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 was awarded the Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award in 2016 in recognition of its continuing work to support women in STEM.
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.
UK entry requirements
GCSE: Mathematics C/4.
A-levels: BCC, including Biology.
BTEC: DDD, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.
IB: 28 points or three Higher Level certificates with 544. Either must include Higher Level Biology with a minimum of grade 4, plus Standard Level Mathematics/Maths Studies grade 4, if not taken at Higher Level.
We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.
Please note that Maths in the IB is not required if you have already achieved GCSE Maths at grade C/4 or above or 4 in IB Middle Years Maths.
From 2021, we will accept grade 4 in either Standard Level Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches or Standard Level Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation.
Access to HE Diploma: 45 Level 3 credits at Merit or above, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.
Eligible applicants that choose us as their firm choice by the relevant deadline will be able to take advantage of a flexible offer. This offer will specify alternative entry requirements than those published here so, if your final grades aren’t what you had hoped for, you could still secure a place with us. Visit our undergraduate application information page for more details.
International & EU entry requirements
We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.
English language requirements
English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.
Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications
If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.
If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.