Job Description:

Oceanographers study the seas and oceans.

Job Category:
Environmental Industry

What you will do:

You’ll specialise in one of the 4 branches of oceanography:

  • biological – studying marine plants and animals
  • physical – exploring water temperature, density, wave motion, tides and currents
  • geological – examining the structure and make-up of the ocean floor
  • chemical – analysing the chemicals in sea water and the impact of pollutants

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • planning and carrying out research expeditions
  • managing a research project and leading a team (leadership skills)
  • preparing scientific equipment
  • designing experiments to test your ideas
  • using equipment to collect samples and data
  • tracking changes in the environment
  • using computers to produce models like maps of the ocean floor
  • writing reports of your research findings
  • publishing and presenting your findings


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of geography
  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of sociology and anthropology for understanding society and culture
  • knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
  • to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses

As well as:

Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become an Oceanographer, you will need a strong educational background in science and mathematics. Here are the common subjects and qualifications you’ll need to pursue a career in oceanography:

  1. Mathematics: Mathematics is essential. Advanced mathematics is often used in oceanographic research and data analysis.
  2. Science: You should have a strong foundation in science. Consider taking subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. These subjects provide a fundamental understanding of the physical and biological processes that occur in the ocean.
  3. Geography: Geography can be beneficial as it provides knowledge about the Earth’s physical features, including oceans and coastal processes.
  4. Computer Science: An understanding of computer science and programming languages can be advantageous, as much of oceanographic research involves data analysis and modeling using specialized software.
  5. English Language: Good communication skills are important in any scientific field, so English Language is recommended.
  6. Environmental Science: If available, consider taking courses related to environmental science, as it can provide insights into the broader context of oceanography, including environmental issues and conservation.

Post School

You’ll need a degree in oceanography or a related subject, and a postgraduate master’s degree (MSc). You may also need a PhD in a subject like oceanography, maths, geology, biology, chemistry, environmental or ocean science

You may also need work experience at a laboratory or marine research centre.

Employers are increasingly looking for postgraduate qualifications, like a master’s or PhD. They also value experience of working in marine science or oceanography research.


Working Hours and Environment:

Your hours will vary by project.

You could work in a lab or office, or you could be on a ship or an offshore platform for several days or months.

The job may be hazardous and physically demanding. You may use diving equipment or undersea vehicles. You may work in a remote location.

Career Path & Progression:

In the UK, for example, you could further your career by taking courses through the Marine Technology Education Consortium in the UK, or by networking at events run by the SUT or the Challenger Society for Marine Science.

You could take a PhD through an initiative like the Southampton Partnership for Innovative Training of Future Investigators Researching the Environment (SPITFIRE).