Students Explore Aquatic Sciences (SEAS)

March 12, 2019

Preparing for a Career in Aquatic Sciences

What can you do to prepare for a career in marine, environmental, aquatic, and fishery sciences?

We asked students and researchers at UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) about internships, grants, and academic programs or societies helped them prepare for college and beyond. Here is what they said!

Middle School Programs (7th & 8th Grade)

The College Bound Scholarship (FAQs here)


High School Programs (9-12th Grade)

National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB)

“I learned about the different fields in marine science (physics, chemistry, biology, policy, technology). NOSB helped me figure out if my interest in marine biology was just a side hobby or something I wanted to pursue as a career.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

Seattle Aquarium Youth Ocean Advocates

“Not only did I gain a lot of knowledge about the ocean and creatures, but I learned how to effectively communicate and educate others. It did wonders for my public speaking skills, and my connections with that program helped me obtain other jobs at the Seattle Aquarium and beyond.” – Undergraduate Student, UW SAFS

Expanding Your Horizons Network

“I learned how marine science is conducted and how fun it can be… I met and worked with actual scientists who inspired me to pursue my career by demonstrating their work ethic, enthusiasm, and support for me and my peers.” – UW SAFS Alumni

Johnson & Johnson Bridge to Employment

“I spent a summer learning lab techniques through exploring biofuels production… it continued to develop my interest in science and STEM fields and also helped increase my independence and confidence in myself as a young scientist.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

Monterey Bay Aquarium Teen Conservation Leader Program

“Volunteering as an exhibit guide and sea otter tracker for two summers taught me how to discuss marine science and conservation with individuals that may be apathetic towards the subject. It solidified my communication skills and gave me more confidence speaking in public.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

Other Opportunities

College (Undergraduate)

NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates

“[An] REU through University of Southern California was my first experience conducting independent research, and I learned a lot about successful experimental design and data analysis.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

“I participated in a molecular biology Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) which provided me with invaluable professional development skills that I still use today (i.e., how to write an abstract, develop an elevator pitch, create a scientific poster) and gave me the chance to present my summer research…” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

“Applying for [the] NSF REU programs helped develop my application writing skills and allowed me to critically evaluate my career goals.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

“It is the reason I am here! I learned that fisheries was a career, I learned what I needed to do to get into UW, I learned that you could combine biology and math… I pretty much learned everything.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

NOAA Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship

“NOAA Hollings was a transformative scholarship/internship experience that basically helped launch my environmental science career.” – Research Scientist, UW SAFS

“I learned about NOAA and the operations of a government research organization, and gained valuable research experience and connections which led to graduate school.” – Staff, UW SAFS

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Internships

“[An] internship at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center allowed me to work in a different discipline and gain fieldwork experience… [this] molded my interest in how the environment impacts organismal physiology and gave me crucial labwork, fieldwork, and science communication skills.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

“During my summer internship at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, I not only had the opportunity to conduct my own research project, but also to participate in fieldwork and labwork for various research projects, and to meet many incredible Smithsonian and NOAA scientists. It provided me with invaluable experience and skills, both specific to fisheries science and more widely applicable to any applied research.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

SEA Semester **

“I learned how to sail a tall ship and how to conduct a research project. My experience really highlighted how much fun data collection can be, but also how important data analysis skills are for interpreting those data.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

New England Aquarium Internships

“As an intern at the New England Aquarium, I was able to have hands-on experiences in marine biology and environmental education.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

Study Abroad with CIEE **

“Studying abroad at a place with organized/built-in research requirements was easy and convenient for my first research experience [in fish behavior].” – Research Assistant, UW SAFS

Study Abroad with SFS **

“The SFS program at the Center for Marine Resource Studies was an incredible experience that combined hands-on coursework, independent research, and local outreach efforts. All at an awesome field station embedded in a tight-knit community. My studies and research in this program helped me decide my future school & career trajectory.” – Graduate Student, UW SAFS

Sigma Xi Honor Society

“The [Grants-in-Aid of Research Program enabled me to do my own research as an undergraduate and report the results as a scientist…Planning the work, writing the grant, doing the research and reporting it helped me to see myself as a scientist –this was a big deal as I was a first-generation college student.” – Research Scientist, UW SAFS

Other Opportunities for Undergraduates, UW or in the Seattle area:

  • University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs courses
  • The University of Washington’s SeaDawgs Marine Biology Student Group
  • The School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (UW) Scholarships
  • Internships at the Seattle Aquarium
  • Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Internships

Other Opportunities for Undergraduates, nationally:

  • Student Conservation Association summer fieldwork positions
  • Mosaics in Science Diversity Internships
  • Doris Duke Conservation Scholar Program
  • Shannon Point Marine Labs courses (through Western Washington University)

What are important resources for finding other opportunities?

** Study abroad programs involve additional costs for students. Certain programs, including CIEE and SFS, provide partial scholarships. External grants and scholarships are available from organizations such as the Fund for Education Abroad, the Boren Awards, and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. You can search for additional scholarships on the Diversity Abroad Network’s website. Your department’s program advisor or your university’s career counseling center may be able to provide you with more information on financial aid for study abroad programs. SEAS does not endorse any of the scholarships or grants listed here or on the websites cited.