Climate change and overpopulation are wreaking havoc on the natural world. The oceans are becoming more acidic, and weather patterns are shifting erratically. These effects are imposing problems on biological life, particularly in the oceans.
A career in oceanography presents unique challenges and may entail more responsibilities than many other professions.
However, if you’re interested in making discoveries and positively impacting our planet, this position could be right up your alley. Choose the best Oceanography program for an exciting career in environmental conservation!
If you live on a planet that is 70% water, it stands to reason that studying the oceans to understand them better is essential. And that is exactly what an oceanographer does: they investigate the sea.
Oceanographers, in particular, study marine life and how it interacts with its aquatic environment. Because the oceans are so vast, there will be numerous careers or pathways into oceanographic work.
Will the university you attend matter?
When deciding where to pursue oceanography, one must consider the environment. College is about much more than classes and degrees; it is where some of the most significant years of one’s life are spent, and location is critical. Living near the sea can provide recreation, beauty, and education opportunities.
10 Colleges Near Oceans That Have Degree Programs Studying The Sea (Oceanography)
University of North Carolina Wilmington
Wilmington, North Carolina, had long been an important port city and tourist destination, but following WWII, an increase in veterans seeking higher education on the GI Bill prompted North Carolina to set up a Wilmington campus in 1947.
UNC Wilmington quickly became a powerful force in the city, contributing significantly to the local economy and attracting students from across the South, particularly those interested in pursuing a degree in oceanography.
The UNCat Wilmington offers a one-of-a-kind bachelor’s degree in oceanography that combines physics and physical oceanography. Students must complete the general education courses, the core courses of physics, and additional courses emphasizing oceanography to meet the major’s requirements.
Specific course titles include:
- computer physics and complexity,
- coastal and estuarine systems,
- physical oceanography observation methods,
- and data analysis.
Did you know that this school offers a cruise for students before they graduate?
University of Miami
The University of Miami is a top-rated private research university in the United States, with law, medicine, computer science, and oceanography programs. One of its unique offerings is the Meteorology and Physical Oceanography Graduate Program.
The MPO program requires students to gain expertise in both systems and prepare them to conduct cutting-edge research using various theoretical, observational, and modeling approaches.
The MPO program provides a solid foundation in various atmospheric and ocean sciences. Multiple techniques are used in research, ranging from direct observation to theoretical and numerical modeling.
Students come from diverse academic backgrounds, including:
- marine science,
- and engineering.
University of Rhode Island
The University of Rhode Island provides students opportunities to travel by land, sea, and city. The university’s Bay Campus is less than a mile from the coast; this proximity to the ocean contributes to the university’s nationally ranked oceanography program.
The University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) is one of the nation’s premier academic oceanographic institutions, educating:
- marine scientists,
- business leaders,
- and citizens,
and assisting in the development of knowledge and skills needed to address current and future marine challenges. The school’s mission is carried out through multifaceted research, education, and public outreach program.
Field and ship-based observations, including time-series studies and laboratory work and modeling, provide a comprehensive approach to studying the world’s coastal and blue water oceans.
College of the Atlantic
This small, private liberal arts college is situated on Maine’s beautiful coast. The College of the Atlantic offers a one-of-a-kind Marine Science educational opportunity intricately linked to their coastal location. COA’s oceanfront campus serves as an excellent entry point for students and faculty interested in ocean studies.
Students enrolled in one of the Marine Science programs can participate in one of their off-shore research every summer with faculty to research underwater animals, such as seabirds, whales, seals, and island ecology.
Students also have access to boat and waterfront resources and work with Allied Whale, COA’s marine mammal research group. Many students participate in internships and research. They visit oceans from the Arctic to the Antarctic to explore the oceans and seas.
COA is known for its commitment to sustainability and service, having been the first college to be powered entirely by renewable energy and to have a carbon footprint of zero.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa
The University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii’s flagship public research university, is critical to professional research, graduate education, and the local economy of Honolulu and the island of O’ahu. So, when it comes to the world’s most beautiful beaches, Honolulu, HI, isn’t just on the list – it’s the standard.
