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With over 1,500 miles of beautiful coastline and a huge diversity of marine life, Hawaii is a marine biologist’s paradise. If you’re considering a career as a marine biologist in the Aloha State, a question that likely comes to mind is: how much can you make?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The average marine biologist salary in Hawaii is around $60,000 per year.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover factors like location, education level, experience, employer, job title, and benefits to help you understand marine biologist pay in Hawaii in detail.

Marine Biologist Salaries by Region of Hawaii


As the most populous island in Hawaii, Oahu offers the largest job market for marine biologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a marine biologist in Honolulu is $70,950, several thousand higher than Hawaii’s statewide average.

Many marine biology jobs are with government agencies like NOAA or contractors who support military installations and resorts. The University of Hawaii also employs marine biologists for research and education programs. Entry-level salaries on Oahu tend to start around $45,000.

Big Island (Hawaii)

The Big Island’s lower cost of living makes it one of the more affordable places to live in Hawaii. However, average salaries for marine biologists tend to be lower than on Oahu. According to salary data, marine biologists on the Big Island earn approximately $59,000 per year on average.

The Big Island offers spectacular natural landscapes and diverse marine ecosystems for research. Many jobs are with contractors supporting military sites or the national park. The University of Hawaii also has research stations located on the Big Island employing marine biologists.


Popular with tourists, Maui also attracts marine biologists seeking to study its stunning coral reefs and marine protected areas. According to reports, the average salary for a marine biologist on Maui falls between $55,000-$65,000 annually.

Job opportunities exist with resorts, marine research foundations, eco-tour operators, and contractors serving military sites. For example, the Pacific Whale Foundation employs marine biologists for its research and education programs focused on the protection of whales and dolphins.


The small island of Kauai does not offer a large job market, however salaries can be competitive. Marine biologists on Kauai earn approximately $65,750 per year on average based on recent wage data. Many jobs are with government agencies, universities, non-profits, and eco-tourism operators.

For instance, the National Tropical Botanical Garden has research facilities on Kauai with scientists studying marine plants. Opportunities also exist with resorts and conservation groups protecting Kauai’s vibrant coral reef ecosystems through monitoring, restoration, and education initiatives engaging volunteers and visitors to the island.

Marine Biologist Salaries by Education and Experience

Bachelor’s Degree

Those just starting out with a bachelor’s degree in marine biology can expect an average starting salary of $35,000 to $45,000 per year. However, salaries can range quite a bit depending on the specific job and location.

Research technician roles tend to be on the lower end, while jobs with government agencies or environmental consulting firms may pay more towards the high end. Geographically, marine biologists earn the highest wages in states like Hawaii, Alaska, and Maine where there are ample marine research opportunities.

Master’s Degree

Pursuing a master’s degree in marine biology can boost earning potential significantly. On average, those with a master’s degree can expect to earn $45,000 to $65,000 annually to start. With some experience under their belts, salaries for masters-level marine biologists often quickly rise to $55,000 to $75,000 per year.

Again, specific wages can vary based on factors like job title, industry, and location of the role.


Marine biologists who attain a PhD enjoy the highest salaries in this field. It’s not unusual for PhD graduates to start out earning $65,000 to $85,000 or more per year. With ample experience and achievement, salarieswell above $100,000 are quite possible for doctorate-level marine biologists.

These advanced degree holders often go on to lead research teams and projects, take on faculty positions, and have their pick of the highest-level (and highest-paying) roles in the field.

Entry-Level (0-5 Years Experience)

In the first years on the job, marine biologists can expect average annual salaries around $40,000 to $60,000. Recent grads generally start out in research assistant or technician roles focused on collecting and analyzing field data.

Once marine biologists gain greater competence and begin taking on more responsibility, their salaries increase accordingly. After 3-5 years, wages typically rise to $50,000 to $70,000 per year.

Mid-Career (5-10 Years)

The mid-point of their careers is when marine biologists start moving into more senior-level positions and manage larger projects and teams. Average salaries for marine biologists at this experience level are usually in the range of $60,000 to $90,000 annually.

Some take on faculty and instructor roles training future marine biologists, while others may lead conservation initiatives for government natural resource agencies or environmental non-profits.

