What Skills Do You Need To Become An Oceanographer

Oceanographers use skills in science, technology and communications.

Oceanographers study the vast expanses of seawater around the world, melding skills in biology, chemistry, computer science and communications. Oceanographers can specialize in a number of disciplines, including marine biology; chemical oceanography, which examines the composition of sea water; and marine geology, which explores the composition of the ocean floor.

The Profession of Oceanography

According to “An Oceanographer Studies the Ocean,” published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), many such specialists work for universities or the government, studying such issues as the role of oceans in climate change, the mechanics of tsunamis, and how pollutants affect marine life, from whales to plankton, Oceanographers working for private companies may comb the ocean floor for valuable sea deposits, study how currents and waves might produce energy, and explore the harvesting of marine life.

Science Skills and Education

Most oceanographers need to have a master’s degree or doctorate because jobs in the field require advanced skills in science. While few universities offer a degree specifically in oceanography, those entering the profession can prepare by taking courses in aquatic biology, the physical sciences, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, geology and oceanography itself. These recommendations are found in “The Inside Scoop: Advice and Hints about Becoming an Oceanographer,” an article in “Quarterdeck,” a magazine published by the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University.

Technical and Nautical Skills

Technology plays an increasing role in oceanography, and oceanographers are expected to have skills in computer modeling, data analysis, digital mapping and global positioning systems, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Experience on ships is also helpful, especially mechanical skills needed to repair equipment while out to sea, notes Palomar College’s web page “Careers in Oceanography.” Scuba diving skills can also be an asset.

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Additional Skills

Because oceanographers often work as part of a team, strong interpersonal skills are important. Good written communications skills are also key for writing reports and research proposals, while oral communications skills are helpful for explaining work to others. Oceanographers who do a lot of foreign travel may benefit from learning a second language. The BLS also notes that geoscientists and hydrologists (which includes oceanographers) “must be inquisitive, able to think logically and capable of complex analytical thinking, including spatial visualization and the ability to infer conclusions from sparse data.”