Marine Biology Colleges in California

24 Top Marine Biology Colleges in California: Best Guide

Selecting the right Marine Biology College in California is crucial. We have compiled a detailed list of the Top Marine Biology Colleges in California below to aid your decision.

Marine Biology involves studying sea life and its habitats, covering areas like classification, structure/function, ecology, and physiology. Additionally, it delves into issues related to conservation, the environment, and evolution.

Marine Biology is quite popular, ranking as one of the most popular degree programs in the country. Due to its popularity, numerous colleges in California offer this program, making it challenging to choose the right one. 

California hosts some of the best undergraduate and graduate programs in marine biology due to its ideal Pacific Ocean coast and top-notch research centers at universities. 

Marine biology programs may fall under biology or environmental science departments, with varied names like marine science, environmental and ocean science, or aquatic biology.

When searching for marine biology programs, students should explore beyond the specific term and check if a school offers ocean-focused programs. 

List of Top Marine Biology Colleges in California 

  • University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
  • University of Southern California (USC)
  • California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)
  • Los Angeles Pierce College 
  • California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) 
  • California State University, Northridge
  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly)
  • University of California, Santa Cruz  (UCSC)
  • California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt  
  • California State University, Sacramento (CSUS)
  • California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) 
  • California Maritime Academy – Vallejo
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
  • University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)
  • San Jose State University
  • Orange Coast College 
  • University of California, Berkeley 
  • California State University, Fullerton (CSUF)
  • San Francisco State University 
  • California State University – Stanislaus   

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) houses the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, boasting a rich history rooted in a zoologist’s quest for a coastal location for a marine biology station. 

UCSD offers Undergraduate studies in marine biology. The curriculum combines natural sciences with a core of marine biology courses, complemented by field experiences in diverse marine environments. 

The program aligns with UCSD’s coastal setting, offering students unique opportunities for hands-on learning. Graduates are well-prepared for careers, graduate studies, or roles in marine conservation, emphasizing the program’s. 

The marine biology major is Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Contact Details 

  • Visit  the Website:
  • Phone: (858) 246-5511
  • Address: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 9500 Gilman Drive,  La Jolla, CA 92093

University of Southern California (USC)

The University of Southern California (USC) is home to the Marine and Environmental Biology section, dedicated to unraveling the complexities of environmental organisms. 

Recognized globally, this section focuses on marine microbial ecology and integrative organismal biology through cutting-edge genomics approaches.  

Undergraduate students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with a minor in Marine Biology, while master’s and doctoral programs are also available. 

Collaborating with the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, USC offers intensive courses on Santa Catalina Island at the Wrigley Marine Science Center, providing students with valuable hands-on experiences.

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the website:
  • Phone: (213) 740-5779
  • Email: 
  • Address: Section Office, Don Bingham

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) boasts a vibrant Marine Biology Program, offering a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology for undergraduates and a Master of Science degree in Biology for graduate students dedicated to original marine biology research. 

Undergraduates benefit from small classes led by Ph.D.-level faculty, engaging in frequent field trips to diverse marine habitats. The program emphasizes hands-on research opportunities. 

Graduate students, guided by experienced faculty, pursue advanced research, enhancing their skills in experimental design, statistical analysis, and science communication. 

View Accreditation, Tuition, and Fees details. 

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: 562.985.4111

Los Angeles Pierce College 

Los Angeles Pierce College is the foremost community college for marine biology in California, offering an extensive range of courses. 

Pierce College offers practical field experiences, especially studying local marine environments like the kelp forests of Catalina Island. 

Open to all students, the program serves as a springboard for those aiming to major in marine biology and seamlessly transfer to leading university programs.

View Accreditation, Tuition, and Enrollment Fees Details. 

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the website:
  • Phone: (818) 712-2611
  • Email: 
  • Address: Los Angeles Pierce College, 6201 Winnetka Ave. Woodland Hills, CA 91371

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) 

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) has a unique Department of Marine Science, where students engage with diverse technologies to explore marine ecosystems. 

Emphasizing applied learning and research, the department equips students with skills to maintain a sustainable balance in the unique Monterey Bay region, through hands-on experiences in labs and the field. 

CSUMB encourages collaboration with local institutions, like Moss Landing Marine Labs, broadening access to marine and coastal ecology expertise. 

CSUMB offers a comprehensive undergraduate degree in Marine Science, also in partnership with Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the school provides a master’s degree program in Marine Science.

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website: 
  • Phone: 831-582-3000
  • Address: California State University, Monterey Bay, 5108 Fourth Avenue, Marina, CA 93933

California State University, Northridge

California State University, Northridge’s Marine Biology Area has achieved notable success in training research scientists, with over half of its M.S. graduates advancing to Ph.D. programs. 

Benefiting from well-funded faculty members, classes capitalize on the diverse local environments. 

The program offers boat trips as part of the curriculum. A standout experience is the Marine Biology Semester, allowing students to spend an entire semester on Catalina Island, fulfilling a significant portion of their program requirements.

