Marine Science - Frequently Asked Questions

What is Marine Science?
Why is marine science important to Australia?
How can I study Marine Science at the University of Sydney?
What 2015 Courses offer the Marine Science Major?
What course of study should I undertake?
What is the ATAR entry for the BSc(Marine)?
Can I do Marine Science units of study in other degrees?
What do I need to study at High School to do Marine Science at Sydney University?
What sort of jobs will I be qualified for with this degree?
How can I study Marine Science as a postgraduate at Sydney University?
Can I do a subject not listed under the Postgraduate section?
How do I apply?
Are there fees involved?
Are there any scholarships or financial assistance available?
What sort of jobs will I be qualified for with a postgraduate Marine Science degree?

What is Marine Science?

Marine science is the application of all scientific disciplines to the study of the oceans, the coastal regions, harbours, bays and estuaries. It includes biology, physics, chemistry, the geosciences (geology, geography and geophysics) and mathematics and also involves engineering. Areas of marine science include marine biology, marine ecology, marine geology, oceanography, and coastal geomorphology.

There are many different ways that marine science is practised. Much involves experimental work on the shore or at sea such as diving to study at first hand the marine animals and plants, and vessel based work from small boats for near shore work to large ocean research vessels for work offshore. There is wide use of moored or drifting equipment to record data at sea such as currents, water temperatures, wave heights and chemical and biological properties. Work in the laboratories and aquariums are also a major part of marine science. There is also theoretical work applying mathematics to understanding the processes of the ocean, and to making models or theories to explain the data collected at sea. There is increasing use of Automated Underwater Vehicles to collect data and remote sensing of the ocean using satellites also provide valuable information for marine scientists.

Marine scientists may work individually or in small groups, but increasingly they are coming together to form larger interdisciplinary teams. The study of marine life, for example, involves not just biologists to study the animals and plants themselves, but also physical oceanographers to study the currents and waves that distribute both the nutrients that feed the animals and the pollutants, chemists to understand how the life depends on the ocean chemistry, geoscientists to understand the formations of sediments and rock strata that support plants an animals. The Australian Integrated Marine Observing System is an example of the way that marine scientists from many disciplines are working together.

Why is Marine Science important to Australia?

The oceans are the last great frontier of the world. Much is unknown and much is yet to be discovered. As an island continent, the surrounding oceans are particularly important to Australia. Our marine jurisdiction is one of the largest in the world, and substantially larger than our total land area. We have a responsibility to explore and to improve our knowledge of these regions and to safeguard them environmentally. We also obtain considerable resources from the sea: our surrounding oceans are very important economically.

In spite of the vastness of our continent, most of us, in fact, 85% of us, live within 50 km of the ocean. All our major cities are on the sea, surrounding harbours or rivers providing substantial challenges for environmental management. We have many areas of outstanding marine beauty and significance that attract tourists from around the world; the best known being the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. The major part of our imports and exports (by volume) go by sea. We obtain substantial resources from the sea such as food and minerals and must ensure that these are obtained in a sustainable way.

There is growing recognition of the importance of marine science to Australia. For example, “Wealth from the Oceans” is one of the small numbers of CSIRO flagships, their major research enterprises, developed over the last few years. The recent Australian Government initiative to support major science infrastructure nationally (NCRIS – National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy) is providing major support to marine science in the form of the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).

How can I study Marine Science?
Undergraduate Marine Science at the University of Sydney is offered as:

  • A Major in the BSc, BSc Advanced or BSc combined degree (standard or advanced) such as B Liberal Arts/Science; or as
  • Single subjects within other degrees (for example, Bachelor of Arts). Please check with your Faculty regarding your specific degree requirements.

Any students who are uncertain as to what combination of units will best serve their interests should contact their year coordinator.

Marine Science Units of Study are available to all undergraduate students at Intermediate, Senior and Honours levels. Staff from both the School of Biological Sciences and Geosciences teaches these Units. For further information on all Units of Study, please refer to our list of Undergraduate Units of Study for more information.

Postgraduate students are able to study Marine Science via Coursework and Research programs. See the tab and links on our website (or the FAQ below). Full information about the available options for Postgraduate students can be found on the Faculty of Science website.

What 2015 Courses offer the Marine Science Major?

What course of study should I undertake?

