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How Do I Get an Oceanography Degree?

An oceanographer may study changes in ocean tides and currents.
Oceanographers often undergo scuba training.
Some oceanographers study coral reefs and other marine plants and animals.
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  • Written By: Vicki Hogue-Davies
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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Many colleges and universities offer degrees in oceanography at undergraduate and graduate levels. To find oceanography degree programs, visit your high school or current college's career guidance center or speak with a school counselor. You also can find information about oceanography programs through ocean and marine institutes, government agencies, environmental groups and other organizations involved in ocean research. Doing an Internet search on oceanography programs also is a good starting place.

To help you gain acceptance into an oceanography degree program, seek to get a good grounding in math and science. Get involved in volunteer and study programs at ocean-related organizations. Taking every opportunity to learn about the ocean will help bolster your oceanography degree program application. It also will help you decide what area of oceanography you want to pursue.

Oceanographers often spend a lot of time working in the field. Being comfortable in a boat on the ocean, knowing how to scuba dive and learning foreign languages can be helpful when pursuing an oceanography degree. Oceanographers also use computers in their research for modeling, simulations and other things, so having computer proficiency is helpful.

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Oceanography is a multidisciplinary field that encompasses a variety of basic sciences such as biology, chemistry and geology. To become an oceanographer, you can earn a bachelor's degree specifically in oceanography or earn an undergraduate degree in math or a more general science field and then attend a graduate-level oceanography program. Graduate degrees are often — but not always — required to find work in the field of oceanography.

Specific courses for oceanography degrees differ between schools, but examples of classes that you might take include ocean dynamics, deep sea biology, mathematical modeling and marine mammal research. Examples of different program specialties in oceanography include biological oceanography, which is the study of sea life diversity and populations; and physical oceanography, which is the study the ocean's physical properties and relationship to the atmosphere. Other oceanography specialties include geological oceanography, which is the study of the ocean floor and its material and formations. Chemical oceanography studies chemical compounds in the ocean's waters.

Once you have an oceanography degree, the career that you can work in will be driven by the level of your degree. If you have a bachelor's degree, you might start out in an entry-level position such as assisting on a research vessel or in a laboratory and progress through on-the-job training. People with doctoral degrees in oceanography can instruct in oceanography and related science programs at the university level or lead research programs in the fields of oceanography and marine science. Government agencies, environmental groups, marine museums and aquariums are just some of the places that employ oceanographers in a variety of scientific specialties.

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