What Factors Affect an Oceanographer's Salary?

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  • Written By: K. Kinsella
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2019
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Private companies and government institutions employ oceanographers who are tasked with studying various aspects of the world's seas including ocean currents, marine life and the chemical composition of water. An oceanographer's salary depends on the individual's specific job responsibilities and academic credentials. Additionally, an oceanographer's salary can also be affected by the individual's work location.

Many different people with varying areas of expertise are employed as oceanographers. Chemists study the salinity of water, pollution levels and chemical compounds that are found in and around the world's oceans. Physicists study water currents and the impact that wind has on the flow of an ocean while marine biologists study fish and other life forms that inhabit bodies of water. Some oceanography firms also employ geologists and engineers to study rock formations and seismic activity beneath the oceans. Therefore, an oceanographer's salary depends in large part on the nature of that individual's work.


In most instances, oceanographers have completed undergraduate degree programs in topics such as biology, physics or geology. Many mining and engineering firms only employ people who have completed postgraduate degree programs that focus on a specific element of oceanography. An individual oceanographer's salary depends on academic qualifications; some firms pay a premium to attract job candidates with the best academic credentials. Some companies do have job openings for non-college graduates. People who fill these entry-level positions usually earn significantly less than their more qualified counterparts and most entry-level workers have to complete college degrees before they can be promoted.

Some oceanographers are full-time employees of mining firms and other entities while many people working in this field are self-employed individuals who work for various different firms on a contractual basis. The salary of a freelance worker depends entirely on that individual's workload while permanent employees receive steady wages regardless of their work volume. Aside from engaging in fieldwork, some oceanographer's work for academic institutions as teachers or lecturers. Typically, a teaching department will have several levels of seniority in which case the department head will normally receive a larger salary than a junior lecturer.

The cost of living varies between different parts of the world and employers have to take basic living costs into account when negotiating wages. A particular firm may employ two oceanographer's to perform the same kind of work but one individual may be paid more than the other if the firm bases the salary levels on the local cost of living. Additionally, some firms pay a premium to workers who are forced to work in remote locations.


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