15 careers to make the ocean your office

Written by:
June 25, 2019

15 careers to make the ocean your office

Underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau said, "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." Ever since the dawn of creation, people have been fascinated with the ocean and its magic. The list of underwater luminaries swirls with a roster of amazing people with curious minds. Along with pioneers like Jacques Cousteau, explorers like James Cameron, Sylvia Earle, and Richard Byrd dive deep into the unknown to make discoveries that add to our understanding of the mysteries of the ocean.

Do you have one of those curious minds that has been dreaming about finding a way to fuse your passion for the sea with a promising career? Stacker curated a unique list of marine jobs to explore. We researched several sites listing specific marine jobs, then dove deeper to find out what the jobs entail, their education requirements, and potential salaries. The list varies from jobs that require zero to little experience to jobs that require special education and training. Along with jobs for scientists and engineers, we tossed in a few creative careers for inspiration.

Whether you want to help save endangered sea creatures, tinker on a ship, or take care of dolphins, you will find our slide show a great resource for jump-starting your exploration. While you may be familiar with some general categories like oceanographer, you might also discover careers that marry your interests in other fields, like archeology and veterinary care, with the ocean to create a whole new world of opportunities.

Put on your goggles and dive into the fascinating world of marine jobs. Let your imagination swim with ideas of how to turn your love for the ocean into a lifelong career.

You may also like: 50 incredible photos of our oceans


Becoming an aquarist is an option for someone who is interested in caring for aquatic animals by doing hands-on tasks, including feeding and monitoring animals. Other tasks could involve record-keeping of feedings, care and admission or discharge of the animals, cleaning, and building exhibits. Aquarists can expect to earn between $7.50 and $10.96 an hour.

Commercial fisherman

If you love being in the ocean and catching fish, a job as a commercial fisherman can satisfy both needs. Fishermen use nets, traps, and fishing rods to catch fish for humans to eat or to be used as bait. Most fishermen are self-employed and earn a median annual salary of $28,310. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for fisherman seems promising as the demand for seafood is projected to keep increasing.

Marine architect

Marine architects are intricately involved in designing and overseeing construction and repair of ocean vessels, including ships, submarines, floats, and buoys. Their job is quite varied and may involve everything from designing the layout of the craft interior to working with marine engineers on equipment and systems. Four or more years of education is required for this job, which pays an entry level salary of just over $56,000 to over $90,000 a year for experienced machine architects.


Marine chemist

A marine chemist studies how the oceans were formed millions of years ago and looks at what determines their composition now. Their research may unearth natural products with medicinal properties or study how we can protect the ocean from pollution. Entry-level jobs require at least a bachelor's degree. Median pay is $71,130 per year.

Physical oceanographer

Physical oceanographers dive deep into the ocean, studying the circulation of seawater along with the exchange of matter and energy across the ocean's surface. Examining coastal erosion and measuring deep currents are other tasks they may perform. The median annual salary for a physical oceanographer is $90,642.

Underwater photographer

Imagine making a living diving underwater and photographing the treasures at the bottom of the sea. Most underwater photographers obtain a photography degree, are SCUBA certified, and own special equipment. The freelance life of an underwater photographer's pay scale is as variable as the ocean's waves. In 2017, photographers made about $32,000 a year while commercial divers made about $56,000.

Marine biologist

Did you know that Charles Darwin was a marine biology pioneer, and his underwater study shaped his theory of evolution? Marine biologists today work in academia, research, and the private sector studying specimens and data, assessing how their findings impact humans and sharing their knowledge as teachers. Jobs require a doctorate, so you must have a doctorate or be in the process of earning one. You will likely start out earning about $40,000 and make about $100,000 at the top end of the spectrum.

Fish hatchery manager

In the role of fish hatchery manager, you will be trapping and spawning fish, incubating eggs, and transferring mature fish to ponds, streams, and lakes. You can expect to get paid around $19.18 an hour to begin and earn a salary of over $71,000 a year at the top level. Helping provide refuge for endangered species could be a meaningful part of the job. 

Fish biologist

Fish biologists study fish and their habitats. Much of their time is spent collecting data. Along with studying the fish population, they observe migration and the environment. Employers include government agencies, environmental advocacy organizations, and nonprofits. Entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree; a master's degree is required for higher-level investigative or scientific work. Median pay is $63,420 per year ($30.49 per hour).

Marine geologist

Marine geologists study the history of the ocean floor. They are less involved in the study of rock composition and more involved in the results. For instance, a marine geologist may try to understand events like tsunamis and earthquakes. A Bachelor's of Science in marine geology or geological oceanography is the minimum required; however, a master's degree is necessary to play an active role in the research.

Sea glass jewelry designer

While the ocean attracts myriad scientists and engineers, it offers a treasure trove of inspiration for artists. Jewelers who reside near the ocean can spend endless hours combing the shores to discover sea glass to incorporate into necklaces, rings, and bracelets.


Ocean engineer

Marine engineers design equipment and machinery used in seafaring vessels. They mainly focus on the vessels' mechanical systems that propel and steer them. Other tasks include overseeing installation and testing and repairing the systems. You will need a bachelor's degree in marine engineering or marine systems engineering. The median annual wage for marine engineers was $92,560 in May 2018.

Maritime archaeologist

Do you love getting to the bottom of things? If so, then studying the history of how humans interacted with the world's oceans may be a great career for you. Along with exploring shipwrecks, you will take a close look at the unique culture at the bottom of the sea. Along with a master's or a doctorate degree in anthropology, you will need special equipment and diving certifications. Pay ranges around from $30,000 for lower-level technicians to $90,000 for higher-level jobs.


Aquatic veterinarian

Aquatic veterinarians provide health care for various marine animals, including sea lions, dolphins, turtles, and lobsters. While some vets work in zoos or aquariums, if you love the sea, you could work taking care of sea animals on a ship. Aquatic veterinarians must obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited program.


Underwater filmmaker

Lights, underwater camera, action! If you think that becoming an underwater filmmaker is merely a fantasy, check out the career of Canadian filmmaker James Cameron. Along with an underwater certification, training in motion picture making, and a deep understanding of the undersea environment, you'll need a lot of passion and talent to dive as deep and make millions like Cameron.

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