What Does It Take To Become A Geologic Oceanographer

Researching the ocean floor requires travel across and under the sea.

Geological oceanographers explore and map out the ocean floor, using the information they discover about its composition to create a history of the Earth. By combining laboratory and field work, they study the interaction between the ocean and the ocean floor, determining the effects the ocean has both on a surface level and on the plates beneath the Earth. To become a geological oceanographer, you typically need an advanced degree, but you also need a set of skills and experiences that will benefit you in the field.

Advanced Degree

Oceanography is a field in which there is still room for new discoveries and advancements, so most people become geologic oceanographers after earning an advanced degree such as a master’s or a doctorate. This opens the door for them to become independent researchers or even professors with access to the resources — financial and otherwise — of a major academic institution. A bachelor’s degree alone is generally only enough for entry-level positions in scientific fields such as this. Your undergraduate degree generally should focus on chemistry, mathematics, geology and physics — the fundamentals for a career in applied science and research. When you pursue your graduate degree, you focus more specifically on geologic oceanography.

Love of Travel

You don’t have to love travel to be a geologic oceanographer, but it helps. Oceanographers who conduct research spend much of their time on research ships out at sea. While you also do work in the laboratory, you must still be prepared to spend time away from home, family and the comforts of life on dry land. Oceanographers may work in climates that are hot and humid or freezing — no matter what the case, you must be ready for a life at sea.

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Scientific Equipment Experience

Geologic oceanographers use sophisticated scientific equipment to conduct research and analyze findings, which is one of the reasons an advanced degree is typically required. Your coursework includes instruction on use scientific equipment. In addition to the more advanced equipment you may use, you also need a working knowledge of computers. PCs are more widely used that Macintosh systems, so if you are not proficient in Windows and its software, consider taking computer classes to get caught up.

Practical Skills

The demands of living at sea and exploring the ocean floor require certain practical skills. Physical stamina and strength are necessary for coping with the strenuous demands of life on a ship, and getting your SCUBA certification makes you a more valuable asset for hands-on field research. You may need to be bilingual, particularly if you conduct research in international waters, and you must be able to adapt to living in close quarters with other people for extended periods.