UH Manoa has a Department of Oceanography that offers a variety of degrees to become an oceanographer. UH Manoa’s oceanography facilities are among the best in the country, with three ocean-going research vessels and two research submarines.
A growing network of several hundred computers and servers serves as the foundation for computing facilities for students in the program. The world-class faculty is engaged in both teaching and research. In terms of National Science Foundation research funding for oceanographic research, UH Manoa is ranked fifth in the nation.
California State University-Long Beach
For various reasons, California State University, Long Beach is one of the CSU system’s most popular and largest universities. CSULB is one of the most diverse colleges in the United States, and it is a top-rated regional university in the West.
CSULB is also one of only a few schools that offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology. This degree program, administered by the Department of Biological Sciences, is intended for students interested in pursuing graduate studies in oceanography and those seeking employment as an oceanographer in private industry or government agencies.
Because the campus is only a few kilometers from the Pacific Ocean and its diverse marine habitats, students in the program gain extensive experience in fieldwork and laboratory studies of marine organisms and marine biological processes. Faculty members in the marine biology program are active researchers in the field, with particular interests in:
- aquatic toxicology,
- developmental and larval biology,
- behavioral, population, community ecology,
- and evolution.
Hawaii Pacific University
Hawaii Pacific University is only 1.5 miles from Hawaii’s beautiful beaches. This private liberal arts college offers several marine life degrees at the university’s Oceanic Institute. Hawaii Pacific University provides a highly customizable and reasonably priced Bachelor of Science in Oceanography degree focusing on:
- and fisheries science.
Hawaiian natural history, resource management, evolutionary genetics, biological and geological oceanography are some of the specific course titles.
Students with an oceanography degree are well prepared to begin a career in marine and water sciences in the public and private sectors and pursue an advanced degree in oceanography.
HPU oceanography students benefit from small class sizes and regularly take field trips aboard the university’s 42-foot research vessel.
Florida Institute of Technology
The Florida Institute of Technology campus is only five miles from the Atlantic Ocean and close to some of America’s most stunning oceanfront settings.
The Bachelor of Science in Oceanography program at Florida Institute of Technology is interdisciplinary, combining courses from mathematics, physics, meteorology, biology, chemistry, and other disciplines.
The program is also very diverse, with students able to choose between five concentrations:
- chemical oceanography,
- biological oceanography,
- coastal zone management,
- marine environmental science,
- and physical oceanography.
Florida Tech’s bachelor’s degree in oceanography is frequently accepted by prestigious universities like the University of Alaska, MIT, and Princeton.
Coastal Carolina University
Coastal Carolina University is completely integrated with its coastal location and surroundings, with the ocean serving as the primary source of education. The Bachelor of Science in Marine Sciences is one of its many degrees.
The degree is technically a marine science major emphasizing atmosphere/ocean dynamics. The curriculum is primarily intended for students interested in studying physical oceanography or atmospheric science.
Hydrographic techniques, coastal processes, marine environmental problems, and geographic information systems are among the courses students will enroll in. Students who hold a bachelor’s degree in oceanography may choose to double major in another Bachelor of Science program.
Humboldt State University has one of the most naturally diverse university locations in the world, surrounded by forests, rivers, and coastline. Humboldt University offers a flexible Bachelor of Science in Oceanography program that can be tailored to students’ interests and career goals. The major’s core curriculum includes courses in:
- chemical oceanography,
- sample techniques,
- and field studies.
Oceanography students participate in field trips and research projects near campus and at the Telonicher Marine Laboratory. Aquaculture technicians, hydrographic surveyors, chemical oceanographers, and marine research assistants are among the graduates who are well prepared for entry-level jobs.
How to Become an Oceanographer
As an oceanographer, you must have a solid foundation of relevant knowledge to succeed. It’s also essential to be at ease working in the ocean for an extended period. To become an oceanographer, follow these steps:
Earn a college education
Get a relevant bachelor’s degree to help you qualify for entry-level jobs in this field. Oceanographers must have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area such as oceanography or marine biology. Finally, knowledge of oceanography, hydrology, environmental science, or geosciences is required.
