Oceanography: Required Education and Career Opportunities

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Oceanography is considered a relatively new career path that those interested in environmental science can pursue. Those in this career consider oceanography to be a career that is created by an ever-evolving flow of exciting discoveries. This field is new because just fifty years ago, only two percent of the ocean was ever explored so there wasn’t much to do in terms of studying the discoveries of the ocean.

What Have Oceanographers Done for the World?

The oceanography discipline has only been around for about forty years. In this time oceanographers have made so many discoveries that have changed ideas and allowed is to get a glimpse of the deepest ocean trenches on Earth. They have also allowed us to see amazing views from space of our oceans. Other discoveries made by oceanographers include the discovery of exotic ocean life forms that live around hydrothermal vents; these ocean creatures do not depend on light to survive, but the special water chemistry that surrounds the hydrothermal vents. They have also confirmed the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics. Oceanographers continue to educate us and make new and exciting ocean discoveries. They aid us in understanding living organisms, ocean balance, solid earth, ice and atmosphere. They help us understand the largest earth system, the ocean, and how it affects the future of out planet as well as out everyday lives.


To become an oceanographer, interested individuals will need to pursue the right education. During high school, interested individuals are highly encouraged to take as many mathematics, chemistry, computer science, earth science, physics and biology classes as possible to prepare them for their college coursework. Some colleges and universities offer undergraduate degrees in oceanography. These degree programs will have heavy focus on the sciences including mathematics, oceanography, geoscience, biology, chemistry and physics. All students pursing an undergraduate degree in oceanography will also need to take all required general education classes as well. It is also recommended that students take speech classes and extra English classes as well as a foreign language. Students should also take advantage of joining a professional society of association related to oceanography so that they can gain real-life experience in this field as they complete their degree. Approximately 36 colleges and universities offer master’s or doctoral degrees in oceanography. Those who want to make oceanography a career are encouraged to pursue an advanced degree in this field.

Career Options

There are several career options available in the oceanography discipline. Those interested in studying the animals and plants that live in the ocean can become marine biologists or biological oceanographers. Those interested in studying the various aspects of seawater such as chemical interactions, history, current research, seawater composition and its cycles and processes can become marine chemists or chemical oceanographers. Those interested in exploring and studying the ocean floor and the various processes that create its valleys, canyons and mountains can become marine geologists or geological oceanographers. The interested in studying the physical processes and conditions of the ocean such as coastal erosion, how the ocean and atmosphere interact, currents and waves can become physical oceanographers. Those interested in designing and building new technology that is able to explore the ocean can become ocean and marine engineers. Other career paths in oceanography include fishery scientists or managers, arctic oceanographers, aquatic biologists, marine policy lawyers and experts, underwater acousticians, climate researchers and atmospheric scientists, molecular biologists and marine biotechnologists.