Marine Geology Master's Degree Programs

Marine geology is a field of study that incorporates climatology, plate tectonics, sedimentology, and hydrogeology. Admitted students take academic classes and pursue their own independent research. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Earning a Marine Geology Master's Degree

Marine geology, also known as geological oceanography, is a subfield of marine geoscience concerned with studying the earth beneath the ocean. Because this is an interdisciplinary field, graduate students can complete coursework in a range of academic fields including coastal studies, paleoceanography, and geophysics. After 1-2 years of study, graduates can work as researchers for environmental protection agencies, universities, labs and other agencies interested in the many applications of geological research.


One fundamental aspect of marine geology in understanding sedimentary rock and how sediment acts as a transport system. Graduate students must understand the origin of sedimentary rock, from the environment of deposition to the process of diagenesis. Topics in courses geared for marine geology students may also include equations for boundary-shear flows, sediment dispersal in a range of environments, and analyzing the relationship between sedimentary processes and the deposits they create. Sedimentology labs allow students to practice analyzing sedimentary rock with the latest technology.


Hydrogeology, or the study of water's movement, storage, and transformations across landscapes, is another important facet of a marine geologist's expertise. They must be able to explain how the movement of water affects geologic processes on the ocean floor. At the graduate level, students study and debate theories of groundwater motion, heat transport, and hydromechanics. They may also study crustal geofluids, or how fluids impact geologic processes in sedimentary basins.


Marine geology students must develop an advanced understanding of seafloor dynamics, including how plate tectonics, plate motion, and mantle convection are affected and affect the ocean above. Topics may include plate reconstructions, geochemistry of the earth, tornography, rheology, oceanic transform faults, paleomagnetism, subduction zones, and seafloor spreading. Students may also learn about structural geology, the study of the earth's structural history, by exploring the latest techniques, tools and research findings.


The work of marine geologists is important to understanding climate change because clues about the earth's past lay on the seafloor. Hidden under the preserving cover of the ocean, the seafloor acts as a climate archive. In paleoclimatology classes, students learn the techniques that scientists employ to uncover its secrets. Graduate students learn how to study ice cores, lake sediments, and corals to better understand environmental changes in the earth's past. Topics may also include paleoclimatic reconstruction, climate variation, dating methods, and paleoclimate models.

Data Analysis

Emerging software programs can help students sort and detect patterns in the massive amounts of data they collect through research. In data analysis classes students learn data science concepts like time series, sampling and aliasing, convolution and correlation, linear digital filters, and least squares. They also study programming languages, like MATLAB and Fortran, and practice using them to solve data analysis problems.

Advanced Applied Mathematics

Throughout the program, students build their mathematical toolbox with numerical methods applicable in geology research. Topics in these courses may include vector calculus and complex variables, dynamical systems and chaos, and partial differential equations.

Research Seminar

Research seminars help students develop their presentation and critique skills. Students prepare learning materials and presentations to update a small group of students on their research progress. They may have the opportunity to discuss research with other students and faculty.


Alongside academic classes, students conduct independent research under the supervision of their academic advisors. Over the course of multiple semesters, students compile their findings into an original thesis. To graduate, students must defend their thesis before a panel of academic experts.

Entrance Requirements for a Marine Geology Master's Degree Program

Students can enter this program from a variety of backgrounds, however, they are expected to have demonstrated success in college-level science (biology, chemistry, physics, geology) and calculus classes. Prospective students might consider contacting a faculty member with whom they share research interests for sponsorship. Establishing a relationship with a potential thesis advisor could improve an applicant's chances for admission. To apply, students send in their transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose essay. Some programs also require students to report their GRE test scores.

Marine geology is an interdisciplinary field that allows students to study the secrets of the ocean's seafloor, including its important implications about climate history. Students with a strong undergraduate background in math and science are qualified to apply.

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:

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