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: (818) 677-1200
  • Address: California State University, Northridge, 18111, Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly)

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly), renowned for its unique learning approach since 1901, is a global leader in education. 

With an optimal geographical location, Cal Poly’s Biological Sciences program offers a B.S. in Marine Sciences degree program, immersing students in diverse ecosystems near the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences pier marine laboratory facility in Avila Beach.

The program aims to provide a comprehensive foundation in various marine science areas, allowing active application through knowledge-based projects in both the lab and field. 

Students can focus on sub-disciplines such as marine biology, chemistry, oceanography, or engineering’s technical and instrumentation-focused aspects.

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website: 
  • Phone: 805-756-1111
  • Address: Cal Poly, 1 Grand Avenue,  San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)

The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), within the Physical and Biological Sciences Academic Division, houses the marine biology major under the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. 

Offering a B.S. degree, the program delves into marine ecosystems, emphasizing fundamental principles shaping life in marine environments.

Located in the Coastal Biology Building on the UC Santa Cruz Coastal Science Campus, the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department features seawater laboratory classrooms and live marine life facilities for experiential learning.

The program also facilitates collaborations with marine-oriented agencies, research institutions, and non-profits in the Monterey Bay area for directed independent study.

View Accreditation Details. 

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: (831) 459-5358
  • Email: 
  • Address: Coastal Biology Building 105A, 130 McAllister Way

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt  

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, offers a Marine Biology B.S. program, leveraging its unique location on the North Coast to provide students with a distinctive learning experience. 

Positioned minutes from the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by diverse marine ecosystems, the university serves as an ideal setting for marine biology studies.

The curriculum emphasizes hands-on, field-based learning, allowing students to collect living marine organisms aboard the Coral Sea, the university’s 90-foot ocean-going research vessel. 

This practical approach extends to Humboldt’s Marine Lab near campus, where students analyze their findings. The program includes a rigorous set of required courses. 

View Accreditation Details. 

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: (707) 826-3011
  • Address: California State Polytechnic, University, Humboldt 1 Harpst Street, Arcata, CA 95521

California State University, Sacramento (CSUS)

California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) offers a Master of Science degree in Marine Science, collaboratively administered by the Biological Sciences department in conjunction with Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML). 

MLML, situated in Moss Landing, California, operates year-round under the California State University system and serves as an extension of seven participating state universities.

The marine facility provides full-time coursework in various marine sciences, including marine biology, oceanography, and marine geology. 

Courses at MLML focus on field-oriented learning, capitalizing on the diverse coastal and marine habitats nearby.

Contact Info: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: (408) 755-8656
  • Address: P.O. Box 450, Moss Landing, CA 95039-0450

California State University, East Bay (CSUEB)

California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) serves as a host institution for individuals interested in pursuing the Master of Science (MS) in Marine Sciences at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML). 

MLML offers a cutting-edge marine science education, prioritizing mentoring and teaching integrated with independent research. 

Their curriculum and research-based graduate program aim to equip students for diverse careers in science, education, outreach, conservation, policy, and management. 

The program also supports those aspiring to pursue doctoral degrees in marine sciences. 

The proximity to abundant marine resources, and faculty contributes to making MLML’s MS in Marine Science program one of the best in the United States.

Contact Info: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: 831.771.4401
  • Email:
  • Address: 8272 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, CA 95039

California Maritime Academy – Vallejo 

California Maritime Academy at Vallejo stands out as the first choice among the best marine biology colleges in California. 

It holds the distinction of being the sole maritime academy on the West Coast that grants degrees and is among the exclusive seven maritime schools across the entire nation.

Recognizing the essential roles within the global maritime industry, Cal Maritime focuses on educating future professionals in diverse fields. 

The academy is committed to preparing individuals for careers linked to the ocean’s multifaceted role as both a resource and a catalyst for economic growth on a global scale.

Cal Maritime offers a comprehensive education that includes a theoretical foundation and practical skills in oceanography, specifically emphasizing Biological Oceanography. 

The academy provides degree programs, minors, and a variety of courses in oceanography to cater to the educational needs of aspiring marine professionals.

Contact Info: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: 7076541000
  • Address: 200 Maritime Academy Drive, Vallejo, CA 94590.

University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)

The University of California, Santa Barbara, located in Santa Barbara, CA, offers diverse undergraduate pathways for students interested in marine biology, each with its unique focus. 

These programs include: 

Students at UC Santa Barbara have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through partnerships with notable reserves and research sites. 

The university provides a rich environment for students to engage in cutting-edge marine biology research.

Contact Details: 

  • Phone: 805.893.2974
  • Email:
  • Address: Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara

University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), situated in Los Angeles, CA, offers undergraduate students a distinctive Bachelor of Science program in Marine Biology within the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

This capstone major not only entails coursework in the life sciences and marine science but also involves independent research and the completion of final projects by students.

A notable feature of the program is the incorporation of quarter-long research programs, providing students with the opportunity to observe organisms in their natural habitats. 

The field marine biology quarter is conducted at the Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station in Moo Frecrea, French Polynesia, focusing on sustainability and biocomplexity research. 

