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Oceanography, Chemical and Physical

Program Description

Just the Facts

Oceanography, Chemical and Physical. A program that focuses on the scientific study of the chemical components, mechanisms, structure, and movement of ocean waters and their interaction with terrestrial and atmospheric phenomena. Includes instruction in material inputs and outputs, chemical and biochemical transformations in marine systems, equilibria studies, inorganic and organic ocean chemistry, oceanographic processes, sediment transport, zone processes, circulation, mixing, tidal movements, wave properties, and seawater properties.

This program is available in these options:

  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

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Additional Information

Oceanography is a multidisciplinary field with four different but related branches of study: physical oceanography, chemical oceanography, marine geology and marine ecology. And students in the field are exposed to each one before they specialize.

The number of universities in the U.S. that offer oceanography degrees is relatively small. Most schools only offer graduate-level degrees. So most students who enter the field already have an undergraduate degree.

You will likely take a range of courses. You may also have to spend some time at sea collecting data.

That means you may get to handle some fairly sophisticated equipment. Consider students in geological oceanography. They work with powerful drills to collect core samples of the ocean floor.

You may also get to use some pretty powerful computers to analyze and model any data you might have collected.

Since some programs require you to spend time at sea, you must learn how to live in less than pleasant circumstances. You may have to endure bad weather, cramped living quarters and long periods of isolation.

Entrance requirements vary, but you will likely need an undergraduate degree before you can go into oceanography. Your bachelor's degree should be in biology, chemistry or physics. Some students also come from math or engineering.

Competition for spots is pretty stiff. Only students with strong marks in the sciences and in math get in.

"I would really encourage students to focus on the traditional science areas -- chemistry, physics and biology, along with geology. Those are the four major areas of oceanography," says Meredith Clark. She is the admissions advisor for the graduate school of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.

You should also hone your math skills, she adds.

Strong communication skills are also important. They are absolutely necessary if you want to do serious scientific research and publish the results. They are also crucial in securing funding for your research.

Spend as much time around the ocean as possible when you are outside the classroom.

John Merrill is the associate dean of the graduate school of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. He says that since most oceanography degrees are graduate-level programs, most students are likely to get some financial support to cover their tuition and research expenses.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Environmental Scientists and Geoscientists

Ocean Planet
A general guide to the field of oceanography

Aquatic Network
A general guide to the oceans and the issues facing them


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