How to Become an Oceanographer?

9 minute read

Oceanographers study water, marine life, weather and climate to help conserve the oceans and coastal waters. In addition, it also increases the ability of other professionals to predict weather patterns, determine changes in plate tectonics and caring for wildlife. According to the University of Memphis, the projected growth potential of oceanographers will increase by 5% by 2029. The need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible management of marine resources is expected to drive the demand for oceanographers. Here is a complete guide on how to become an oceanographer! 

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What is Oceanography? 

Oceanography is the study of the chemical, physical and biological properties of the oceans. It also includes its current conditions, ancient history and its future. There are 4 different branches of Oceanography: 

  • Physical Oceanography: It involves the study of the physical properties of marine systems. It involves water mass formation, interior and surface mixing, ocean currents, temperature and salinity and the intersection between ocean and atmosphere. 
  • Chemical Oceanography: It involves a broad and complex understanding of the distribution and reactivity of chemical components in the ocean and at the land, sediment, and atmosphere-ocean interfaces. 
  • Geological Oceanography: It covers the structure, features, and formation of the seafloor and how it changes over time. 
  • Biological Oceanography: It is a critical branch of Oceanography. It studies how the ocean’s plants and animals affect and are affected by physical, chemical and geological features of the oceanographic system. 

Value of an Oceanography Career 

Climate change and overpopulation pose serious challenges to the natural world. Oceans are becoming more acidic and weather conditions are worsening in unpredictable ways. These effects are detrimental to biological life, especially in the oceans. If humans want to be good keepers of our planet, they must find ways to change course and repair the environmental damage before it’s too late. Scientists including oceanographers are the ones who lead and develop an action plan. A career in oceanography comes with specific challenges and may involve major roles and responsibilities other than any profession. However, if you are interested in creating fresh discoveries and positively influencing our planet earth then this role is perfect for you! 

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Roles and Responsibilities of an Oceanographer 

An oceanographer is a scientist who applies disciplinary Science of Mathematics, Engineering, and Scientific Theories to study the relationships between freshwater, seawater, the biosphere, the atmosphere, and the polar caps. An oceanographer also finds out possible changes that may occur and uses sustainable ways to use their resources to understand the physical and biological aspects of the ocean.  They also perform the following typical roles and responsibilities: 

  • Examine hypotheses using statistical models 
  • Scrutinize life forms and matter in seawater 
  • Presentation of research proposals to obtain grants
  • Drafting of reports and investigations
  • Collecting field samples and data from the ocean, ocean floors and atmosphere using equipment such as marine robots, and robot sensors. 
  • Keeping up to date with research and scientific developments
  • Attending field trips, oceanography conferences, and training courses 
  • Testing samples in laboratories 
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Skills Required 

Here are the top skills that must be present in an aspirant if he or she wishes to become an oceanographer: 

  • Outstanding practical and problem-solving skills 
  • Critical thinking skills 
  • Candidates must possess good communication skills 
  • Keen interest in scientific and mathematical operations of the marine life
  • Must have good observation skills 
  • The writing skills should also be good when publishing specific findings 
  • Must have good knowledge of different oceans of different areas 
  • Research skills are necessary as it is important to research about whole properties of the particular ocean 

How to Become an Oceanographer? (Step-Wise Guide)

If you are also interested in exploring all about oceans and marine life and love the environment, then becoming an oceanographer might be the perfect career choice for you. Here we have collated a step-by-step guide on how to become an oceanographer. 

Step 1: Learn Science and Maths in High School

If you want to pursue a career in oceanography, it would be a good start to your studies. High school Maths and Science classes will provide you with adequate preparation after graduation. Take classes on Earth Sciences, Physics, Botany, Geology, Maths, History, Geography, etc. Also, you can be a part of after school or summer programs related to Science and Maths. Additionally, take advantage of volunteering opportunities and go on research about marine life and nature. 

Step 2: Obtain a Proper College Education 

The first thing to do in college is to decide and find out what type of oceanographer excites you. Take the relevant subjects and get a proper degree from a renowned college/university. Study your bachelor’s majors in Biology, Physics, Chemistry or Geology. Post completion of undergraduate studies, it is always a better idea to pursue a master’s degree. This will allow you to focus on a particular kind of oceanographer field you are interested in. Lastly, some of the students pick up a job or go for advanced studies. A PhD in oceanography offers the best faculty, resources, facilities and training. 

Step 3: Work as an Oceanographer 

Start with the internship because it will provide you with hands-on experience. Intern as a research assistant or as a computer technician. After getting industry experience, apply for the job as an oceanographer. You must possess the vast knowledge and special skill sets of an oceanographer. You can be hired in organizations such as universities, government laboratories, marine science organizations, private research laboratories and institutions, private corporations like oil and gas companies. 