Experienced (10+ Years)

After a decade or more on the job, skilled marine biologists can command high salaries for their expertise. It’s common for very experienced marine biologists to earn $80,000 to $120,000 per year. They take on prestigious roles like leading scientific expeditions, directing marine research centers at top universities, serving as senior conservation officials, and heading up global marine conservation initiatives for major non-profits like The Nature Conservancy and Oceana.

Salaries by Employer and Job Title


Marine biologists working at universities in Hawaii generally earn between $45,000 and $80,000 per year, depending on their role and seniority level. Entry-level research associates and assistants tend to be on the lower end of that scale, while tenured professors earn upwards of $70,000.

According to research from the University of Hawaii, average salaries in biological and life sciences were $62,760 as of 2021.


Government agencies like the NOAA Fisheries and the Department of Land and Natural Resources employ numerous marine biologists across various conservation and research programs. Salaries in these state and federal agencies can range from $50,000 for early career scientists to over $100,000 for seasoned program managers and directors.

Non-profits and NGOs

There are also ample opportunities for marine biologists within Hawaii’s bustling non-profit and NGO ecosystems. Organizations like The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary offer positions as research associates, program coordinators, campaign managers, and more.

Salaries tend to be comparable or slightly lower than government and university roles.

Private Sector

Some marine biologists opt for jobs within Hawaii’s tourism, fishing, and ocean sports industries. According to sources like PayScale, average salaries in these areas tend to be around $45,000 to $75,000 depending on specific position and company.

Research Associates & Assistants

Early career marine biologists working as research associates and assistants at universities, NGOs, or government agencies generally have starting salaries in the $40,000 to $50,000 range in Hawaii. More experienced scientists can earn upwards of $65,000 per year.


University professors, who split their time between research and teaching, are among the top earning marine biologists in Hawaii. Salaries typically start around $70,000 for assistant professors and go up to $90,000+ for tenured, full professors at institutions like UH Manoa and Hawaii Pacific University.

Conservationists & Program Managers

Experienced marine biologists working in conservation, sustainability, fisheries management, and other specialized programs can earn $65,000 to over $100,000 per year depending on their role and organization.

Directors and senior managers at major NGOs, government agencies, universities, and companies are generally at the top of pay scale.

Benefits and Bonuses

Health Insurance

Marine biologists employed in Hawaii typically receive robust health insurance plans from their employers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 93% of civilian workers in Hawaii participate in medical care plans offered by their employer, compared to just 56% nationwide.

For marine biologists working at universities or government agencies, standard health plans cover medical visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, dental and vision. Most have low deductibles around $500 or less and include dependent coverage.

The University of Hawaii, a top employer in this field, contributes up to 80% towards premiums for its employees. Private employers may offer similar base plans with optional upgrades like wider provider networks for higher premiums deducted from paychecks.

Retirement Plans

On top of good health coverage, organizations frequently provide matching contributions towards retirement savings. This allows biologists to put more money away on top of what they save independently through vehicles like 401(k)s or 403(b)s.

For example, entry-level assistant professors at the UH receive an 8-10% contribution from the school even before putting any of their own pay into retirement accounts. Others working for the state government participate in an attractive Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System pension plan funded jointly by employers and employees.

Paid Time Off & Leave

Between weeks of vacation time and paid holidays, marine biologists enjoy ample paid time away from work to relax and recharge – something especially valuable for those based on the paradisiacal islands of Hawaii!

Vacation Days 12-25 days
Sick Leave 12+ days
Holidays 10+ days

Most full-time employees earn over three weeks (15+ days) of vacation, prorated for the first year, as well as at least a dozen sick days. On top of this, places like UH grant new parents paid leave through the Family Medical Leave Act.

When you combine all the public holidays like Thanksgiving and President’s Day, marine biologists enjoy over a month off every year while getting paid.


To summarize, marine biologists in Hawaii earn an average annual salary of around $60,000, with pay ranging from $45,000 to $80,000+ per year depending on factors like location, education, experience, employer, and job role.

While not quite as high as what a marine biologist may make on the mainland U.S., Hawaii offers incredible natural beauty and biodiversity for those drawn to studying and conserving marine life. With prudent financial planning, you can absolutely make a marine biology career work financially in the Aloha State.

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