On our marine biology course you dive into a fascinatingly complex world of whales, coral reefs, fish, deep sea trenches, coastal lagoons, sea ice, and tropical seagrass beds. The vast majority of life on earth is found under the sea; but exactly how much remains unknown, since there is so much still to be explored.
At Essex, we take you on a journey of discovery from the poles to the tropical reef systems of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. We work on ecosystems from estuaries and coastal environments to oceanic systems, and on conservation and resource management.
You gain an expert knowledge of marine biology through study of essential core modules and the flexibility to specialise in the areas that interest you most, including:
- The major types of marine communities, including aquatic mammals and fish
- Direct and indirect human impact on the marine environment
- Coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove systems
- Marine and freshwater taxonomy and biodiversity
- Diving and snorkel-based practices
Your independent research project allows you to develop your own interests. Previous topics have included shellfisheries and water quality, turtle ecology in Greece and coral reef conservation strategies in the Caribbean and Indonesia.
There are numerous opportunities to go on field trips as part of this course, although please note that these may be subject to additional costs. These are provided against the relevant modules under the „Structure” tab.
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
If you spend a full year abroad you’ll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won’t pay any tuition fees to your host university
Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement year with an external organisation. This is usually focussed around your course, and enables you to learn about a particular sector, company or job role, apply your academic knowledge in a practical working environment, and receive inspiration for future career pathways.
If you complete a placement year you’ll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.
Our expert staff
As one of the largest schools at our University, we offer a lively, friendly and supportive environment with research-led study and high quality teaching. Two-thirds of our research is rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), and you learn from and work alongside our expert staff.
Our research covers a wide spectrum of biology – from the cell right through to communities and ecosystems. Key academic staff for this course include Dr Leanne Hepburn, who works on community ecology of coral reefs, Professor Dave Smith who is researching tropical marine biology and conservation, Dr Michael Steinke, who is working on biogenic trace gases in marine environments, and Dr Michelle Taylor, who studies deep-sea connectivity and recently spent time on a scientific research expedition in Antarctica.
The University of Essex has a Women’s Network to support female staff and students, and our School was awarded the Athena Swan Silver Award in October 2020, which reflects the work carried out by staff in our School to continue to improve equality, including a mentorship scheme, support for postdoctoral research staff, and financial help towards childcare costs for academics who wish to attend conferences.
Recent spending by our University has allowed for major refurbishment and expansion of our School of Life Sciences, including:
- Work in an open and friendly department, with shared staff-student social spaces
- Conduct your final-year research alongside academics and PhD students in shared labs
- Participate in our national and international field courses in Plymouth, Greece and Indonesia
- State-of-the-art research facilities, from brain imaging systems, to CO2 incubators, underwater video cameras, and coral reef research aquaria
- Teaching facilities including new undergraduate laboratories
As the world’s environmental problems increase, the demand for qualified marine biologists and ecologists continues to grow.
Following your degree in Marine Biology you can opt for further study, or pursue careers as varied as conservation, writing and editing for scientific publications, research or consultancy for coastal-based organisations.
Our students have taken up a wide range of careers in research laboratories, consultancies, business and industry, conservation practice and environmental assessment. Others have gone on to work in sales, publishing and management, while others still have chosen to enhance their career opportunities by studying for MSc or PhD degrees.
Recent graduates have gone on to work for the following high profile organisations:
- New Earth Solutions
- Engine Group
- Cromwell Council
- Postgraduate marine and environmental biology
We also work with our University’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Why we’re great
- Our underwater lectures give you an exciting, unique and engaging educational experience.
- We develop your practical skills with subsidised UK and optional overseas field trips.
- We are ranked top 25 for overall student satisfaction for Biology in the National Student Survey 2021.
We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The course content is therefore reviewed on an annual basis to ensure our courses remain up-to-date so modules listed are subject to change.
Teaching and learning disclaimer
Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.
The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Learn through a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions and coursework
- Gain experience collating and interpreting data, and reporting findings clearly and concisely
- Benefit from teaching at our local marine biology field centre
- Degrees are awarded on the results of your written examinations together with continual assessments of your practical work and coursework
- Conduct a research project into marine biology in your final year of study