MSc Marine Biology

General information

Marine Biology belongs to the most attractive and fascinating disciplines within the natural sciences. It is also one of the most diverse disciplines. More than 70% of the Earth's surface are covered by oceans, and they play a crucial role especially for our climate. Only in the last 50 to 100 years the scientific and technological means have been developed to explore and study this vast ecosystem in detail. Marine biological research is of global socio-economic and political relevance.

The M.Sc. programme Marine Biology is strongly research-orientated. The graduates are trained to develop hypotheses-driven research concepts and to design appropriate experimental approaches in order to answer profound questions related to the large field of marine ecosystem and organism functioning and of potential impacts of local, regional and global environmental change.

Teaching of the M.Sc. programme Marine Biology at the University of Bremen follows a unique concept. The University has very close ties and intense co-operations with several world-class marine research institutions located in the Federal State of Bremen. Most heads of departments and many principal investigators at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT), and at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPI) are at the same time ordinary professors at the University of Bremen and contribute to teaching the M.Sc. programme Marine Biology. Many courses are actually taught in the laboratories and facilities of the institutes benefiting from cutting-edge research infrastructure and first-hand contact to leading experts. This unique context sets the scene for direct links from current state of research to academic training.

Based on a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Bremen and the Ocean University of China (OUC), students of the M.Sc. programme Marine Biology have the opportunity of spending the first academic year at the OUC in Qingdao, following a similar curriculum as students in Bremen.

Study Programme
Below you can see the basic modules of the programme per term, along with some information. Detailed information for the courses within each module is available here.

First Term
The 1st term sets the scene for a successful qualification and academic career in Marine Biology by building up a sound theoretical background and introducing important concepts of Marine Biology and Ecology as well as the essential fundamentals of the neighbouring disciplines Marine Geosciences, Physical Oceanography, Marine Chemistry, and Marine Biogeochemistry. 

  • Module A: Fundamentals of Marine Biology and Ecology
  • Module B: Multidisciplinary Oceanography
  • Module C: Development of Personal Capabilities and Skills

Second Term
The core of the Marine Biology curriculum taught in the 2nd term consists of courses in Marine Ecophysiology of micro-organisms, algae and animals as well as in Marine Ecology of plankton, benthos and fish. Special focus is also given to applied aspects such as fisheries biology and aquaculture.

  • Module D: Marine Ecophysiology
  • Module E: Marine Ecology & Biological Oceanography

Third & Foruth Term

  • Module F: Advanced Studies in Marine Biology

During the 3rd term, students will intensify their studies according to their own interests and intentions by choosing from a list of courses. In addition, students take part in an excursion or field trip of at least 10 days for instance to Brittany, France, to get a wider scope on marine biodiversity in a new context. Occasionally, dedicated training and research cruises are organized onboard research vessels ("Floating Universities") or offer participation in regular research expeditions as student co-worker.

Towards the end of the third term, students will develop and defend a proposal for their own research project (Module G), which may directly lead to the master thesis in the 4th and final term (Module H). The thesis can be prepared either at a marine biological department of the University of Bremen or at one of the associated marine research institutions. 

The M.Sc. Programme Marine Biology offers:

  • 2-year full-time course with a high proportion of practical classes.
  • Qualification as Master of Science (M.Sc.).
  • Maximum of 20 study places per year.
  • Teaching in English language.
  • Training in state-of-the-art methodologies by leading research teams.
  • Specialisation according to personal interests with a wide choice of specialist courses.
  • Advanced courses in different university departments and associated research institutions.
  • Field trips, excursions or even the opportunity to participate in research expeditions.
  • Flexibility to take courses at universities abroad.

Student Exchange with the Ocean University of China (OUC) in Qingdao

Based on a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Bremen and the Ocean University of China (OUC), students of the M.Sc. programme Marine Biology have the opportunity of spending the first academic year at the OUC in Qingdao, following a similar curriculum as students in Bremen. The University of Bremen recognizes and acknowledges the study performance at the OUC so that students returning from China after the first academic year will directly continue with the second academic year in Bremen. Scholarships are foreseen for the study period in China. After successful completion of the study period abroad and of the master programme in Bremen, graduates will be awarded a Double Degree in Marine Sciences to be issued by the OUC and by Bremen University, in addition to the normal German M.Sc. degree.

Applicants, who are interested to participate in the exchange programme with the OUC, will have to apply in parallel for admission to the M.Sc. programme Marine Biology at the University of Bremen and for the exchange programme with the OUC. More information.

