In order to become a marine geologist, you will typically need both an undergraduate degree in geology and an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree, in a more specialized form of oceanic geology. There are many different career options within the field of marine geology, and different employers look for different sorts of expertise. It is usually a good idea to begin exploring your career options early on in your education. Tailoring your research and coursework to a specific sort of study will make you more marketable once you enter the field.
Much of what it takes to become a marine geologist depends on what sort of career you are looking for. Some research firms and marine exploration teams will hire people with only general geology or earth science training to perform basic administrative and rote research tasks. This can give young graduates good work experience and exposure to the field. Without further education, however, advancement is usually quite unlikely.
Marine geology, like most scientific disciplines, is organized according a system of educational hierarchy. No matter how long you have worked in the field, it is often all but impossible to advance without at least a master’s degree. This is not to say that field experience is not valuable. Low-level researchers are necessary to the success of most endeavors and explorations, and this sort of experience can also help graduates better solidify their interests. For most people, however, entry level experience is not what they had in mind when they decided to become a marine geologist.
If you are interested in actually conducting undersea geological research, drawing your own conclusions, and using your expertise to make predictions, you will almost certainly need a graduate degree. Usually, the type of graduate degree you pursue will dictate, at least in some respects, the sort career track you will enter. Graduate school is the place where you identify what interests you the most in marine geology and is where you make a name for yourself with pointed research.
Scientists working in marine geology can do a range of different things. Some study the movement of tectonic plates beneath the sea floor and make predictions about how seismic shifts and underwater volcanoes affect life in the visible world. Others study the mineral content of silt and rock to pinpoint wells of oil and other natural resources or focus on map-drawing and undersea land surveys. There is often some latitude in the field for established professionals, but you must usually specialize in just one area before you can become a marine geologist at the outset.
Common marine geology degrees include marine geophysics, marine geochemistry, marine petroleum studies, oceanography, and ocean sedimentology and volcanology. A master’s degree or equivalent is often enough to become a marine geologist with most firms and companies. In order to teach at the university level or to assume the most senior research positions, you will usually need to achieve a Ph.D.
It is usually easier to become a marine geologist with an advanced degree, as many employers recruit new scientists directly out of the world’s top programs. The research you create as a graduate student will give you something of a name within the scientific community and can serve as a start to your professional reputation. Recruiters will often contact you, depending on your interests and the availability of jobs.