How to Become a Shark Biologist

By Megan Torrance; Updated July 05, 2017
White-Tipped Sharks Born At Steinhart Aquarium
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

People who study sharks are commonly known as marine biologists, though they may also be known simply as researchers or scientists. These biologists track sharks and take measurements, note their maturity levels, and gather other information to expand knowledge of the fish and assist marine protection efforts. There is no specific path to becoming a shark biologist, but employers tend to prefer candidates who have an extensive education in science and plenty of related experience.

Start Early On

As early as high school, get top grades in every class related to math, science, physics and writing. The Florida Museum of Natural History suggests taking Spanish or French as a foreign language option, as both are commonly found in biological literature. For electives, focus on any associated with computers, including computer programs and applications. As a biologist, computer fluency is necessary to track sharks, compile information and analyze the data.

Further Your Education

Most biologists in the wildlife field hold at least a master’s degree, but teaching and research positions usually require a minimum of a Ph.D. Get a bachelor's degree in biology, microbiology, zoology or botany. The North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research notes that students should also take courses in aquatic sciences, such as oceanography, ichthyology and fishery biology, and social sciences. Go on to grad school and pick a specialization, such as marine biology, science or ecology, and take the Graduate Record Examinations in biology.

Get Hands-On Experience

Take every chance you get to work in a research lab or in the field with professors, whether it's for an internship or just a volunteer experience. Research coastal colleges and organizations, such as the Sea Education Association, for programs allowing students to gain hands-on experience. The Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, for example, takes students to sea for an entire semester. Along with marine science and maritime history, you also learn skills that will be helpful as a biologist, like sailmaking and boat handling.

Find Your Niche

There is no data projecting the outlook of shark biologists specifically, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects opportunities for all zoologists and wildlife biologists to grow much slower than the average of all occupations from 2012 to 2022. The BLS reports that demand mostly depends on the budgets of local and federal governments, but shark biologists may also be employed by colleges or universities, museums, aquariums, consulting firms or private research companies. However, Aboutbioscience.org hints that biologists who are willing to explore similar areas, such as marine biotechnology, should have good prospects.

About the Author

Based in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, Megan Torrance left her position as the general manager for five Subway restaurants to focus on her passion for writing. Torrance specializes in creating content for career-oriented, motivated individuals and small business owners. Her work has been published on such sites as Chron, GlobalPost and eHow.