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Degree Overview: Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Oceanography

Majors Overview April 4, 2015

Get information about bachelor’s degree programs in oceanography and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Oceanography

A combined study of the earth’s marine environments about geography, chemistry, and biology comprises the interdisciplinary field of oceanography. Students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in oceanography are taught through science-based labs and courses about the functions as well as the many inorganic and organic elements of the oceans.

Specializations in biological oceanography, physical oceanography, and marine geology are often included in the broad field of oceanography. While the study of marine geology covers topic areas such as shoreline development and plate tectonics, physical oceanography is defined as the study of ocean movements about waves, icebergs, and temperature. The focus of biological oceanography is on various life forms in the world’s oceans, including animals and plants.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma. Completion of high school coursework in biology, geology, and earth science, among other sciences, though not mandatory, would prove helpful to incoming students.

Coursework

Coursework in oceanography programs typically combines classroom lectures, field research, and laboratory experiences and includes significant time spent at sea. While the chosen specialization determines coursework, common subjects areas covered include the following areas of study:

•Deep-sea exploration
•Ocean conservation
•Ocean climates
•Current issues in oceanography
•Marine organisms
•Ocean circulation systems
•Introduction to ocean science
•Field oceanography

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2012, there were 38,200 individuals employed as geoscientists (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, job growth rates of 16% have been predicted for oceanographers and other geoscientists, including the majority occupations in consulting jobs (BLS). In May 2012, geoscientists brought in an average annual wage of $90,890.

Continuing Education Choices

Bachelor’s degree program graduates seeking continuing education can earn master’s or Ph.D. degrees. While a bachelor’s degree may suffice for an entry-level career, advanced teaching or research positions often require interested individuals to complete graduate-level study. While certification is not mandatory in order to pursue a career in oceanography, SCUBA diving certification is sometimes pursued by oceanographers to enhance their fieldwork.

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