Schools in the USA
Back to Career Search     



People are fascinated by the ocean because of its vast, mysterious qualities. Considering the fact that the ocean makes up over 70 percent of the Earth, it is pretty amazing that scientists have only really started studying the ocean in detail in the last century. Oceanographers study all aspects of oceans, including their boundaries and contents. Therefore, all disciplines of science and engineering, including biology, chemistry, geology and physics are involved in the study of the great blue sea.

Oceanographers work in a wide variety of fields, including mining and petroleum production, fisheries and food production, ocean forecasting and climatology, transportation, remote sensing, ecology, environmental studies, recreation, academic research, and national defense. In the course of their work, oceanographers use surface ships, aircraft, satellites, underwater craft and a variety of specialized scientific equipment.

Oceanographers who study the biological aspects of the sea are focused on plant and animal life in the oceans, studying their distribution, abundance, productivity, cycles and their relationships with the chemistry of the oceans. The practical applications of biological oceanography include marine ecology food production, fisheries management, environmental impact assessment, and marine farming, such as oyster, shrimp, and salmon farming. There are myriad wonders in the sea including most of the world's undiscovered ecosystems.

Chemical oceanographers study the occurrence and movement of chemicals in the ocean and the chemical processes that operate within the ocean, the sea floor and in the marine atmosphere. They also study the effects different chemicals and contaminants have on marine life. The practical applications of chemical oceanography include pollution control studies of the role of oceans in global climate change, and assessments of the quality of fish and fish products. If industrial companies dump toxic wastes into the sea and consequently, fish get infected with diseases; the cycle continues into human digestive systems, potentially harming both the fish's health and our health. Therefore, it is important that chemical oceanographers are studying the effects of such disasters.

Geological oceanographers map the ocean floor, examining rocks, sediment, core samples and fossils, and conducting seismic surveys. The practical applications of their work include offshore oil and gas exploration, sea-bed mining, and coastal erosion or sediment accumulation. Nowadays with our oil reserves being so utilized, offshore drilling has become an important fuel source alternative.

Physical oceanographers study the temperature and density of seawater, tides, waves, currents, ice conditions and ocean turbulence. They create maps of ocean properties, including temperature, salinity, and currents, and they forecast wave heights and distribution of marine pollutants. Physical oceanographers also create computer models of ocean climate and circulation, which assist in weather forecasting and predicting climate changes and hurricanes.

Regardless of an oceanographer's specialty area, they are all concerned with discovering the wonders and possibilities under the vast expanse of water that covers the majority of our planet earth. Many also promote environmental practices and anti-dumping campaigns to keep our water clean.
View Schools for this Career: 
         Related Careers
arrow Agricultural Technologist
arrow Agriculturist
arrow Agronomist
arrow [ view all related careers ]

Program Spotlight
Matching School Ad
Concordia University - Portland

Online Learning at Concordia University–Portland

Programs Offered:
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Science



  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Oceanographers must love being on the ocean, therefore if you get sea-sickness easily, this may not be the career for you. They generally have inquiring minds with an aptitude for the physical sciences. Oceanographers are analytical and enjoy solving difficult and mechanical problems.

They have the ability to work alone or cooperatively as a member of a team, and can express ideas clearly in person and in writing. Oceanographers typically enjoy working with tools, instruments and equipment at tasks requiring precision and specific skill.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study the ocean's currents, waves, tides, and all other flows
  • Use instruments on satellites to find out the temperature of the sea's surface, surface currents, plankton concentrations, and wave heights
  • Measure temperature, salt and gas contents with electronic instruments
  • Study and map underwater formations such as volcanoes and earthquake faults
  • Study rocks and sediment on the sea bed
  • Troubleshoot risks to coasts from storms and tidal waves
  • Study the ocean's impact on coastal engineering works such as submarine pipelines
  • Observe how the ocean, atmosphere, and climate affect one another
  • Plan experiments and write reports and scientific papers
  • Develop and run computer models of ocean circulation and mixing, and ocean waves
  • Help establish policy on coastal and marine environments and resources, and manage related human activities
  • Some oceanographers work primarily in an office environment, concentrating on theoretical research or computer modeling. Those who travel and work on-site perform more hands-on tasks. Since most field research is conducted from ocean vessels, oceanographers may spend a total of up to three months a year on ships in remote locations from the South China Sea to the Baffin Straight. They may be expected to share a cabin with another person and may have to work long hours to complete research projects. The physical requirements will vary. During field research projects, oceanographers may be required to lift moderately heavy items.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Oceanographers are employed by universities for teaching and research, government laboratories, private consulting and research companies and marine science institutions. Some oceanographers are self-employed and work as private consultants. Most oceanographers work for companies and organizations located in coastal cities, so that they are close to ocean vessels.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced oceanographers could move back into the academic world and teach at universities or become professional researchers. Some may become environmental consultants, helping companies with environmental and ocean clean-up projects. Others could move into politics. Any which way one decides to turn, there are many advancement possibilities for those with PhDs.

  Educational Paths  
The minimum educational requirement for oceanographers is a master's degree or a PhD in oceanography. Graduates of Bachelor of Science degree programs may work as research and laboratory assistants, or research technicians providing technical support. The more advanced the degree one has, the more likely the oceanographer will carry the responsibility for scientific research projects.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

Featured Schools

Matching School Ads
Concordia University - Portland

Online Learning at Concordia University–Portland

Programs Offered:
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Science

Matching School Ads
  Universities and Colleges
Clarkson UniversityColorado School of MinesDalhousie University
Oral Roberts UniversityPenn State HarrisburgTemple University
The University of HoustonThompson Rivers UniversityUNB Saint John
University of AlabamaUniversity of ArkansasUniversity of British Columbia
University of IowaUniversity of New BrunswickUniversity of Ottawa
York University
Agriculture and Bio-resources | Allied Health and Health Sciences | Applied Business Technology | Architecture
Business Administration | Computer Science | Cosmetology and Esthetics | Culinary, Travel &Hospitality | Dance 
Engineering Technology & Applied Technology |Engineering | Film | Fine Arts and Design | Humanities and Liberal ArtsJustice and Security
| Natural and Applied Sciences | Naturopathic and Holistic MedicineNursingPublic Administration & PolicyReligious and Theological Studies
Sport Sciences and Physical Education | Teacher Education | Theatre
Articles | College News | Videos | Feedback | Career Search
Home | About Us | Contact Us | Faq | Terms of Use | Privacy Notice | Site Map | Cities Site Map | California - Do Not Sell My Info

Copyright 2003- 2020 QuinStreet, Inc. All Rights Reserved.