The Best Colleges for Marine Biology

Find out which schools in the US are the best for marine biology studies, both on the undergraduate and graduate level.

The Best Colleges for Marine Biology
David Clode

A subset of biology, marine biology is defined as the study of marine organisms, their behaviors and interactions with the environment. As such, marine biologists typically study biological oceanography and many related fields of chemical, physical, and geological oceanography in order to understand marine organisms. With developments like the acceleration of climate change, marine biology has become increasingly popular as a degree for college students to pursue.

In order to identify the best colleges for marine biology, BrokeScholar conducted a study, based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which analyzed all the four-year public and private colleges that offer degrees in marine biology and biological oceanography in the US. Based on a combination of the number of degrees awarded in marine biology, admission rate, graduation rate, and tuition costs, we have zeroed in on the best colleges for marine biology in the US.

Read on to find out the best colleges for marine biology of 2022-2023.

The Best Colleges for Marine Biology in the US

The best colleges for marine biology are a mix of public and private colleges, though the former dominate the top of the list. The college that awarded the most bachelor’s degrees in marine biology in an academic year was Coastal Carolina University, with 114 bachelor’s degrees awarded in the academic year 2020-2021. The college that awarded the most master’s degrees in marine biology was the University of California, San Diego, with 25 master’s degrees awarded in the 2020-2021 academic year. The University of California, San Diego, also awarded the most doctor’s degrees in marine biology at 11.

Here’s a look at the 15 best colleges for marine biology in the US:

The Best Colleges for Marine Biology

College/University

Graduation Rate

Admission Rate

Number of Marine Biology Bachelor's Degrees

Number of Marine Biology Master's Degrees

Number of Marine Biology Doctor's Degrees

In-State Tuition

Out-of-State Tuition

Coastal Carolina University

51%

79%

114

15

0

$11,640

$27,394

Texas A&M University

83%

64%

97

13

7

$13,239

$40,134

University of North Carolina Wilmington

72%

68%

86

10

2

$7,238

$21,303

University of California-San Diego

89%

34%

83

25

11

$14,700

$44,454

Eckerd College

68%

70%

76

0

0

$47,704

$47,704

University of California-Santa Cruz

78%

59%

71

0

0

$14,070

$43,824

University of South Carolina-Columbia

78%

62%

63

3

1

$12,688

$33,928

Stony Brook University

78%

48%

51

0

0

$10,455

$28,375

The University of Tampa

62%

54%

51

0

0

$31,274

$31,274

University of Hawaii at Manoa

59%

70%

42

5

6

$12,186

$34,218

University of Miami

84%

28%

39

23

3

$54,760

$54,760

Roger Williams University

70%

91%

35

0

0

$39,594

$39,594

The University of West Florida

52%

53%

33

0

0

$6,360

$19,241

Stockton University

76%

85%

32

0

0

$14,885

$22,467

University of New Haven

66%

94%

32

0

0

$42,898

$42,898

Detailed Breakdown of the Best Colleges for Marine Biology

The top 15 best colleges for marine biology geographically span the US, including colleges and universities from all four corners of the country. Colleges on the East Coast and in southern California are particularly well represented in this list. Below is a more detailed breakdown of the best colleges for marine biology:

Coastal Carolina University

Coastal Carolina University, located in Conway, South Carolina, offers three comprehensive programs in marine science. The university has an undergraduate Bachelor of Science in marine biology as well as two graduate programs: a Master of Science in coastal marine and wetland studies and a Ph.D. program in marine science - coastal and marine systems science. Coastal Carolina University boasts the highest number of bachelor’s degrees in marine biology, as well as affordable tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students. This affordability combined with its well articulated undergraduate and graduate programs in marine sciences make Coastal Carolina one of the best colleges for marine biology.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M awarded almost 100 bachelor’s degrees in marine biology in the academic year 2020-2021. Texas A&M offers a comprehensive suite of marine biology programs, helping make it one of the best colleges for marine biology. On the undergraduate level, Texas A&M offers multiple Bachelor of Science degrees in marine science, including marine biology, marine fisheries, and marine biology-license option. Texas A&M also boasts teaching and research facilities in Galveston, right on the Gulf of Mexico, including its state-of-the-art Sea Life Facility, which is complete with a 40,000 gallon natural seawater recirculating system. 

