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How do I Become an Oceanographer?

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  • Written By: Lindsey Rivas
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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In order for you to become an oceanographer, it typically requires that you have formal schooling and a bachelor’s or graduate degree. The first step is to seek a university or other institution that offers an oceanography degree. The classes required vary by institution, but they generally are tailored to a specific area of study that you choose as a specialty. Along with a classroom education, it is usually recommended that you obtain hands-on field experience. After you have the background education and experience necessary to become an oceanographer, you can submit your resume to various organizations and corporations for employment opportunities.

There are numerous educational institutions throughout the world that offer courses and degrees to help you become an oceanographer. Since oceanography is inherently multidisciplinary, you might first get your bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as biology, chemistry, physics, or mathematics. You can then specialize in oceanography at the graduate level. Although entry-level positions might only require a bachelor’s degree, some employers require a graduate degree.

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At certain universities, you need to select a specific area of oceanography as your specialty during your graduate-level studies to become an oceanographer. One area is biological oceanography, in which you study sea life and biological processes. Another area is chemical oceanography that is geared toward the chemical composition of the ocean water and seafloor. Geological oceanography allows you to study the seafloor shape and materials, as well as learn how to predict geological events like seafloor volcanoes. You might also have the option to choose physical oceanography to study ocean currents and apply physics principles to the ocean.

In addition to oceanography courses, there are other subjects beneficial for you to become an oceanographer. Math and computer classes are useful for learning how to create computer models and ocean simulations from collected field data. Hands-on experience with electronics and mechanical devices can help you gain skills that might be used for oceanographer duties like maneuvering instruments along the ocean floor. Since some oceanography work is done at sea, you might want to become accustomed to being aboard a ship or scuba diving under water. You might also consider getting field experience working in a lab or assisting a professor with research.

After you have had formal schooling and field experience, you might be ready to become an oceanographer for an employer. It can be advantageous to have letters of recommendation ready to submit to employers, especially from people who have worked with you in a research capacity or during hands-on experience. You can search newspapers, job posting websites, or oceanography-specific websites for potential employers, or your education institution may set up an internship for you. Furthermore, you can send your resume to nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or private-industry corporations that employ oceanographers. Universities also hire oceanographers for teaching or research opportunities.

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