What Is the Job Outlook for Oceanography Majors?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue with an oceanography major. Read on to learn more about career options along with information on job duties, education, salary and job outlook. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Oceanographer?

Oceanography majors have many paths to choose from, including those that combine oceanography with biology, geology, chemistry and atmospheric science. For instance, marine biologists study life in salt water systems through observation. You may make determinations about the environment based on your studies. Your job duties may also include working with other marine biologists and adhering to a budget. Another potential career is as a geological oceanographer. You will conduct research to determine how the properties of the water and the ocean floor are affecting the overall environment, specifically the coasts and area wildlife. You may work with other scientists and may need to use advanced computer models to analyze your data. As with most scientific careers, you will write reports and may even publish significant findings.

The following chart gives you an overview of some career information that could help you enter this field.

Marine Biologist Geological Oceanographer
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Oceanography, marine biology Oceanography, geology
Key Skills Field research, data analysis, ability to live at sea in remote and perhaps dangerous conditions during research projects Field and lab research, data analysis using GIS and modeling software
Licensure Required NA License required in some states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%* (for all zoologists and biologists) 10%* (for all geoscientists)
Average Salary (May 2015) $64,230* (for all zoologists and biologists) $105,720* (for all geoscientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Can I Do With an Oceanography Major?

Your potential jobs depend on your specialty. There are four main subfields of oceanography:

  • Biological
  • Chemical
  • Geological
  • Physical

Biological oceanographers, also known as marine biologists, study plants and animals that live in the ocean. You could study how different marine creatures interact and how changes in the ocean climate affect sea life. Additionally, you may explore the distribution of marine life and how the food chain works.

Chemical oceanographers, including marine geochemists, examine the chemical makeup of ocean waters. You might investigate the effects of pollution on the water, study the chemicals found in certain ocean waters or research how ocean chemicals react to air at the water's surface.

As a geological oceanographer or geophysicist, you could explore the floor of the ocean from a submarine. You'd gather rocks and sediment specimens and study them in a laboratory.

Physical oceanographers focus on the study of water movement. You may look at the interaction between water and physical boundaries, such as the ocean floor or coastal beaches. Your research might interpret the ways in which water reacts to different weather conditions.

Where Can I Work?

Upon earning a bachelor's degree in oceanography, you can work for private companies, government agencies, corporations and educational institutions. Your duties might include conducting research or consulting for companies to help them develop environmentally sound production methods in order to reduce their impact on the world's oceans. Another option is to work as a research scientist for a government agency where you'd lobby for legislation to help protect the ocean environment.

What Do My Job Prospects Look Like?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), geoscientists, including geological oceanographers, earned an average yearly salary of $105,720. Job growth for this group is projected to be 10% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The increasing demand for new energy sources and the need to harvest this energy from both land and oceans in a sustainable manner will fuel this faster-than-average growth.

The BLS also predicted a 4% increase in jobs for wildlife biologists, including marine biologists, for the same decade. This increase is based on the need to research the effects of climate change and the human population on the Earth's oceans and sea life, as well as to develop sustainable ecological practices for the future. In May 2015, marine biologists earned an average yearly salary of $64,230.

What Are Some Related Career Alternatives?

You may consider a career in atmospheric science or meteorology. You will research weather patterns and their effect on people and the environment. You will use specific scientific tools to measure and analyze data and likely work with other scientists. In some cases, you may use the information that you find to keep the public aware of the weather and climate changes going on around them. To become an atmospheric scientist, you will need a bachelor's degree in atmospheric science or a similar area.

Environmental science is another area that can be similar to the field of oceanography. As an environmental scientist, your job will be to protect the environment and the well-being of people by limiting pollution and waste. You may work closely with people who make environmental policies and may need to present your research and conclusions. You will need a bachelor's degree in environmental science or a similar field such as physics or geoscience. A master's degree is recommended for those who wish to advance their careers further.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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