Looking for a Career in Marine Life? Look at NOAA
From marine biologists to engineers and policymakers to educators, NOAA Fisheries employs people in a wide range of fields. Our 4,200 employees support stewardship of the nation's ocean resources and habitat.
Who works at NOAA Fisheries?
NOAA Fisheries employs thousands of people in numerous fields with a wide range of expertise to help support our mission to ensure productive and sustainable fisheries, safe sources of seafood, the recovery and conservation of protected resources, and healthy marine ecosystems. We hire people with a range of interests and experiences, including environmental protection, animal studies, math and computers, and even law enforcement. Scholarships, internships, and fellowships are available for students throughout the agency. Benefits include health insurance, retirement plans, and paid vacation and sick leave. For more information, see the NOAA League Hiring Heroes booklet and visit USAJobs.gov for open positions.
What education do I need to pursue a career at NOAA?
You’ll need at least a high school diploma to work at NOAA. Most NOAA Fisheries employees have a bachelor’s degree and many have master’s degrees or PhDs. When considering your education to pursue a career in oceanography or marine science, it’s wise to keep your options open. Specializing too early may limit your options later.
What can I expect if I pursue a career in science?
If you pursue a career in science, you'll likely split your time between the field and the lab, collecting and analyzing data and working directly with wild animals in order to learn more about them and their environment. The results of your research will help guide your management counterparts as they determine how best to manage and protect marine resources.
What can I expect if I pursue a career in management?
If you pursue a career in management, you'll work with scientists and the regional fishery management councils on sustainably managing U.S. fisheries. You may also be involved in creating policies that protect marine environments and the creatures that live in them.
What are some of the more unique positions at NOAA Fisheries?
NOAA Fisheries hires for numerous, unique positions across the organization. For example—
- NOAA Law Enforcement investigator.
- NOAA Law Enforcement technician.
- NOAA Corps officer.
- Seafood inspector.
What do NOAA law enforcement investigators do?
All sworn personnel have the authority to interview witnesses, gather intelligence and evidence, and execute search warrants and make arrests. They also write summary settlements, prepare case packages, and work with NOAA’s General Counsel, as well as staff from the Department of Justice on criminal matters.
Enforcement officers are the face of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. They conduct at-sea and dock-side inspections and patrols, provide compliance assistance to members of the fishing industry and their communities, perform investigations and other enforcement activities, and attend outreach events and industry meetings.
Special agents conduct long-term, complex investigations. This includes working undercover, being part of joint task forces, and conducting international operations.
What do NOAA law enforcement technicians do?
Investigations conducted by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement officers and agents are supported by two types of technical employees:
Enforcement technicians provide extensive support for enforcement and investigative activities, such as querying law enforcement databases and compiling information for investigative use. They also manage case information.
Vessel Monitoring System technicians provide support for enforcement and investigative activities by watching the vessel monitoring system and managing its data.
What is a fisheries observer?
A fisheries observer is a professionally trained biologist who works on commercial fishing and processing vessels. When fish are hauled on board, an observer will be on deck collecting samples and recording the number and weight of the species caught. These data help keep track of the overall fish population and any protected species that may have been caught unintentionally as bycatch. Observers may be at sea for two or three months at a time, living on the boat, and working whenever the fishermen work—day and night. It’s a difficult and somewhat dangerous job.
To be a fisheries observer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in biology. A good mental attitude, observational skills, and patience are important, too. In this job, your routines will change and be interrupted frequently. Being a fisheries observer can also be a stepping stone to other NOAA jobs like marine biologist, fisheries research scientist, and NOAA Corps officer.
What's the job of a marine mammal biologist?
Marine mammal biologists coordinate the protection of various species and their habitats, perform outreach and education, and sometimes rescue whales. As a marine biologist your job could include everything from disentangling whales from nets and marine debris, teaching people that seal pups are best left alone, and responding to marine life in distress, to meeting with scientists, government agencies, aquariums, environmental groups, and concerned citizens about marine mammal conservation priorities.
Almost all marine biologists have a bachelor’s degree and most have a master's degree or a doctorate degree.
What do seafood inspectors do?
Seafood inspectors investigate and collect data to protect U.S. seafood consumers while promoting healthy and safe seafood business practices. This includes planning inspections, conducting investigations, taking samples, and collecting data to make sure that seafood is safe and properly labeled. This job involves spending time in an office working on reports and going to seafood processing facilities to inspect and take samples and sometimes traveling to give presentations, take training courses, or audit fishing vessels and shore-based processing plants. To be a seafood inspector, you need a bachelor's degree. Taking food science courses is also helpful.
What is a stranding coordinator?
Stranding coordinators work in each of our regions to coordinate and organize the efforts of each regional stranding network and its member organizations. Coordinators work with regional stranding partners to respond to stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, turtles, and other marine mammals in various coastal areas. Data collected are used to protect marine mammals and learn about their health. In the office, this means talking to your network and getting ready for the next project. Stranding specialists also spend time in the field doing observations, responding to stranded animals, releasing rescued animals, or teaching people about marine mammals. You can get great experience in stranding response by volunteering or interning with your local stranding network. To do this you’ll need to be able to coordinate with different groups of people and have a sharp analytical mind; figuring out why a particular animal becomes stranded is like solving a mystery.
What do social scientists do?
Social scientists at NOAA Fisheries study how laws and policies affect people who depend on marine resources for their livelihoods. Social science uses surveys and analyses to study people, with the goal of helping manage fish and protected species in ways that work for everyone. You might spend your days doing research, writing, and working with colleagues to run an analysis. In the field, the days are long and can involve driving up and down the coast talking to people and listening to their experiences.
To be a social scientist, you need to be curious. A background in math and statistics is useful, as it is for any science career. Social science is a broad field—you could study psychology, sociology, archaeology, or cultural, environmental, or marine anthropology. You can gain experience by volunteering or interning with a lab or a museum.
What's the job of a fisheries biologist?
Fisheries biologists study populations of fish and how they change in response to fishing and other factors.
Biological research helps inform decisions about fishing that have significant environmental and economic impacts. Most of a fisheries biologist’s time is spent in the office, writing code for computer models, reading the latest research, and going to meetings. During the summer a biologist might spend time on research ships, measuring and dissecting fish to gather data. The work includes coding, math, biology, working with people, and seeing many sides of an issue. This work also involves traveling and talking to scientists, fishermen, and others.
To be a fisheries biologist, statistics courses are important, and you should also get comfortable with calculus. Being able to write computational code is essential for the job, especially the computer language “R.” Being willing to learn new things and work with others is critical because fisheries biologists help make decisions that affect a lot of people.