How to Become an Oceanographer

Becoming an oceanographer might be a great career choice for you if you have a scientific mind, an interest in the environment, you enjoy research and you have a strong work ethic.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to get into this field.


We've also included helpful general information for this occupation, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education You'll Need

You'll likely need a graduate level education, either a Master of Science (M.Sc.) or a doctoral degree (PhD) in oceanography, marine biology, biochemistry, hydrogeology or a closely related field.


Having a Bachelor’s of Science degree (B.Sc.) in any of the aforementioned fields typically enables you to work in research assistant or technician positions.





What is an Oceanographer?

Job description


Oceanographers are responsible for studying the contents, boundaries and other aspects of oceans, including their role in the earth’s climate system. 



What Does an Oceanographer Do?

Job duties


Although their duties can vary from job to job, they're generally responsible for the following:


• Planning, organizing and executing oceanic investigations

• Recording the details of experiments and expeditions

• Utilizing highly specialized scientific equipment, such as underwater remote control vehicles

• Developing and testing theories

• Preparing papers and reports based on findings

• Defending conclusions by responding to criticism

• Helping to establish policy on coastal and marine environments and resources



Further Training Needed

Although professional certification is not typically mandatory to be hired, many practitioners choose to obtain certification voluntarily. Earning professional certification can have many benefits, including:


• Demonstrating commitment to the profession of oceanography

• May be required to obtain senior level positions

• Employers value certification

• Being a certified professional may entitle you to a higher salary


Please visit the websites of professional groups such as the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) or the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in order to obtain more information about professional certification in oceanography and related professions.





Who Hires Oceanographers?

There are many organizations that make use of the unique knowledge base and skill set of oceanographers. For example, an oceanographer may be hired by an oil company to determine the safest location for a new underwater pipeline.


• Colleges and universities

• Environmental and engineering consulting firms

• Federal government laboratories

• Marine science institutions

• Marine transport companies

• National Defence Research establishments

• Private corporations, such as oil and gas companies

• Private research institutions


Oceanographer Salary

Canada: According to ECO Canada, the average yearly salary for entry-level Oceanographers in Canada is $44,000, and more experienced oceanographers typically earn between $64,000 and $78,000 per year.


United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for workers in the Geoscientists occupational group, which includes oceanographers, is $82,500 per year.


Job Postings

Check our job board below to find Oceanographer job openings in your area.



Related Occupations

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to Oceanographer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Chemical Oceanographer


Environmental Scientist


Marine Biologist

Soil Scientist



Typical Working Conditions

Oceanographers typically either work in office or field settings.


Office setting: Oceanographers that work in office settings typically work normal weekday working hours. They usually perform such duties as computer modeling activities and theoretical work. These oceanographers typically don’t have to do much lifting, and their job functions are mostly sedentary.


Field setting: Oceanographers that perform work in the field typically do so to conduct first hand research. Unlike office-based work for oceanographers, conducting research in the field involves working irregular hours; sometimes oceanographers may spend months at a time on a ship. They may be expected to share a cabin with another person and may have to work long hours to complete research projects. Conducting field research also involves the use of highly specialized equipment, and may involve heavy lifting.



References for this Guide

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an oceanographer.


Occupations in Alberta:Oceanographer.” (March 23, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Geoscientists.” (September 19, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

Explore Careers: Oceanographer.” (n.d.). ECO Canada website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.



Scholarships Relevant to Becoming an Oceanographer

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming an Oceanographer can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming an oceanographer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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