Education and Training Requirements

High School

A college degree is required for beginning positions in oceanography, so be sure to take four years of college preparatory courses while in high school. Science courses, including geology, biology, and chemistry, and math classes, such as algebra, trigonometry, and statistics, are especially important to take. Because your work will involve a great deal of research and documentation, take English classes to improve your research and communication skills. In addition, take computer science classes because you will be using computers throughout your professional life.

Postsecondary Training

In college, a broad program covering the basic sciences with a major in physics, chemistry, biology, or geology is desirable. In addition, you should include courses in field research or laboratory work in oceanography where available. Graduate work in oceanography is required for most positions in research and teaching. More than 100 institutions offer programs in marine studies, and more than 35 universities have graduate programs leading to a doctoral degree in oceanography.

As a college student preparing for graduate work in oceanography, you should take mathematics through differential and integral calculus and at least one year each of chemistry and physics, biology or geology, and a modern foreign language.

Many oceanography students participate in internships or work as teaching assistants while in college to gain hands-on experience in the field. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Some states require geoscientists (a field that includes oceanographers) to be licensed if they provide services to the public. Requirements for licensing vary by state but usually include specific related education, experience, and passing an examination.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Those wishing to enter the field of oceanography should obtain as much experience as possible in college by participating in internships, volunteering, or working at a part-time job at a marine research organization or other employer of oceanographers. 

Oceanographers should have a keen interest in the natural world in and around bodies of water. Skills in mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology, and the applications of scientific rules and methods to specific problems are also necessary. Essential personality traits in the successful oceanographer include attention to detail, ability to work independently, persistence in the face of obstacles, and willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.