What Is a Marine Aquatic Chemist?

Research what it takes to become a marine aquatic chemist. Learn about job duties, education, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Marine Aquatic Chemist?

Marine aquatic chemists, also known as chemical oceanographers, study the effects of chemicals on the ocean and related subjects, such as marine life. They collect water samples in the field and test its properties, such as the salinity or acidity, as well as the levels of pollution. They may also monitor the movement of ocean water on the earth as a whole, as well as the environmental consequences of erosion and climate change on the marine ecosystem. Based on their results, they write up reports and give presentations.

The following chart gives you an overview about what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Master's degree; doctoral degree required for academia and advanced research positions
Education Field of Study Chemical oceanography, aquatic chemistry
Key Responsibilities Study the chemical properties of the ocean and collaborate with scientists
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6% for geoscientists*
Median Salary (2018) $91,130 for geoscientists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Marine Aquatic Chemist Job Duties

Marine chemists are sometimes called chemical oceanographers, marine biochemists or marine geochemists. In this profession, you might study the effects of chemical inputs on the ocean, the formation of seawater or the biological and geological properties of the ocean. Because this is an interdisciplinary field, you can expect to collaborate with biologists, geologists, physicists and other marine scientists.

Your research in ocean-based chemical compounds may contribute to new developments in food production or clothing manufacturing. Conversely, you could also work on problems resulting from industrial and commercial manufacturing, namely the effect of pollutants on marine environments. Your research might lead to new regulations, policies or legislation.

Many chemical oceanographers spend time at sea collecting samples and taking measurements. These professionals also experiment with different kinds of chemicals in a laboratory setting. Oceanographers who are affiliated with academic institutions may give lectures, participate in panels, teach classes or attend professional conferences.

Earn Your Degree

Chemical oceanographers need at least a master's degree to be considered for employment, and some employers - especially those with academic affiliations - prefer candidates who hold a doctorate. A master's program in chemical oceanography typically takes 2-3 years to complete. You can usually earn a Doctor of Philosophy in 4-5 years.

In nearly all programs, you can expect to spend some time at sea doing research. You could develop your own research projects or work on a research team supervised by established scientists. Course topics might include environmental chemistry, marine benthic ecology, physical oceanography, statistics for chemistry and physical hydrology.

With sufficient professional experience and research, you may be able to secure a job as a chemical oceanographer without a degree in the field. However, completion of a related degree program in addition to some classes in aquatic chemistry could be required.

What's the Job Market Like?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed geoscientists - a category which includes oceanographers - was expected to increase by 6% from 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov). Growth in this profession was largely due to an increased need for land and water management, environmental protection measures and new energy technology. The median annual salary for geoscientists was $91,130 in 2018, as reported by the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of focusing on ocean chemistry, you could work in a different area of the field, such as physical chemistry or organic chemistry. These professionals also study chemical properties and conduct research, though typically they work in laboratories or offices for industrial or manufacturing companies. If you are more interested in the life sciences, you could pursue the path of the biochemist, where you would conduct experiments involving the chemical properties of cells and genetic material. Some biology labs focus on marine biology. Each of these positions typically requires a graduate degree.

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