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Best California Colleges to Study Marine Biology |

Best California Colleges to Study Marine Biology

A marine biology major is relevant to many contemporary environmental issues and problems. The major leads to the understanding of earth, evolution, climate change, and sustainability.

A prospective marine biology major should bear the following in mind when deciding on a school that is the right fit:

  • The specialization area they want to pursue and whether their preferred school offers this
  • What type of research is being conducted at the institution; especially for graduate students who may be conducting the research and working directly with researchers
  • The location of the school: a school that is close to the ocean is ideal so that a student can effectively complete their fieldwork. If not, the school should have the option of the students traveling to the coast to complete fieldwork during summers.

What Are the Best Marine Biology Schools in California?

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley offers a unique bachelor in marine science program. The program is hosted by the Department of Earth and Planetary Science. The courses for the major include:

  • Coastal population and its effects on the planet’s oceans
  • Introduction to oceans, biology, chemistry, and biological oceanography
  • Marine organisms, wildlife, and climate change

A large portion of the research in the program is hosted by Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station. Some of the studies carried out at the research station are in the areas of marine conservation, coral reef communities and designing sustainable communities.   Advanced undergraduate and graduate students can spend a year with Richard. B. Gump South Pacific Research Station conducting studies and working with local communities.

Requirements for the major include lower division courses in math and physics and upper division classes such as introduction to aquatic and marine geochemistry, fish ecology, carbon cycle dynamics, and communicating ocean science.


  • In state $13,000
  • Out-of-state $34,000

US News and World Report ranks the University of California, Berkeley at number 2 in the country.

Stanford University

Stanford University offers a bachelor’s degree in biology with a marine biology major.  The courses in this major include:

  • Oceanic biology
  • Marine ecology

In addition to the Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, research for the major is conducted in The R/V Robert C. Seaman’s. The ship sails from Hawaii and travels south to reefs, atolls and small islands.


  • 11 – 18 units: $16,329 quarterly
  • 8-10 units: $10,620 quarterly

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University offers bachelors in biology with a concentration in marine biology and limnology.  The major requires coursework in chemistry, math and physics as well as upper division courses in biological sciences.

Research is carried out at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies.  The center hosts the Summer Biological Research in Ecological and Evolutionary Developmental Studies program. Majors of marine biology spend ten weeks in the summer working under researchers and graduate students in research activities.

The majors of marine biology at San Francisco State University also spend time at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. Here, instructional and research activities on shore and within estuarine environment are conducted.


  • In state: $6,476
  • Out of state: $17,636

University of California, Santa Cruz

University of California, Santa Cruz offers a Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology.

Some of the coursework in the major includes:

  • Marine mammal biology
  • Biological oceanography
  • Ecosystems
  • Marine geology
  • Paleocenagraphy
  • Freshwater ecology
  • Ichthyology

The university features the Institute of Marine Sciences where students spend time studying various aspects of the local marine ecosystem. The students also study at Long Marine Laboratory, which hosts dolphins, otters and a variety of marine animals.


  • In state: $11,220
  • Out of state: $37,902

Explore these colleges as well as the handful of others who are located along the California coastline.  California College Bound tours give prospective marine biology majors a glimpse into these schools, their programs, and campus life. Join us!

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