A bachelor’s degree in oceanography focuses on chemistry, biology, and geology as they relate to the ocean in general. Depending on which oceanography school you attend, you may be able to specialize in areas such as marine geology and biological oceanography.
Oceanography classes vary by institution, but most include marine hydrodynamics, deep-sea biology, and ocean minerals.
Find an internship
Many organizations and schools provide internships to those studying oceanography or those who already have a degree in oceanography. Getting an internship gives you hands-on experience and is a great way to become acquainted with various aspects of the field.
Having several internships throughout your academic career will increase your chances of landing an excellent job in oceanography after you graduate. You can find internships with the assistance of school advisors and mentors. As a result, it is beneficial for you to cultivate relationships with your teachers and school faculty.
Oceanographers who work with the general public may be required to obtain a state license. While the requirements for getting your license vary by state, they usually include a minimum amount of relevant experience and education and passing a written exam.
If your state does not require licensure, you can pursue a voluntary designation or certification to demonstrate your professional growth.
Consider graduate education
While a bachelor’s degree is sufficient to break into the field, a master’s or doctorate will provide you with more job opportunities. Many oceanographers pursue a master’s degree to work in a research-related field. A doctorate is an option for oceanographers who want to teach or conduct advanced research.
Top Graduate Degrees to Advance as an Oceanographer
Deciding to attend graduate school is a significant decision that can shape your career. Graduate school provides opportunities and experiences for future careers in teaching, scholarship, research, policy, and other fields and academic instruction.
The academic rigor is related to its strength and quality, but equally important is its commitment to supporting its students before, during, and after their time at the institution.
Finding the right institution for you to provide comprehensive support can mean the difference between frustration and success. It is critical to consider factors other than the courses you will take to succeed.
Master of Science (MSc) in Oceanography
M.Sc. Oceanography is a broad field of science concerned with the oceans and the sea. The course provides a foundation for candidates to understand the various dimensions of oceans, their structure, and all aspects associated with them.
Candidates with the ability to handle complex issues, scientific thinking, and a keen mind to observe changes are suitable for the program.
Master of Science in Marine Biology
A master’s degree in marine biology aims to promote advanced training in multidisciplinary Marine Biology. It provides students with the competency to analyze and understand marine ecosystems. This starts from studying marine genes to the distinct communities in marine ecosystems.
M.Tech in Ocean/Marine Engineering
M. Tech. in Ocean/Marine Engineering focuses on designing, manufacturing, and operating ship parts and shipbuilding. This course requires a minimum of a passing grade in Mechanical/Marine Engineering from a recognized university.
M.Tech. Marine Engineering is a two-year program frequently offered in conjunction with other disciplines such as M.Tech Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, M.Tech in Marine Management.
MSc Marine Biology
MSc in Marine Biology is a postgraduate degree program that focuses on the environment and ecology of aquatic life and information in marine science.
This degree can help students who already have degrees in biology and oceanography further their research; it can also lead to a comprehensive understanding of aquatic life that may include all aspects of marine chemistry, ecosystems, and geology.
M.Tech in Ocean Technology
The Master of Technology in Ocean Technology and Management is a two-year postgraduate Oceanography program. Individuals will be prepared to apply mathematical and scientific principles to the design, development, and operational evaluation of systems that monitor, control, manipulate, and operate in coastal or ocean environments.
Ph.D. in Marine Biology
The Ph.D. in Marine Biology program focuses on the biology, physiology, neurology, habits, and behaviors of marine organisms. It may also look into how they interact with their ocean environment. Students may investigate oceanography and related subjects to learn more about the animals in the sea.
As their studies and research progress, most doctoral students will have begun to pursue a specialty and may continue to distinguish themselves in a specific subfield of marine biology.
Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography
The study of the ocean’s chemical components, reactions, and transformation pathways is covered in the Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography. They are interested in organic and inorganic compounds, particulate and dissolved matter, and ocean sediments.
Compounds’ paths to impact the global cycling of elements like carbon and nitrogen are frequently linked to biological activity. It uses field observations, laboratory experiments, and computer models to learn about the factors influencing chemical compositions and how they change over time and space.
