What is an Aquaculture Degree?

Aquaculture is about the breeding, raising, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants for environmentally responsible production of healthy food. In other words, it’s farming in water or ‘aquafarming.’ There are two main types of aquaculture.

Marine aquaculture refers to farming species that live in the ocean and estuaries. Freshwater aquaculture refers to farming species that live in ponds, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and other inland waterways. Aquaculturists and students of the field alike study the biological processes related to fish farming technologies – and to do so they borrow from disciplines including biology, animal sciences, biodiversity, and conservation.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Aquaculture – Two Year Duration
Aquaculture associate degree programs normally combine lecture classes in the major with labs and an internship or practicum component, as well as some core courses in mathematics, English composition, communications, and the social sciences. Some online associate programs enter into in partnerships with local aquaculture farms and related businesses to provide remote students with hands-on experiences in the field.

Bachelor’s Degree in Aquaculture – Four Year Duration
The aquaculture bachelor’s degree is the most common credential in the field. At this level, students may be given the option to choose a concentration. Two of the most common are general aquaculture and aquaculture and the seafood business. Most schools structure the curriculum of each focus area to conform to the guidelines of the US Aquaculture Society.

Despite the differences described above, undergraduate aquaculture programs are built around the following courses in the major:

• Introduction to Aquaculture – the historical development of aquaculture, its contribution to the food supply, non-food species, methods of production, environmental and ecological considerations, selective breeding, feeding, disease, processing and marketing
• Food from the Sea with Laboratory – capture fisheries and aquaculture and their contribution to food supply
• Sustainable Agriculture, Food Systems and Society – exploration of agriculture’s history, culture, and practices world-wide; developing sustainable agricultural practices
• Issues in Biotechnology – introduction to modern biotechnology in agricultural, marine, and environmental applications; consideration of ethical, environmental, health, and social issues
• Shellfish Aquaculture – culture of marine and freshwater mollusks ; biological requirements, culture practices, and economic importance of major species used for human food or shell products
• Finfish Aquaculture – introduction to the culture of finfish; water quality, spawning, care and maintenance, and growth of selected freshwater and marine species
• Fisheries Science – the fundamental principles of fisheries science including biology, ecology, anthropology, and oceanography; practical skills for research in the marine and freshwater environment
• Basic Scuba Diving in Science and Technology – introduction to scuba diving including equipment, diving physics, no-compression and decompression diving, basic skills, and safety; Open Water Diver Certification by the National Association of Underwater Instructors is provided
• Small Boats: Their Equipment and Operation – vessel operation from outboard skiffs to small trawlers; topics covered include nomenclature, navigation, and vessel handling; rigging and working gear used in marine resource development
• Diseases of Aquatic Organisms – disease dynamics and host-pathogen-environment interactions; how to manage the impact of diseases affecting aquatic organisms, from algae to whales
• World Fishing Methods with Laboratory – fish catching methods and gears used throughout the world; the interaction between the gear, the species, and related behavior; the ecology and habitat associations
• Crustacean Aquaculture – reproductive biology, breeding, culture systems, nutrition, genetics, and ecology of selected species of cultured crustaceans such as shrimp, freshwater prawns, crayfish, crabs, and lobsters
• Advanced Diving and Underwater Photography / Film – deep diving, navigation, buoyancy, night diving, underwater photography and film; scuba certifications by Scuba Diving International
• Marine Technical Practicum – fieldwork in marine sciences research, scuba diving leadership, field equipment servicing, operation of instrumentation, boating operations
• Aquaculture and Fisheries Internship – supervised work experience with an environmental agency, nongovernmental organization, or private firm related to aquaculture and fisheries science
• Fishery Ecology with Laboratory – ecological characteristics of fishes and shellfishes in capture fisheries; relationship between aspects of fishing, habitats, and community; field exercises on sampling methods, enumerating and documenting collections, measuring and reporting environmental attributes, and estimating population parameters
• Aquaculture and the Environment – impacts of aquaculture practices on the environment, including habitat alteration, release of drugs and chemicals, and interaction of cultured and wild organisms; how to reduce or eliminate those impacts
• Marine Finfish Aquaculture – culture of non-salmonid marine fish worldwide; topics include the hatchery phase, broodstock , larval rearing, live and formulated feeds, grow-out systems, and stock enhancement
• Research Diving Methods – underwater methods used to assess biological, physical, chemical, and geological characteristics of estuary and coastal environments
• Salmonid Aquaculture – principles of salmonid aquaculture: culturing, spawning, incubation, feed formulation, disease control, genetics, systems management, harvesting and transport
• Fish Physiology – how fish function in the changing aquatic environment from the molecular to the organismal level; the major organ systems, regulation of physiological and biochemical functions, and interactions

