Careers in Marine Science

A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Marine and Coastal Science will provide students with knowledge and practical experience needed to pursue careers in marine science (government, private sector, research) and/or advanced degree programs.

The major program includes both research and internship experiences to help prepare students for these career paths. The major requires field experience, independent research or internship, and concludes with a capstone course featuring current research in marine science. These integrative experiences will require students to synthesize the interdisciplinary topics that they have encountered through this degree program.


Career exploration starts with discovery of your personal interests, skills, and values. The UC Davis Internship and Career Center (ICC) is a great place to start your career exploration journey. Be sure to connect with your support system - family, friends, and UC Davis resources - to explore:

  • What you're interested in
  • What skills you have - and which you'd like to develop while in college
  • What values you hold
  • What personal identities inform your decisions
  • What external factors inform your decisions - and how much influence these have on you
Career Exploration
  • What can I do with a Marine and Coastal Science major?
  • Discover what you can do with your major.

    See what UC Davis Alumni have done with their degree on the LinkedIn UC Davis Alumni page (LinkedIn login required).
  • What are employers looking for in marine scientists?
  • The American Geosciences Institute provides career resources and a career compass that lists skills and activities that undergraduates can do to prepare for jobs in over 20 different subdisciplines of geosciences, including Ocean Sciences. Be sure to develop both the technical and non-technical skills that employers are looking for.

    Non-technical, or "transferable" skills, include writing, communication, flexibility, ethics, time management, and more.

  • Where are marine scientists employed?
  • Marine and Coastal Science majors develop the technical and transferable skills to work in a wide variety of fields, including traditional scientific careers and emerging industries.

    MCS majors may find themselves working in:

    • Federal government (e.g. Fish and Wildlife, Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, Peace Corps, U.S. Forest Service)
    • State and local government (e.g. California Natural Resources Agency, California Department of Conservation, Department of Water Resources)
    • Research facilities (e.g. Bureau of Land Management)
    • Environmental Conservation Organizations, wildlife refuges, aquatic preserves
    • Non-Governmental Organizations and non-profits (e.g. Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy)
    • Industry
    • Environmental consulting firms (e.g. Antea Group, ERM)
    • Universities and colleges (e.g. researcher, field technician, lab manager)
    • Education organizations (e.g. K-12 teaching, aquariums)
    • Legal (law, policy, and politics)

    In addition to traditional scientific fields, alumni of the department have gone on to teaching, law school, medical school, finance, design, and many other fields.

  • What are marine science jobs like?
  • Marine scientists get to impact the world in so many ways. You can work outside or inside, in a large organization or a small one, and in industries that connect the study of the oceans with the people inhabiting this earth. As a Marine and Coastal Science major, your graduate with broad and specific coursework, field experience, and research or internship experience. And there are so many disciplines within marine sciences that you have many potential jobs titles you could pursue. As a marine scientists, you can develop a career that matches your values - whatever those may be.

    On the Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*NET Online you can search for job titles, salary information, career outlook, education level, skills, tasks, interests, and activities associated with thousands of careers. Visit the pages for marine sciences - as well as related careers that will complement your skills and interests.

    CA Career Zone pulls information from O*NET Online, but includes information specific to California—salaries, number of job openings, etc. It also has helpful career assessments, which you can use this to get insight about your interests, skills, and values and how they might relate to career opportunities. They also have videos about dozens of different careers to help you get a sense of what working in a field is like.

    Transparent California allows you to see the annual salary of people who work for the State of California.

    Career OneStop is similar to career exploration resources offered by O*NET and CA Career Zone, but this this resource also offers information about different types of trainings available for various career fields, job search tips on networking, resumes/cover letters, interview and negotiation skills, and more. They also have helpful tips for job seekers in specific groups—veterans, entry-level workers, young adults, workers with a criminal conviction, and people with disabilities.

    CareerWise, administered by Minnesota State, is a helpful career exploration tool. helps you explore types of ocean-related careers and how to create your path towards those careers.

Get experience and build skills
  • Coursework
  • Talk with your advisors about the skills you want to develop through formal coursework. Start by looking at the requirements for the MCS major and choosing your focus area and classes based on what you want to learn by the time you graduate.

    Take PLS 21 to learn about basic computer skills. Data Science is increasingly becoming vital to all areas of earth science, and is taught in classes like STS 101. Consider also courses in writing, communication, or cultural studies to expand your transferable skills and world view.

    Check the MCS Major planning page for more information about courses.

  • Research
  • Participating in undergraduate research is a great way to gain work experience or prepare for graduate school. Learn more, including how to register for units for your research project, at MCS Undergraduate Research.
  • Internships
  • Unlike undergraduate research, internships usually involve working in industry learning the daily tasks of a particular job. Internships can provide a useful networking opportunity, teach technical and transferable skills, and sometimes lead to a job after graduation. Our students have found internships through networking with their peers and recent alumni, professional organizations, job boards, and strategies learned through the Internship and Career Center Internships page.

    Learn more, including how to register for units for your internship, at MCS Undergraduate Research.

It is UC Davis Earth and Planetary Sciences Department policy that paid research, senior thesis, or internship positions can also give unit credit.

  • Preparing to be a K-12 teacher
  • Interested in teaching science at the middle school or high school level? Want to find out more about teaching as a career? Then be sure to take courses offered by the UC Davis CalTeach/Mathematics and Science Teaching program (CalTeach/MAST). They offer internships in local K-12 classrooms, courses in effective teaching practices, and a professional network that will prepare you for a career in science education. Participation in any one CalTeach/MAST course will give you the prerequisite classroom hours for a teaching credential program.

    The UC Davis School of Education offers a teaching credential program, an undergraduate minor, and advice about a career in teaching.

  • UC Davis Health Professions Advising
  • Health Professions Advising (HPA) is a resource at UC Davis dedicated to helping students preparing for a health or medical career. Their workshops and advising are even available to alumni!
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurship isn't just about starting your own company - it can also include developing skills to think differently, solve problems creatively, or work on management skills. The UC Davis Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a great place to start exploring these skills and more. 
Finding a job
Graduate School
Putting it all together

It can be very valuable to talk through your career self-exploration with your major advisor and faculty advisors to explore your path to a geosciences career. The Internship and Career Center Career Advisors can help you explore and develop your individual career path, as can the advisors at Pre-Graduate and Law School advising, Health Professions Advising, or CalTeach/MAST.

You will want to take the useful information you discover about your interests and skills and turn them into goals and plans with the help of your advisors and your personal support system.

Here are some resources to help you put this all together: