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.
2016 Salary Information for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
Zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a median annual salary of $60,520 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $48,360, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $76,320, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 19,400 people were employed in the U.S. as zoologists and wildlife biologists.