Master’s Degree in Aquaculture – Two Year Duration
At the master’s level, aquaculture students focus their studies and thesis research on one aspect of the field. Examples include aquaculture development, aquaculture and the environment, and aquaculture business management. Here are some specific sample areas of concentration:

• Advanced broodstock management
• Aquaculture policy and planning
• Sustainable livelihood analysis
• Environmental management and biodiversity
• Feed formulation and resources
• Aquatic animal health control
• Epidemiology
• Ecotoxicology
• Aquaculture business and marketing

Degrees Similar to Aquaculture

As the name implies, agribusiness degree programs are focused on the business of agriculture. Students learn about the economics and operations of farming, ranching, livestock management, and other agricultural businesses. Coursework spans topics such as finance, marketing, sales, and human resource management.

Degree programs in this discipline teach students about one or more aspects of general agriculture. Coursework may cover topics like farm management, crop science, animal husbandry, agriculture technology, soil science, and food distribution.

Animal Sciences
Degree programs in animal sciences teach students about the breeding and nutrition of food animals. Coursework includes animal biology and physiology, dairy and poultry science, livestock production, and fish production.

Environmental Science
The basis of this discipline is that all natural things interact. Individuals who earn a degree in environmental science develop plans to prevent, control, or find solutions to environmental issues, such as pollution.

Equine Science
Degree programs in equine science teach students about horse anatomy, physiology, health, nutrition, breeding, and behavior. Many programs also cover the business aspects of the field.

Fisheries Sciences and Management
Fisheries sciences and management degree programs focus on the biology and ecology of fish and shellfish. Students of the field learn about fisheries protection, production, and management. In short, the objective of these programs is to provide students with the knowledge and skills required to maintain long-term sustainable harvesting.

Food Science
The subject matter of food science degree programs spans the areas of biology, biochemistry, and chemical engineering. Students learn how to apply these foundations to examine food properties and develop foods that are sustainable.

Marine Biology
Students who earn a degree in marine biology study marine organisms and their behaviors and interactions with the environment.

The oceans cover almost 70% of the Earth. Oceanographers study the oceans and their complex relationships with the planet. They are concerned with marine organisms, the ocean’s chemical composition, the structure of the ocean floor, the movements of the ocean, design of technology for ocean exploration, and policy that protects the oceans.

Poultry Science
The focus of poultry science programs is the management of poultry farms, where chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese are raised for their eggs and meat. The curriculum spans biochemistry; bird physiology, breeding, fertility, and hatchability; as well as principles of food safety.

Zoology students learn about animals, their evolution, anatomy, physiology, and natural habitats. Graduates may be employed by zoos, veterinary clinics, or labs. Their work may involve monitoring and writing reports on animal behavior, analyzing specimens to test for diseases, and/or working in the areas of ecology and conservation.

Skills You'll Learn

• Attention to detail / accuracy
• Capacity to conduct fieldwork
• Comfort working outdoors
• Computer literacy
• Decision-making
• Innovation
• Oral and written communication skills
• Patience
• Problem-solving
• Project management
• Report writing
• Research / analytical / data interpretation skills
• Time management

What Can You Do with an Aquaculture Degree?

Career prospects for aquaculture graduates exist in several different but related areas, including:
• Fish and shellfish farming
• Fisheries management
• Production / processing plants
• Feed mills
• Federal hatcheries
• Aquaculture development and policy
• Marine biology / sustainable cultivation
• Food science / food safety
• Quality control engineering
• Aquatic ecology
• Environmental science
• Aquaculture and seafood sales, marketing, and public relations
• Aquarium management
• Development of pharmaceutical products

Specific occupations within these fields include:
• Aquaculturist
• Aquaculture Technician
• Fisheries Technician
• Fish Farm Technician
• Farm Manager
• Saltwater Husbandry Technician
• Saltwater Production Manager
• Hatchery Technician
• Hatchery Manager
• Algologist
Aquacultural Manager
• Environmental and Regulatory Affairs Manager
• Fish Health Technician
• Aquaculture Engineer
• Research Scientist
• Instructor
• Policy Advisor
• Regulatory Affairs Officer
• Aquaculture Development Specialist
• Aquaculture Extension Officer
• Habitat Biologist
• Environmental Assessment Technician
• Research Technician
• Aquaculture Diver
• Feed Production Technician
• Aquatic Veterinarian
• Processing Line Supervisor
• Processing Line Operator
• Waste Management Technologist
• Research and Development Coordinator
• Sales and Marketing Specialist / Manager
• Public Relations Officer


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