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Wildlife Biologist vs. Marine Biologist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in biology can be both exciting and rewarding. If you’re interested in studying and working with animals, you may want to pursue a career as a wildlife biologist or a marine biologist. Though these two professions share some similarities, there are also several key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between wildlife biologists and marine biologists, and we provide additional information about each profession.

What is a Wildlife Biologist?

Wildlife Biologists study the behavior, ecology and genetics of wild animals in natural ecosystems. They collect data on animal populations to help assess the health of an ecosystem and determine the impact of human activity on wildlife. Wildlife Biologists develop management plans for sustainable use of natural resources and may also work to restore habitats. They typically specialize in a particular type of animal, such as birds, fish, mammals or reptiles. Some Wildlife Biologists work in zoos or aquariums, where they conduct research on captive animals and develop breeding programs.

What is a Marine Biologist?

Marine Biologists study plant, animal and microorganism life in saltwater environments. They conduct research on the behavior, ecology and genetics of marine species to better understand how they interact with their ecosystems. Many Marine Biologists work in government agencies or private research firms to develop new ways to protect marine life and conserve natural resources. Some Marine Biologists work in zoos, aquariums or museums to educate the public about the importance of marine conservation. Others teach at colleges and universities, sharing their knowledge with the next generation of Marine Biologists.

Wildlife Biologist vs. Marine Biologist

Here are the main differences between a wildlife biologist and a marine biologist.

Job Duties

Wildlife and marine biologists perform many of the same tasks, like researching animals and studying ecosystems. However, their duties differ because of the different environments in which they work. For example, a wildlife biologist may study how human development affects an animal’s habitat. If they’re working with deer, they might research where the deer feed and bed down during winter and summer months. A marine biologist might study how pollution from shipping vessels affects ocean life or how climate change affects sea creatures’ migration patterns.

Job Requirements

Wildlife biologists and marine biologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in biology, ecology or another related field. Some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree or higher. Many wildlife biologists and marine biologists also pursue internships or volunteer opportunities to gain experience working with animals in their natural habitats.

Work Environment

Both marine and wildlife biologists work in a variety of environments. Marine biologists may spend time on the water, either in boats or submarines, to study animals in their natural habitats. They also conduct research at laboratories where they can perform tests and analyze data. Wildlife biologists often travel to different locations to track and observe animals in their natural habitats. This means that some wildlife biologists may spend more time outdoors than others.

Marine biologists typically work for private companies, government agencies or universities. Some marine biologists work as consultants for businesses that want to protect their employees from hazards like ocean pollution. Wildlife biologists usually work for state or federal governments, non-profit organizations or conservation groups.


Both wildlife biologists and marine biologists need excellent observational skills to collect data about the animals they study. They also both need to be able to identify different species of plants and animals.

Wildlife biologists typically work on land, so they do not need to have any specific water skills. However, they may benefit from having skills in tracking and trapping, as well as being familiar with the use of firearms, as they may need to tranquilize animals for research purposes. Marine biologists, on the other hand, need to be skilled swimmers as they often work in or near water. They may also need to have diving certification if they want to conduct research underwater. In addition, marine biologists may need to have boat operation skills to get to their research sites.


The average salary for a wildlife biologist is $68,654 per year, while the average salary for a marine biologist is $60,145 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of work you’re doing, your location and your level of experience.


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