University of North Carolina Wilmington

A high number of bachelor’s degrees in marine biology and comparatively very affordable tuition help make the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) one of the best colleges for marine biology. UNCW provides students with programs in marine biology on the undergraduate and graduate level. The core requirements for a Bachelor of Science in marine biology at UNCW come to a total of 25 credit hours, plus 8 credit hours of marine biology-specific requirements and a minimum of 13 credit hours in marine biology electives. 

University of California San Diego (UC San Diego)

UC San Diego is easily one of the best colleges for marine biology, possessing an entire school — the Scripps Institution of Oceanography — committed to marine biology studies. UC San Diego awarded 83 bachelor’s degrees in marine biology in the 2020-2021 academic year, but an even more impressive 25 master’s degrees and 11 doctor’s degrees in marine biology that same year. UC San Diego offers rigorous programs on the undergraduate and graduate level. On the doctoral level, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is organized into three separate academic programs, including 1) Climate-Ocean-Atmosphere Program; 2) Geosciences of the Earth, Oceans, and Planets; and 3) Ocean Biosciences Program.

Eckerd College

Eckerd College is the first of several Florida schools to make our list of the best colleges for marine biology. Eckerd College is a small private not-for-profit college, with only around 2,000 undergraduate students. Nonetheless, Eckerd College awarded the highest rate of bachelor’s degrees in marine biology, with 76 degrees being awarded in the 2021 academic year. The cost of tuition at Eckerd College is more than $47,000 per academic year, which puts it on the more expensive side of the best colleges for marine biology. However, the cost pays off because Eckerd College is strategically located on Florida’s Gulf Coast and offers an array of programs, including studies in marine biology, marine chemistry, marine geology, and marine geophysics.

University of California Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz is the second of two UC colleges to make our list of the best colleges for marine biology. However, the biggest difference between UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego is that the latter offers degrees in marine biology on the graduate level. At UC Santa Cruz, studies in marine biology are limited to undergraduate-level programs. Still, in the 2021 academic year, UC Santa Cruz awarded an impressive 71 bachelor’s degrees in marine biology. One of the factors that also makes UC Santa Cruz one of the best colleges for marine biology is its Coastal Science Campus, complete with seawater lab classrooms and live marine life facilities. As a public university, the cost of tuition for in-state students is affordable at less than $15,000 per academic year, though this rises to more than $43,000 for out-of-state students.

University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina offers more than 17,500 acres of living lab space along the South Carolina coast, supporting various research and educational programs in marine biology. Marine science studies are offered through the university’s Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences. In the 2021 academic year, the University of South Carolina awarded more than 60 bachelor’s degrees in marine biology, as well as multiple master’s and doctoral degrees. This taken together with the University of South Carolina’s comparatively affordable tuition helps make it one of the best colleges for marine biology in the US.

Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University represents New York state’s only entry in our list of the best colleges for marine biology. At Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, students can pursue an undergraduate degree in marine biology as well as a master’s and doctoral degree in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Marine Conservation and Policy. Stony Brook University is a public four-year school, but with an admission rate of 48%, it’s one of the more selective schools on our list of the best colleges for marine biology. For in-state students, tuition costs a little more than $10,000 per academic year, while for out-of-state students, tuition is more than $28,000 per year.

University of Tampa

The University of Tampa is the second Florida school to make our list of the best colleges for marine biology. The University of Tampa describes its Marine Science Biology degree as “one of the defining degrees” at the university. It’s a double major program that benefits from the university’s Marine Science Field Station, which has direct access to Tampa Bay, and provides both wet-lab and dry-lab study opportunities. In the 2021 academic year, the University of Tampa awarded 51 bachelor’s degrees in marine biology, and with a 54% admission rate, it is one of the more competitive schools to get into among the best colleges for marine biology.