UCLA’s marine biology faculty engages in diverse research topics, and the university provides a comprehensive and hands-on approach to marine biology education, allowing students to explore and contribute to cutting-edge research in the field.

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA, 612 Charles E. Young Drive East,  Hershey Hall, Los Angeles, California 90095

University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)

The University of San Diego, located in San Diego, CA, offers undergraduates the Environmental and Ocean Sciences major, emphasizing both scientific rigor and ethical judgment. 

This major provides various educational pathways, including environmental science (B.S. or B.A.), environmental studies (B.A.), and marine ecology (B.S.).

A distinctive feature of the university is its partnership with the Ocean Discovery Institute, facilitating learning opportunities in the sciences for traditional communities. 

The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Diego ensures a comprehensive and impactful education in environmental and ocean sciences.

Contact Details: 

  • Phone: (619) 260-8878
  • Email: 
  • Address: Environmental and Ocean Sciences, COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES, Shiley Center for Science & Technology 247, 5998 Alcalá ParkSan Diego, CA 92110

San Jose State University

San Jose State University provides an Undergraduate Marine Biology Program. This program offers courses on the main campus and provides specialized coursework opportunities at the affiliated Moss Landing Marine Laboratories site in Monterey.

For those aspiring to pursue graduate studies in Marine Sciences, the program outlines specific course requirements. 

This offers a sample four-year academic plan, serving as a flexible guide for students, who, with the guidance of their advisors, are encouraged to tailor their academic journey.

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: 408-924-4900
  • Address: One Washington Square,  Duncan Hall, Room 254
    San José, CA 95192

Orange Coast College

Orange Coast College boasts one of the most extensive two-year college marine science programs in the Western United States, with its proximity to Southern California’s coast. 

Offering diverse academic and practical courses, students explore the vast impact of the ocean through hands-on experiences. 

The program caters to various interests and future goals. Those aiming toward Bachelor’s or graduate degrees in marine sciences can complete cost-effective prerequisite courses with practical exposure. 

For students pursuing degrees in other fields, specialized courses enhance their degrees with an applied marine emphasis. 

The Marine Science Department collaborates with the American Cetacean Society of Orange County (ACS-OC) providing students access to seminars, cetacean naturalist training, and membership opportunities. 

Collaborations with Research and Marine Centers offer students hands-on experiences in projects. 

For accreditation details, visit Orange Coast College Accreditation.

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: (714) 432-5772
  • Address: 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

University of California, Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley’s marine biology program, offered as a Bachelor of Arts (BA), delves into the intricate interactions of the  Earth’s processes. 

Research directions cover critical topics like the ocean’s role in climate change and more. Declared majors gain access to scholarships, research opportunities, and other benefits. 

Additionally, the department offers a minor program, and students can explore related majors and minors in Atmospheric Science, Environmental Earth Science, Geology, Geophysics, and Planetary Science. 

View information for UC Berkeley Tuition and Fees Details. 

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: 510-642-3175
  • Email:
  • Address: University of California, Berkeley, 110 Sproul Hall #5800, Berkeley, CA 94720-5800

California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) 

California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) offers a robust Bachelor of Science in Biological Science with a specialized Marine Biology Concentration. 

This program not only provides students with a comprehensive understanding of fundamental biological principles but also allows them to delve deeply into their chosen concentration. 

To complete the program, students must meet all university requirements for a bachelor’s degree, ensuring a well-rounded educational experience. 

CSUF’s dedication to Accreditation underscores the quality and credibility of its programs.

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Phone: 657-278-2011
  • Address: California State University, Fullerton, 800 N. State College Blvd. Fullerton, CA 92831-3599

San Francisco State University 

San Francisco State University’s Marine Biology program, offering a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in Marine Science, provides students with a deep dive into marine environments and their inhabitants. 

Suited for various careers, the program allows undergraduates to specialize in marine invertebrate zoology, marine vertebrate zoology, marine botany, marine microbiology, or limnology. 

The program focuses on key learning outcomes with a comprehensive approach that prepares students for diverse roles in the marine biology field.

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website:
  • Email: 
  • Address: Department of Biology, Hensill Hall 534, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132

California State University – Stanislaus   

California State University, Stanislaus, is home to the Department of Biological Sciences, where collaborative learners delve into the wonders and diversity of life across biological levels.  

The department offers programs such as the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, a Master of Science in Marine Sciences, a Master of Science in Biological Sciences, or a Master of Science in Genetic Counseling. 

Students can specialize in General Biology, Molecular, Cellular, and Microbial Biology, or Organismal, Ecological, and Evolutionary Biology, and those interested in marine biology can opt for coursework at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

The department’s dedication to fostering a diverse and inclusive educational environment sets the stage for students to thrive in the field of biological sciences.

View tuition, Fees, and Accreditation Details. 

Contact Details: 

  • Visit the Website: 
  • Phone: (209) 667-3122
  • Address: California State University Stanislaus, Turlock, California 95382


Field research is a common aspect of marine science programs, allowing students to study marine life in their natural settings. Numerous research universities in marine biology foster collaboration, partnering with organizations. 

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