Marine Biology


The marine biology major is designed to introduce students to marine ecosystems, including the great diversity of marine organisms and their coastal and oceanic environments. The emphasis is on basic principles that help us to understand the processes that shape life in marine environments. The marine biology major is a demanding program that offers a B.S. degree and requires several more courses than the general biology B.A. major. Students with bachelor’s degrees in marine biology find employment opportunities in a variety of fields. In conjunction with a teaching credential or graduate degree in teaching, students often use their marine biology background to teach science at the K–12 level.

Degrees Offered

  • B.S.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • The hallmark of this major: the large number of lab and field courses that provide students with opportunities to study and conduct research in a diversity of marine ecosystems
  • A wide variety of courses focused on marine topics
  • Numerous field and laboratory marine courses in which students conduct directed and independent research projects
  • An array of opportunities to work with marine-oriented federal agencies, state agencies, research institutions, and non-profit organizations in the Monterey Bay area for directed faculty- and/or department-sponsored independent study in marine biology

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

In addition to the courses required for UC admission, high school students who intend to major in marine biology should take high school courses in biology, chemistry, advanced mathematics (precalculus and/or calculus), and physics.

Information for Transfers

The faculty encourage applications from students who are prepared to transfer into the marine biology major at the junior level. Transfer applicants are screened by Admissions for completion of required equivalents of calculus, general chemistry, and introductory biology courses prior to transfer.  

California community college students should follow the prescribed coursework in the UCSC transfer agreements available at for course equivalency information.


Students are encouraged to participate in the unique opportunities available through study abroad. It can be possible to satisfy major requirements while abroad and graduate on time. Field-based programs in Costa Rica and Australia are of particular note.

Department Website

More Information

Ecology and Evolution Undergraduate Advising Office:
Coastal Biology Building 105A

University of California, Santa Cruz
Coastal Science Campus

130 McAllister Way
Santa Cruz, California 95060