High school- biology and AP biology. You’ll need a solid framework for understanding aquatic life and biology in general. Chemistry and AP chem are also key because of the need to understand water quality and nutrient cycling.
I would also recommend a course on Botany or gardening which are more specific but sometimes offered at community centers. Aquatic environments depend on lots of underwater plants and algae and knowing about what it takes to keep these alive is very beneficial.
If you can, volunteer with organizations that work with Marshlands and lakes in your local area. Especially in the summertime when rains create seasonal ponds and lakes that are full of amazing creatures like newts, frogs and snakes. That will build a professional network who can help you get into this field. Best of luck!
Kathleen recommends the following next steps:
But no harm in going ahead with it. You might find field work much more suitable to your personality and I did! I would first consider a university/college with some field biology credibility. There may be others but usually it would be a land grant university. There is one in every state and in Massachusetts it is the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It is likely they have a variety of major departments which may suit your career objectives. But don’t write them off if they don’t have a Department of Aquatic Biology. Usually you will find faculty expertise in aquatic biology under many different titles such as Entomology, Ecology, Zoology, etc. They may have research programs in estuary biology and wildlife management.
Chances are, you will be assigned to a faculty advisor. Be SURE to get thoroughly acquainted with your advisor! Often students to not realize how important this is! Be sure your advisor knows you and what you are interested in. Even though your advisor may lead you through a course regimen of core classes, which seem mundane, he/she can eventually direct you to people you really should know. You may change advisors and be on the look out for opportunities. Summer courses in exotic places may be hidden under the over burden and, if at all possible, you should take them. Be open minded, even if you do not need a work-study income you may be able to land a side job assisting a research professor with some sort of aquatic biology study, or something like it.
If you want to play a bigger role in how studies are conducted, you will want to get a graduate degree. I fancy an MS followed by a PhD but often folks are skipping the MS these days. You do need to be patient. You may stay at your undergraduate school but, by this time you will know a lot of people and the work they do. You may want to study under someone specific and if it is in a different school, then you go there! I got all my degrees in different universities. I specialized in aquatic invertebrate physiology and toxicology. I worked mostly with mosquitoes and midges.
In summary: Ultimately, you do need to enter a standard BS core curriculum in some major such as biology. There isn’t a simple formula such as selecting a few specific courses and then posting your “Aquatic Biologist” shingle outside your home office window. It is an evolving process which requires you to keep an eye out for opportunities when they arise and developing your professional network.
Marine biology: the study of marine life and ecosystems
Fisheries biology: the study of fish populations and their habitats
Hydrology: the study of water and its movement through the environment
Ecology: the study of interactions between organisms and their environment
Biostatistics: the use of statistical methods in biological research
Chemistry: the study of the chemical properties and reactions of aquatic systems
In addition to coursework, it is also important to gain hands-on experience through internships or volunteer work with organizations that focus on freshwater ecosystems and conservation efforts. This can help you build skills and knowledge that are essential for a career as an aquatic biologist. It is also helpful to consider pursuing a graduate degree in aquatic biology or a related field to enhance your knowledge and career prospects in this field.
Classes in the first year of college were Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, and Botany. Later, classes included SCUBA, Statistics, Hatchery, Resource Management, Economics, ....
Many of the basic classes can be taken at a Community College, at a lower cost, and possibly with a better student to instructor ratio. I had some classes in rooms with 500 and 700 capacity at the UW.
The basics of biology will be super informative as you learn more about the living organisms. You can do some cross-learning with chemistry, limnology (inland waters). As you develop that foundation, you will likely want to learn more about botany, marine biology to start becoming a specialist.
Also, I encourage you to build your network and stay in touch with your teachers for workshops, seminars, and lectures to attend.