Ph.D. in Oceanography
The Ph.D. in Oceanography degree follows the traditional path of original research in oceanography. Biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography and earth and geological sciences are areas of emphasis. Interdisciplinary studies are valued and are an essential part of the student experience.
Top Careers for an Oceanography Degree
If you pursue a career in oceanography, you should have no trouble finding an exciting, well-paying job. Jobs for research scientists and data technicians are available in the federal government, higher education, private research laboratories, engineering firms, the petroleum industry, and fisheries.
Geographic oceanographers study and map the world’s most volatile places underwater, such as mountain ranges, valleys, canyons, and active volcanoes. Oceanographers in government jobs or college professors with expertise in oceanography can study sediment and fossils from the deep ocean to learn about the earth’s history and crustal layers.
These research scientists may be tasked with discovering new islands or other hidden formations in the ocean. Geographic oceanographers may find employment in government and business, where they will collaborate with coastal engineers to solve problems such as erosion, which threatens coastal communities.
Biological oceanographers, also known as marine biologists, study everything from protozoa in estuaries to deep-sea creatures on the ocean floor. They could work in laboratories, offices, or on ships.
Cetologists, for example, may spend months on a research vessel observing whale and dolphin populations.
Oceanographers working as scientists in government or industry focus on developing technology to harvest food, drinking water, and energy from the ocean in a responsible manner.
Others work as naturalists in marinas, zoos, and aquariums, where they care for marine animals and educate people about ocean life and habitats. Jobs in the fishing industry are another option.
Tides, wind, currents, waves, and other forces that cause ocean movement are studied by physical oceanographers. They compile data and develop predictive models to explain weather patterns, climate change, global warming, and algal blooms using advances in satellite technology.
This specialization’s practical applications may lead to weather-related oceanographer jobs with the government agencies and the United States military. Oceanographers can also work in the petroleum and oil industries, advising on the location of rich mineral deposits and the risks associated with drilling.
Chemical oceanographers investigate the ocean’s chemical composition and manufacture waste, agricultural runoff, oil spills, and leaking sewage. Chemical oceanographer scientists and technologists, for example, test water temperature, pH, alkalinity, and dissolved oxygen levels.
They frequently work for government agencies or technology solution providers that collect and share water quality data to inform public policy, reduce pollution, and develop less toxic manufacturing processes.
Individuals with doctoral degrees in oceanography are hired as professors by colleges and universities that offer degree programs in oceanography or related fields such as marine biology or environmental science.
In most cases, full-time professors teach four classes per semester. They are also expected to conduct academic research in their field and publish the results in peer-reviewed journals.
Secondary Science Teacher
Teaching high school science is an excellent option for people with an oceanography degree who want to teach but do not want to pursue a Ph.D.
With a bachelor’s degree in any scientific field and a series of master’s level education courses, you can become a high school science teacher in most states. Many schools now offer environmental science classes, so oceanographers who want to teach may find this a good fit.
While university research was once thought to be the traditional career path for those people with Ph.D., changes in academia and science funding opportunities have made this path far less certain. Most marine science master’s and Ph.D. graduates are pursuing so-called “alternative careers” as marine environment experts in almost any field where knowledge of the oceans is required.
These jobs can be found in federal, state, and local government agencies, aquariums, law firms that need marine experts, small businesses that need aquaculturists and mariculturalists, and science journalism.
Work Environment of an Oceanographer
Oceanographers work in the field, laboratories, offices, and classrooms. They travel worldwide, including remote locations, to work on, in, and underwater. Their work can be physically as well as socially demanding. They may spend months in cramped quarters on a research ship or a few days on a small boat along a coastline.
Unsurprisingly, most oceanographers in the United States are concentrated along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts and the Great Lakes region.
Oceanographers frequently work in multidisciplinary teams due to the complexity of the earth and its oceans. Physical oceanographers, for example, may collaborate on projects with chemical and biological oceanographers to learn how ocean processes are linked.
Skills Every Oceanographer Should Possess
As said before, oceanographers can work in various settings on a wide range of ocean-related topics. The skills they use daily vary depending on their job. Some may spend the majority of their time at sea, inspired by the works of famous oceanographers; others may never do so and instead teach or write books about oceanography.