Please note that the academic year at the OUC starts earlier than in Bremen. If you wish to participate in the exchange programme, you will have to finish your B.Sc. studies early enough to move to Qingdao already in August. The application deadline for the OUC exchange will already be on 15 March!

Learning outcome:

The University of Bremen and the associated research institutions offer a variety of opportunities to continue an academic career as Ph.D. candidate.

Employment opportunities for Marine Biologists exist worldwide at institutions committed to research and development, in the fishing and aquaculture industry as well as in the environmental conservation and management sector at governmental agencies or within NGOs and IGOs. Marine biologists also work at museums, zoological gardens, and aquaria. Additional employment opportunities for marine biologists include adjacent fields such as media (i.e. scientific journalism), eco-consulting, environmental impact assessments, and eco-tourism business. Marine biologists are also employed in the commercial and industrial sector, for instance for "Blue Biotechnology", coastal zone management and the sustainable use of marine resources.

Contact Person: PD Dr. Holger Auel (


The highlighted icons, represent the fields of education (in compliance with ISCED Classification) engaged during this course/programme.

0831 - Fisheries", "0512 - Biotechnology", "0532 - Marine Geology", "0522 - Conservation and environmental management", "0521 - Ecology", "0511 - Biology", "0512 - Biotechnology


Venue: University of Bremen
Bremen, Germany


Open from
1 Feb 2017 to 30 Apr 2017


The University of Bremen charges no tuition fees for this programme. However, each semester you will have to pay the "Semesterbeitrag" of approx. 272,80€ which includes free public transport within Bremen and surroundings ("Semesterticket").


Applicants must hold a Bachelor (B.Sc.) degree in biology, ecology, environmental sciences, oceanography or a closely related discipline with an overall grade of at least 2.5 according to the German grading scheme, in which 1.0 equals "excellent", 2.0 "good", 3.0 "satisfactory", 4.0 "sufficient", and 5.0 "fail". Grades from international applicants will be converted to the German grading scheme by the university administration.Fluency in English is required according to level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and must be proven for instance by a UniCERT III certificate or a IELTS score of at least 6.5.

Application Procedure:

The M.Sc. programme Marine Biology only offers one entry per year, always in October for the start of the winter term. The application deadline is April, 30th for start in the following October.

Applications may (and should) already be submitted before the previous study degree (i.e. usually B.Sc.) has been finished, if at least 135 ECTS have been obtained, equivalent to the work load of 4.5 semesters. In those cases, admission can be granted on the condition that the previous degree will be successfully finished by September, 30th.

Applicants must apply via the central Online Application Portal of the University of Bremen. The Online Application Form will be active from January, 5th onwards. Your application will include a Curriculum Vitae, Letter of Motivation, Transcript of Study Records of your B.Sc. studies indicating the curriculum, study efforts (ECTS or hours of study) and grades, proof of sufficient English language skills, and any additional documents of relevant qualifications, such as internships or academic awards. You must upload all requested documents as pdf files. Do not send any application documents by mail! Only those candidates, who are actually admitted to the study programme, will have to submit hard copies of their application package at a later stage. They will be asked explicitly to do so by the Secretariat for Students International (SfS-I). Please address all queries regarding the formal application procedure to SfS-I (Email: ).

Please note that applicants may only apply for one M.Sc. programme at the University of Bremen. The latest application received before the application deadline will replace all earlier applications. If you are interested in both the M.Sc. study programmes Marine Biology and ISATEC (International Studies in Aquatic Tropical Ecology; ), for both of which the application deadline is April, 30th, please only apply for the M.Sc. programme with your highest preference via the Online Application Form. In addition, send an email to the Scientific Co-ordinator of the other M.Sc. programme (i.e. for Marine Biology or for ISATEC to ). In this email, please mention your interest in the second M.Sc. programme and attach a separate Letter of Motivation for the second M.Sc. programme to your email. This procedure will allow the Selection Board to consider your application for both M.Sc. programmes. Should your first priority programme be overbooked, your application may still be considered for your second choice, instead of direct rejection.

The Selection Board will meet in May (or early June) and evaluate all applications according to the following criteria: overall grade of the previous degree (40%), individual academic and non-academic qualifications relevant to the scope of marine biology (40%), and Letter of Motivation (20%). If there are more applicants than vacant study places, applicants will be admitted according to their rank in the evaluation.


Academic level: Master

Qualification: Master of Science

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