To complete a Marine Science Major the minimum requirement is 24 credit points of Junior (First year) Science* and 12 cp Maths/Statistics* (any level) and minimum of 24 credit points of Senior (Third year) Marine Science including BIOL3013/3913 and at least 6 credit points of GEOS3XXX.
*Some degrees are exempt such as Liberal Arts

  • FIRST YEAR: Essential: 24 cp Junior Science; 12 cp Junior Maths/Statistics Recommended: 12 cp Junior Biology, 12 cp of Junior Geosciences
  • SECOND YEAR: You will take intermediate units of study in biology and geoscience, which are prerequisites for your senior units of study. BIOL2024/2924 and GEOS2115/2915 are recommended. Your studies will look at the marine geology of ocean basins and continental margins, and the major biological systems of the oceans and coasts.
  • THIRD YEAR: For a major in Marine Science, the minimum requirement is 24 credit points from senior units listed in this subject area, including BIOL3013/ 3913 and at least 6 credit points of GEOS3XXX. (See Table 1: Science Undergraduate Handbook 2014)
  • HONOURS (not compulsory): If you have performed well (credit average) you should consider continuing your undergraduate degree with a research year culminating in an Honours thesis

More information:

Biology unit of study descriptions:

Geoscience units of study descriptions:

What is the ATAR entry for the BSc(Marine)?

The Domestic student ATAR for 2014 was 83 and should remain around the mid 80s. The International student ATAR was approximately 78. The actual cutoff mark will be determined by how many people apply.

For more information:

UAC Guide

2015 Natural Sciences Undergraduate Courses and Careers Guide

University of Sydney’s alternate entry options for Year 12 and non Year 12 applicants

Can I do Marine Science units of study in other degrees?

Yes, either as single units of study or as a major. See FAQ above What 2015 Courses offer the Marine Science Major?

What do I need to study at High School to do Marine Science at Sydney University?

Assumed knowledge is the minimum stated for any Bachelor of Science degree completed at University of Sydney (in 2014 this was 2 Unit Mathematics minimum), and other assumed knowledge depends on the units/majors you will choose to study. We prefer for you to have done two units of Biology/Chemistry as well. Although these subjects are not compulsory prerequisites you may be disadvantaged if you have not completed them. Any other Science subject or Geography is also encouraged but not necessary.

The University offers a number of bridging courses at the Camperdown campus and the Cumberland campus:

  • Mathematics (Camperdown campus only)
  • HSC Mathematics Extension 1 (Camperdown campus only)
  • Chemistry
  • Physics (Camperdown campus only)
  • Biology

What sort of jobs will I be qualified for with this degree?

Jobs in Marine Science can be broken down into two areas - government and private industry. Government jobs can be found with employers such as National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Natural Resources (part of DIPNR, the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources), Department of Planning, NSW Fisheries, CSIRO, Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Sydney Water, ANSTO, NSW Coastal Council, Australian Museum, Sydney Aquarium, local councils, coastal authorities and many others including various federal government organisations like the Department of Environment and Heritage (previously known as Environment Australia) and CSIRO Marine Research. In the private arena, most jobs are in consultancies or in analytical laboratories such as Australian Laboratory Services. There are also the conservation groups such as Greenpeace, Australian Conservation Foundation and the Nature Conservation Council. The Marine Science research and exploration industry is another major employer of marine scientists in Australia - for example, Geoscience Australia, Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA), and Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association Limited (APPEA). For more information on careers in marine science, please refer to the Careers.

How can I study Marine Science as a postgraduate at Sydney Uni?

There are several ways to study Marine Science at the postgraduate level at the University of Sydney. Generally speaking, you can study by research (Masters or PhD) or by coursework (Graduate Certificate which is an Honours equivalent year for entry into research, or Masters, Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate).

There are a variety of USYD coursework programs on offer that involve marine studies, including USIMS Master, Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate in Marine Science and Management which is a cross institutional program involving four Universities across Sydney region and SIMS at Chowder Bay.

For more information on postgraduate study in Marine Science via other faculties please refer to the Postgraduate section.

For more information on our Master program:

Can I do a subject not listed under the Postgraduate Section?

Yes, provided approval is obtained from the Director of USIMS. If you find a subject you wish to do, (

How do I apply?

Students interested in studying Marine Science should check the Faculty of Science's information for future students.

International students should also check the university's application requirements for international students.

Undergraduates see page 96 of the 2015 Natural Sciences and Undergraduate Courses and Careers Guide

Are there fees involved?

Yes. More specific information can be obtained from the University of Sydney website:

Are there any scholarships or financial assistance available?

It may be possible to get a scholarship or other type of financial assistance to help offset the cost of study, whether you are domestic or international, undergraduate student or doing a research degree or coursework study. There is also the possibility that your supervisor can provide you with some funding.

For more information on scholarships and prizes, please visit the University of Sydney Scholarships website.

What sort of jobs will I be qualified for with a postgraduate Marine Science degree?

If you are looking for a change of direction or a new employer, as with the undergraduate degree (see above FAQ What sort of jobs am I qualified for with this degree?), the range of employers is large and covers both the government and private industry spheres. Also see our Careers page.