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Marine BiologistAlternative titles

Kaimātai Koiora Moana

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Marine Ecologist
Freshwater Biologist
Fisheries Scientist
Aquatic Biologist

Marine biologists study plants and animals that live in sea water, and their relationships with each other and their environment.

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733

What are the chances of getting a job?


Chances of getting a job as a marine biologist are average. While job numbers have gone down slightly, some specialist areas are in demand.

According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of marine biologists dropped by 6% between 2010 and 2012. This is because funding for research has decreased because of the 2008-2009 economic recession. While most marine biologists have held onto their jobs, fewer new vacancies are now appearing.

Job opportunities are expected to pick up again as economic conditions improve and new sources of funding become available.

Best job opportunities for marine biologists with experience in population modelling, toxicology or aquaculture

Marine biologists with skills in the following areas are likely to have the best chances of finding work:

  • Population modelling – for example, showing how fishing quotas can affect fish populations.
  • Toxicology – needed to help assess levels of toxic waste in rivers and seas.
  • Aquaculture – needed to develop techniques to improve productivity on marine farms. Aquaculture is one of New Zealand's fastest-growing industries, with the Government aiming to triple the sector's size by 2025.

Fisheries modeller and toxicologist appear on Immigration New Zealand’s long-term skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging people with expertise in these areas to come and work in New Zealand.

Types of employers varied

Employers of marine biologists include:

  • Crown research institutes (CRIs), such as the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) – the largest employer of marine biologists
  • universities
  • government agencies, such as the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation
  • regional councils
  • private companies
  • Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA)
  • Fish and Game New Zealand
  • the Cawthron Institute – a community-owned research centre.


  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data', (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2014.
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed April 2014, (www.immigration.govt.nz).

Current vacancies

Senior Scientist Listed: 19 Dec 2014 Wellington

Other vacancy websites

Progression and specialisations

Marine biologists with a PhD can apply for a postdoctoral fellowship at research organisations or universities. You may need to do two or three postdoctoral fellowships (usually lasting two or three years each) before getting a permanent scientist position.

After about 15 years’ experience, marine biologists can progress into senior research scientist, team leader or management roles.

Marine biologists can also choose to do research in specific fields, such as:

  • toxicology (study of poisons)
  • fish reproduction
  • aquaculture.

How many people are doing this job?

Year 2012
Year 2011
Year 2010
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.

Candida Savage with another woman holding a tube

Job numbers for marine biologists have dropped slightly

Candida Savage with one hand in a tank of water

Marine biologists may work in research institutions

Updated 16 Oct 2014