The course combines marine science with contemporary management concepts and has a strong focus on conservation issues that challenge both coastal and marine ecosystems. There is an emphasis on developing practical skills, and it is taught in a range of tropical and subtropical environments including the Solitary Islands, Cape Byron and Great Barrier Reef marine parks.
First-year and most second-year units are based at Lismore campus. Some second-year and most third-year units are based at the University's National Marine Science Centre (NMSC) in Coffs Harbour, adjacent to the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Units taught at the NMSC are usually run as intensives with a compulsory six-day on-campus period for all students. In these units, students study specialist topics such as ocean change biology, marine community biology, marine pollution and marine ecosystem management
Other highlights of this degree include units in marine mammal conservation and coral reef ecology. The coral reefs unit integrates the skills taught throughout the course and includes an extended residential period on a Great Barrier Reef island.