All oceanographers know ocean sciences and the ability to analyze complex data. They are driven by a desire to unravel the oceans’ mysteries.
Oceanographers of various types specialize in multiple fields.
- Biological and marine study plants and animals in the oceans.
- Chemical oceanographers study the chemical composition of seawater and how it interacts with the atmosphere and the ocean floor.
- Geological oceanographers study the ocean floor’s terrain.
- Physical oceanographers study physical reactions in the ocean, such as how currents and tides cause beach erosion.
According to the National Ocean Service, these disciplines are interconnected, so oceanographers must understand how biology, chemistry, physics, and geology play a role in all aspects of the ocean.
Research and Lab Skills
Oceanographers who conduct field research, such as those who work at sea, require the physical abilities to work in and with water while aboard a boat. They must also have the stamina to work long hours in challenging conditions due to the length of the work, the weather, and the sea conditions.
Oceanographers who work in labs must be familiar with laboratory techniques such as:
- conducting experiments,
- drawing conclusions,
- and writing lab reports.
Other oceanographers work in offices, analyzing data compiled by others through research. They must have strong analytical, reasoning, and math skills.
Advanced Computer Skills
According to Study.com, oceanographers must have advanced computer skills to conduct research and work with data. Following basic research, they analyze the data and, in many cases, produce complex digital maps and computer models.
Because their findings must be supported by extensive research, they must also be capable of critical thinking, evaluation, and problem-solving, and they frequently use computers to aid in their research.
Excellent Communication Skills
While oceanographers spend a significant amount of time conducting research, they must also be able to communicate the findings of their study to a diverse group of people. They write reports that detail their findings and provide compelling evidence to support their conclusions.
They must be confident speakers in giving speeches to their peers, the community, or academia. They must explain their findings to other oceanographers from various backgrounds and non-oceanographers who may not be familiar with the terminology.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does an Oceanographer earn?
According to the BLS, geoscientists, including oceanographers, earn a median annual salary of $93,580. Those in the bottom 10%, such as lab technicians, earn less than $51,890, while experienced oceanographers in the top 10% make more than $201,150.
What Is the Job Demand for Oceanographers?
Between 2020 and 2030, oceanography careers are expected to grow by 7%. Natural resource companies in the gas and petroleum industry are likely to provide a consistent source of employment for geoscientists, including oceanographers. Environmental protection and water management research and governmental institutes will also increase the demand for oceanographers.
How long do oceanographers go to college?
A bachelor’s degree in oceanography or basic sciences is required for a career in oceanography. In most cases, a bachelor’s degree can be completed in three to five years. With this degree, you can get an entry-level job, but you’ll need to get a master’s degree if you want to specialize.
What Classes Should I Take or Study in High School to Have a Career in Oceanography?
Take classes in earth science, chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and computer science. English is also essential because scientists must regularly write clearly and communicate their findings to others. You might also benefit from taking a public speaking class.
Find out if your school has any after-school organizations that can help you pursue a career as an oceanographer, such as Science Clubs. Consider doing an ocean-related project for your local science fair and looking for summer field experiences at nearby colleges and universities.
What Kind of Professional Organizations Do Oceanographers Have?
NOAA or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a United States government organization tasked with studying the oceans, atmosphere, and coasts and informing Americans about their findings. This organization has a strong web presence and is a valuable source of information about oceanic and atmospheric science and industry.
ASLO or the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, is a reputable organization that promotes marine research worldwide. This organization also helps with public policy, education, and outreach.
A career in oceanography is becoming increasingly popular among students looking for an exciting and challenging career.
Regardless of their specialty, oceanographers play an essential role in improving the understanding of the impact of ocean activities and the ability to sustain them as the population discovers new ways to use the oceans — whether for food, energy, transportation, or waste disposal.
The science of oceanography appears to have no bounds regarding what can and will be discovered. Our list of colleges near the oceans for oceanography would be an excellent place to begin to pursue a career in the field. Go on and investigate the ocean’s mysteries and unknowns!