presenting TV, writing books, giving after dinner speeches. His academic training is largely irrelevant! Do you really see yourself working every day in a lab measuring the size of fish, or some other dull aspect of marine bio? Just as not every sports scientist is going to end up with Man U or TeamSky not every marine biologist or ecologist is going to end up doing something inspiring every day. Very few of us get to do something we love for a living. If you don't, then make sure you earn enough to do what you love the rest of the time.

My advice would be ask people if they could wind the clock back what would they change their training/degree to have been? Then ask them if they had any notion or idea when they were 16. From those I have spoken to half will say they didn't even know that job existed then. The other half will say yes - but they followed some other idea instead.

As for Swansea, I've no personal experience, but for maximum benefit from the university experience, consider going to pastures new. If you already have 'local links' you may not integrate to the rest of the student community as well as those 'in at the deep end'.
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Old 24 April 2013, 19:09   #8
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As for Swansea, I've no personal experience, but for maximum benefit from the university experience, consider going to pastures new. If you already have 'local links' you may not integrate to the rest of the student community as well as those 'in at the deep end'.
Totally and strongly agree with that. I went "in at the deep end" (went to a Uni 250 miles from home, didn't know a soul) and feel I got a lot more from in terms of friendships and contacts than people that stayed near home and went to other unis in groups of friends from school.
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Old 25 April 2013, 11:21   #9
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Thank you very much, I really appreciate your time. Life is a hard reality isn't it?

I want to be able to work towards something. I don't want to just pick the subjects I like and do them then come out not wanting to know what I want to do. Doing my GCSEs, I am realizing how fast time actually passes as you get older.

Me personally would ideally like a practical, hands on degree. I would love to work with animals, but have realized this is probably an impossibility due to the low paid jobs, yet high entry requirements.

I have had quite a lot hands on experience. For example, I do actually live on a small farm (We are in the middle of lambing now!) and I have my own Gundog who I go beating and shooting with. I also have a passion for reptiles (I keep and breed them) and a passion for Fishing. (Just trying to sort of sum up my interests in a paragraph!!)

So my question is, based on my interests, what is there out there for me. Ideally I would want to base my job on one of my interests. I would hope to get a mix of As and Bs at A-Level (maybe ABB or AAB if I put a lot of hours in).

I am just quite confused, because it seems every degree/career that appeals to me always seems to have this hidden bad side, that you don't find out until you delve deeper!
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Old 25 April 2013, 12:14   #10
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I am just quite confused, because it seems every degree/career that appeals to me always seems to have this hidden bad side, that you don't find out until you delve deeper!
Welcome to life!

Just a few thoughts on some of your musings...

Commercial Diving:
This is mostly underwater construction work. Not sport diving. Standing on the bottom in a huge cloud of muck, not looking at fish. Its hard work, dangerous, not something you end up doing into old age, and not generally something someone with a University degree pursues. Do not believe the trade school advertisements, the pay is terrible unless you end up in the top tiers working saturation diving offshore for months away from home And there are very few of those positions and lots of candidates.

Marine Biology:
As mentioned, there are positions to be had. But you are competing against a virtual flood of other interested idealists. So employers get volunteers instead of paying them. After a few years of volunteering you have a chance at an entry level job paying a pittance.

Vet school:
Probably the most prerequisites to get into. Personally, for someone with your academic interests and smarts, its the most strongest career path.
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