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Hawaii’s only school to make the list of the best colleges for marine biology is the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In the 2021 academic year, the University of Hawaii at Manoa awarded 42 bachelor’s degrees in marine biology, as well five master’s degrees and six doctoral degrees in marine biology. The University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Department of Biology offers various undergraduate programs in marine biology and biology in general, as well as a Marine Option Program (MOP), which is a University of Hawaii system-wide certificate program. As a public four-year school, the University of Hawaii at Manoa offers affordable tuition for in-state students, though for out-of-state students, the cost of tuition rises to more than $34,000 per academic year.

University of Miami

The University of Miami is another school from Florida to make our list of the best colleges for marine biology. Through its Rosentiel School, the University of Miami’s Department of Marine Biology and Ecology (MBE) offers degrees in marine biology on the undergraduate and graduate level. In the 2021 academic year, the University of Miami awarded 39 bachelor’s degrees in marine biology, as well as 23 master’s degrees and three doctoral degrees in marine biology. On the undergraduate level alone, the University of Miami has degree programs in geological sciences, marine affairs, marine biology and ecology, a marine science double major program, meteorology, and oceanography. The main drawback that holds the University of Miami from ranking higher among the best colleges for marine biology is its tuition costs, which total more than $50,000 per academic year.

Roger Williams University

Located in Bristol, Rhode Island, Roger Williams University is the only Rhode Island school to make our list of the best colleges for marine biology. Studies in marine biology at Roger Williams falls under the Feinstein School of Social and Natural Sciences. Roger Williams University is strategically located on Mount Hope Bay, providing direct access to the coastal environment through its topnotch Marine and Natural Sciences Building. With an undergraduate population of just a little over 4,000 students, Roger Williams University has one of the higher rates of marine biology majors, with the school awarding 35 bachelor’s degrees in marine biology in the 2021 academic year.

University of West Florida (UWF)

The University of West Florida is one of several Florida colleges to make our list of the best colleges for marine biology. Like other schools on our list, UWF is one of just a few four-year colleges that offers an undergraduate degree in marine biology. Students pursuing a degree in marine biology at UWF will benefit from its close access to Florida’s wetlands and estuaries near the Pensacola campus, plus its Gulf Islands Research and Education Center. On top of all of this, UWF is comparatively very affordable in terms of its tuition costs, both for in-state and out-of-state students.

Stockton University

Stockton University is the only New Jersey school to make our list of the best colleges for marine biology. Stockton offers a Marine Science (MARS) program that covers two larger areas of study, including marine biology and oceanography. Like marine biology programs at other colleges, Stockton’s is an interdisciplinary program and includes considerable course work in field and lab courses, independent studies, seminars, internships, and research opportunities. By being near the Jersey Shore, Stock University is able to provide students pursuing a degree in marine biology with access to its Stockton Marine Field Station. As a four-year public university, Stockton also offers affordable rates of tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students. 

University of New Haven

Located in West Haven, Connecticut, the University of New Haven is one of the best colleges for marine biology that’s a private not-for-profit college, the last of a handful of private schools to make the top-15 list. In the academic year 2020-2021, the University of New Haven awarded 32 bachelor’s degrees in marine biology. What helps make the University of New Haven one of the best colleges for marine biology is its close relationships with nearby aquariums, museums, nonprofit organizations, as well as federal and state research labs. 

The Bottom Line on the Best Colleges for Marine Biology

Fortunately for students who want to pursue marine science studies, many of the best colleges for marine biology are public four-year colleges, which offer especially affordable tuition to in-state students. Public universities often tend to have the economy of scale to offer marine biology students access to state-of-the-art marine science facilities and labs, as well as graduate programs that undergraduate students can pursue to continue their studies. BrokeScholar offers a library of biology scholarships that prospective and current students can apply for to help lighten the financial burden of pursuing their love of marine sciences.