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Top Courses 

The field of oceanography is the best career option for anyone interested in exploring the ocean and its surroundings. Enlisted are the top courses students can pursue to become an oceanographer: 

Master Courses 

Doctoral Courses

  • M.Phil in Marine Biology 
  • M.Phil in Chemical Oceanography
  • PhD in Oceanography 

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Top 10 Universities for Oceanographers 

There is a wide range of universities/colleges offering oceanography courses around the globe. Here we have formulated a list of universities that offers oceanography courses to the aspirants: 

UniversityAverage Total Fees (in USD)Average Total Fees (in INR)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology77,02057 lakhs 
The University of California, Berkeley (UCB)69,304 51.2 lakhs 
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill17,856 13.2 lakhs 
University of California, San Diego36,00026.6 lakhs 
The University of Washington (Seattle Campus)30,640 22.6 lakhs 
University of Miami75,23055.6 lakhs 
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)79,94759.1 lakhs 
University of Wisconsin-Madison55,88841.3 lakhs 
University of California – Santa Cruz58,98343.6 lakhs 

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Top Colleges in India 

Oceanography is an emerging course in India, hence, a bunch of institutes offer this program. For all those who are looking for oceanography colleges/universities in India, here is the list for the same: 

College/UniversityAverage Total Fees
University of HyderabadINR 18,000
IIT BhubaneswarINR 50,000
Andhra UniversityINR 28,000
Annamalai UniversityINR 48,000 – 96,000
Amity University, JaipurINR 1.6 lakhs – 2.6 lakhs

Requirements to Study Oceanography 

In many universities, oceanography is offered as a 2-year full-time program through an MSc or MTech degree. Most of the students hold a masters or doctoral degree to become an oceanographer. Below are the admission and documentation requirements of the PG and doctoral course along with the application process. 

Educational Qualifications

  • For UG courses, candidates must have completed 10+2 or equivalent from a recognized board with minimum aggregate marks required. 
  • For PG courses, completion of a BSc degree in Physics, Earth Science, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, Applied Science, Agriculture or Fishery Science or any other equivalent field is a must. Students must attain 55% marks at the graduation level. 
  • For doctoral courses, to pursue M.Phil or PhD in oceanography, you must have a postgraduate degree in the related field. 

Documents Required

Apart from being eligible for the Oceanography courses, consider the following necessary documents to be submitted to the chosen university abroad: 

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How to Apply 

Step 1: Find an Oceanography Specialization and a University

Select the oceanography course and pick up a suitable university that offers the same. Check all the details including tuition fees, costs of living, curriculum, employment opportunities, work permit rules. Get in touch with Leverage Edu experts at 1800572000 and get 30 minutes of free counselling sessions. 

Step 2: Gather all the Necessary Documents

Exams like IELTS or TOEFL are mandatory to apply for oceanography courses. LOR, SOP, essays, updated resumes and official transcripts of previous academic degrees are also the necessary documents. Go through these requirements and start working on them. 

Note: If you want to have record-breaking scores in the exams like TOEFL or IELTS. Register for Leverage Live and start your preparation today!

Step 3: Fill & Submit the Application Form

Once you have your documents and language scores, you can now fill up the application form. Make sure to enter all the information carefully. Once you have completed the application form, it’s time to save and select a suitable time to submit your application. 

Step 4: Wait for the Offer Letter 

Lastly, wait for the offer letter from the selected university. It will take few weeks to get the application evaluated. 

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Oceanography Syllabus 

The program deals not only with the details of the theoretical aspects but also with various methods and methodologies. The courses are structured into four semesters, and although the degree program varies from university to university. The list below gives an overview of the subjects covered in master’s courses in Oceanography: 

Semester I 

  • Physical Meteorology 
  • Dynamical Meteorology 
  • Physical Oceanography 
  • Physical and Dynamical Meteorology 
  • Practical 
  • Computer Programming & Data Processing 
  • Meteorology & Oceanography Computations 
  • Viva Voice

Semester II 

  • Dynamical Oceanography 
  • Synoptic Meteorology 
  • Advanced Dynamical Meteorology 
  • Electronics 
  • Practical 
  • Synoptic Analysis
  • Electronics 

Semester III

  • Cloud Physics 
  • Air-Sea Interaction 
  • Observational Techniques 
  • Numerical Weather Prediction 
  • Practical 
  • Numerical Weather Protection 
  • Instruments 

Semester IV

  • Tropical Meteorology 
  • Climate Modelling 
  • Satellite Meteorology 
  • Agricultural & Hydrometeorology 
  • Practical 
  • Applied Meteorology 
  • Dissertation

Job Prospects & Salary Packages 

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a high demand for oceanography jobs and oceanographers in the world. Your chances of success in your job search as well as your earning potential depend on what kind of oceanographer you become. The table below provides information on jobs and salary trends with significant demand in this area. 

Job ProfileAverage Annual Salary (in USD)
Conservation Scientists 62,000 (INR 45 lakhs)
Biological Technicians50,000 (INR 36 lakhs)
Biochemist and Biophysicists 95,000 (INR 70 lakhs)
Geoscientists 93,000 (INR 68 lakhs)
Atmospheric Scientists 95,000 (INR 70 lakhs)
Hydrologists 81,000 (INR 59 lakhs)
Zoologists 64,000 (INR 47 lakhs) 

Suggested Books 

As the climate conditions are deteriorating, pollution is increasing and there is a shift in marine life, the oceanography books have become important in both academics and real life. We will take a look at the list of books you must consider while studying Oceanography courses or while practising in real-life situations: 

Oceanography: A Brief Introduction by K. Siddartha(Click here to buy)
Oceanography for geographers by R.C Sharma(Click here to buy)
Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Life by Tom S Garrison(Click here to buy)
Essentials of Oceanography by Alan P. Trujillo(Click here to buy)
How the Ocean Work by Mark Denny (Click here to buy)
Biological Oceanography by Eric Mills (Click here to buy)

We hope that you have found all the information needed to know how to become an Oceanographer. Sign up for a 30-minute free career counselling session with our experienced mentors at Leverage Edu. Call us on 1800572000 and we will help you realize your potential by equipping you with the necessary guidance you need to sail towards your chosen career. 

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