How to Become an Oceanographer

Three Parts:Prepping for CollegeObtaining the Proper College EducationWorking as an Oceanographer

Oceanographers use science and math to study the interactions between oceans, continents, the atmosphere, and the biosphere. Oceanographer's work is dedicated to understanding and predicting how oceans work, as well as how to best take advantage of the resources oceans provide us with. Becoming an oceanographer could be the right career choice for you if you're interested in math and science, have a love for the environment, and enjoy research and hard work.

Part 1
Prepping for College

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    Take as many science and math classes as you can in high school. It's a good idea to get a head start on your studies if you want to pursue a career in oceanography. Taking advanced math and science classes in high school will ensure that you're properly prepared once you get to college.
    • Some of these classes may include earth sciences, biology, geology, geography, physics, etc. If the thought of taking these types of courses is not appealing, then oceanography probably isn't the right career path for you.
    • If your high school offers college credit for advanced classes, take advantage of those classes. If you're able to start college with some pre-existing general education credits (science, math, english, history, etc.), you'll be able to skip some of your general education classes and move onto classes that are more exciting and interesting.[1]
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    Participate in after school or summer programs related to science and math. There are tons of extracurricular activities and summer programs that will allow you to learn more about different career paths through science and math. Many of these programs are state-run, so look online if your school doesn't have any extracurricular activities that interest you.[2]
    • Joining a science club or your school's mathletes are great extracurricular activities for you to try.
    • Some colleges offer summer programs for high school students, so look into the programs that your local colleges offer. This could be a great way for you to get scholarships to college as well. Some examples of these programs are:
      • Upward Bound Math and Science programs all over the country
      • The Baylor University High School Summer Science Research Program in Waco, TX
      • The Biotech Academy: Earn a Certificate of Achievement in Bio Science in Berkeley, CA[3]
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    Take advantage of volunteer opportunities. There are many nature and wildlife organizations that are always looking for volunteers. Doing volunteer work in the field you want to work in is a great way to better familiar yourself with your industry (and it also looks great on college applications and job resumes).
    • Go online to research marine, wildlife, and nature volunteer organizations near you.[4]

Part 2
Obtaining the Proper College Education

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    Decide what type of oceanographer you'd like to be so that you can study the right subjects and get the proper degrees in college. Once you've determined what kind of oceanographer you want to be, you'll be able to choose specific majors and minors to get your degrees in. This decision will be an ongoing process that may change as you study for your Bachelor's and Master's degrees, but it's important to know that there are different types of oceanographers who have different specialties before you start choosing college programs.
    • Physical oceanographers study currents, waves, tides and ocean circulation. This type of oceanographer would typically get their Bachelor's degree in physics.
    • Chemical oceanographers determine the chemical composition of sea water and oceans. This type of oceanographer would typically get their Bachelor's degree in chemistry.
    • Biological oceanographers study how marine animals, plants, and organisms interact with their environment. This type of oceanographer would typically get their Bachelor's degree in biology.
    • Geological oceanographers examine the ocean floor, including rocks and minerals. This type of oceanographer would typically get their Bachelor's degree in geology.[5]
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    Go to college to get your undergraduate Bachelor's degree. Oceanographers usually get their Bachelor's degrees majoring in biology, physics, chemistry, or geology. These majors will help prepare you for your Master's studies. There are also some schools that offer undergraduate Bachelor's degrees in marine biology, which is another option for your undergrad degree. Undergraduate education gives students the necessary knowledge and experience that is needed when pursuing advanced degrees in subjects related to oceanography.
    • For your senior thesis, consider writing about an oceanography related topic.
    • Find a mentor or advisor who works in oceanography or a related field who can write a good letter of recommendation for your graduate school.
    • There are usually internships or assistant positions available for those who only have undergraduate degrees. To have a career as an oceanographer, students must pursue a Master's and PhD level education.[6]
    • Bachelor's degrees focus on general areas of study. You'll be able to study specific oceanography sciences when you return to school for your Master's degree and PhD.
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    Attend a graduate school to get your Master's degree. Oceanographers always have a postgraduate Master's degree in their field of interest. Going to school for your Master's degree will allow you to focus on the particular kind of oceanography that you're interested in.
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    Get your PHD in oceanography. Most oceanographers attend school until they have a PhD in their field of oceanography. Schools that offer advanced degrees in oceanography are often equipped with the best faculty, resources, facilities, and training possible. Most of these schools are also located in the best locations to study oceanography – along coasts.[7]
    • Some of the best schools for oceanography majors and degrees include:
      • Duke University in Durham, North Carolina
      • Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island
      • University of California (UCLA) in Los Angeles, CA
      • University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, CA[8]
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    Obtain professional certification in oceanography. Although professional certification is not typically mandatory to be hired as an oceanographer, many oceanographers choose to get certified voluntarily. Earning professional certification can have many benefits, including the potential for a higher salary
    • Contact professional groups like the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society(CMOS), or the American Geophysical Union (AGU), to get more information about professional certification in oceanography.[9]

Part 3
Working as an Oceanographer

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    Find an internship. Many organizations and schools offer internships to those who are either in school for oceanography, or have earned degrees in oceanography. Getting an internship provides you with hands-on experience, and is a great way to familiarize yourself with different elements of oceanography. Having numerous internships throughout your academic career will give you a better chance of landing a good job in oceanography after you've finished school.[10]
    • School advisors and mentors can help you locate good internships. For this reason, it helps for you to develop relationships with your teachers and school faculty.
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    Look for an assistant or technical position. Having a Bachelor’s of Science degree will typically enable you to work as a research assistant or as a computer technician within your desired field. After you've gotten your Bachelor's degree, apply for research assistant jobs, or any other support position jobs, while you go back to school for your advanced degrees. This will allow you to keep learning while also making money.[11]
    • You can usually find these jobs at colleges and universities or research companies and facilities.
    • Mentors and teachers can usually help you find actual jobs in addition to internships.
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    Get a job as an oceanographer. There are numerous organizations that need the special skill sets and vast knowledge of oceanographers. Some oceanographers will work strictly for science and research organizations, and others will apply their skills to different types of corporations. For example, an oceanographer could be hired by an oil company to help determine the best location to place an underwater pipeline.
    • Many different types of companies and organizations hire oceanographers, including:
      • Colleges and universities
      • Environmental and engineering consulting firms
      • Federal government laboratories
      • Marine science institutions
      • Marine transport companies
      • National Defense Research (NDR) establishments
      • Private corporations, like oil and gas companies
      • Private research institutions[12]

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