What Is An Oceanographer’S Job

Oceanographers study oceans and other coastal waters.

Oceanographers are scientists who study oceans, coastal waters and other large bodies of water. Because the study of oceanography is so vast, oceanographers specialize in different disciplines, such as chemical or geological oceanography, which allows them to concentrate on one particular part of oceanographic analysis. Oceanography can be a rewarding career for those with a scientific mind and an interest in how water and marine life affects the human population.


Oceanographers study and analyze oceans, sea water and the atmosphere. Oceanographers are researchers; however, many people who study oceanography become teachers or professors. By combining their scientific background with a strong knowledge of underwater life and topography, oceanographers work to solve environmental problems, understand climate change and even work to find renewable sources of energy. Continuous exploration of oceanic elements also follow how water and sea life change over time and the effect on the surrounding land.

Fields of Study

Because the study of water and marine life is so varied, oceanographers specialize in several fields, each with its own specific focus. Geological oceanographers study the sea floor, its topography and sediments and how it changes over time. Chemical oceanographers study elements found in the ocean and seawater, including pollutants, and natural chemicals. Oceanographers who study tides, waves and currents specialize in physical oceanography, which also focuses on climate and weather. Finally, biological oceanography is the study of underwater life and how various living creatures in the ocean relate to one another.

Educational and Skill Requirements

Due to an emphasis on science and research, those who wish to pursue a career in oceanography require a higher education. At the minimum, oceanographers must have a Master of Science degree, but for more technical or highly specialized fields, a doctorate may be necessary. Oceanographers also possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills and must have the ability to understand structured theoretical concepts and theories.

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Communication and flexibility are also a plus as oceanographers generally work on teams and frequently travel to various locations.

Salary and Job Outlook

The salary of an oceanographer varies, depending on education, experience and field of study. As of May 2010, the annual oceanographer salary ranged from $43,820 to $160,910,

according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a median annual salary of $82,500. Because of the need for water and land management and environmental protection, the employment outlook is high for oceanographers and other geoscientists with an employment growth of 18 percent through 2018.